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Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
03-28-2013, 05:34 PM,
Video  Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK

Published on Mar 15, 2013
Re-uploaded as TED have decided to censor Rupert and remove this video from the TEDx youtube channel.

Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D. (born 28 June 1942) is a biologist and author of more than 80 scientific papers and ten books. A former Research Fellow of the Royal Society, he studied natural sciences at Cambridge University, where he was a Scholar of Clare College, took a double first class honours degree and was awarded the University Botany Prize. He then studied philosophy and history of science at Harvard University, where he was a Frank Knox Fellow, before returning to Cambridge, where he took a Ph.D. in biochemistry. He was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, where he was Director of Studies in biochemistry and cell biology. As the Rosenheim Research Fellow of the Royal Society, he carried out research on the development of plants and the ageing of cells in the Department of Biochemistry at Cambridge University.
“Everything Popular Is Wrong” - Oscar Wilde
03-29-2013, 09:07 PM,
RE: Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
He points out a number of modern beliefs which are erroneously interpreted as being reality, no wonder they banned it. Thanks drummer.
An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.
Mohandas Gandhi

Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind.
Did you think you were put here for something less?
Chief Arvol Looking Horse
03-29-2013, 11:29 PM,
RE: Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
I did post-grad in science, and quit once I figured out I was not discovering, but inventing stuff. If I'm going to invent stuff I prefer art and creating songs and playing guitare, not bullshitting people with pseudo intellectual stuff that blind people belIEVE to be the "truth", and that politics or military use to push perverted agendas.

I'm sorry I can't explain it better; I guess the only way to understand what I'm talking about is to climb all the way up to the post-grad level, have a universal conscious, humility, and detest lying, no matter the money or prestige the postion may give...

Those that have no background in science have two choices: beLIEve or draw their own conclusion based on their own life experiences. This includes EVERYTHING that media or school teaches regarding "scientific facts"; including climate change, aids, darwin's evolution theory, health, etc. Ohhhh.. same goes for religion where beLIEf is demanded...

Good luck!

Peace, love and light.
Paix, Amour et Lumiere
06-08-2014, 02:51 PM, (This post was last modified: 06-08-2014, 02:57 PM by Watchdog.)
RE: Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK

I've been listening and reading more publications from Sheldrake and really like his talks on Morphic Resonance. Although I think if he was intellectually honest he would mention the source of his ideas, namely ancient knowledge contained in various occult mystery schools. But, I guess his role is larger than simply being another cog in the wheel of sunday classes for cult members, he's bringing this information to the general masses via science. At this point we could probably engage in a discussion regarding the idea of being swallowed by a NWO new-age religion and the upcoming role of science in indoctrinating the population through culture creation, but because this may just be another form of paranoia and the fear of changing from one social program to the next, I prefer to restrain myself from such speculation.

I'd rather here your opinions on Morphic Resonance. Here is the skinny:

"Morphic resonance is a process whereby self-organising systems inherit a memory from previous similar systems. In its most general formulation, morphic resonance means that the so-called laws of nature are more like habits. The hypothesis of mophic resonance also leads to a radically new interpretation of memory storage in the brain and of biological inheritance. Memory need not be stored in material traces inside brains, which are more like TV receivers than video recorders, tuning into influences from the past. And biological inheritance need not all be coded in the genes, or in epigenetic modifications of the genes; much of it depends on morphic resonance from previous members of the species. Thus each individual inherits a collective memory from past members of the species, and also contributes to the collective memory, affecting other members of the species in the future."

What say you?
Paix, Amour et Lumiere
06-08-2014, 04:22 PM,
RE: Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
I just get the impression that most people like Sheldrake are 'moral' but realise the problems in religion and do not see enough morality within most science and atheism so try and craft a moral system to cater to the kind of audience that still wants a moral system based on 'truth'. The ancient knowledge hints are there basically to provide a sense of uniformity throughout history as well as being a way to cater to the haters of traditional bullshit theology by covertly saying this is another way the church held back humanity.

Its just rehashed hinduism. Morphic resonance is a fancy way of describing karmic reasons for one's lot in life. It would be interesting to apply his theory to modern times though as it can more than conclusively be proven how scheming and vicious older governments were in the colonial era for example and even up to the point of when those governments were implementing eugenics on their populations. That is centuries of abuse so I wonder what traits governments or the individuals that make them up have based on the ruthless requirements of past rulers.
06-08-2014, 05:24 PM,
RE: Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
It may be that there are "attractors" in the morphic fields that still pulls humanity towards viciousness, ruthlessness, and other animalistic traits; attractors that give rise to the primal need for self-preservation, a sort of legacy of our evolution from instinctual beast to spirit man. Other animals live in this attractor, sort to speak.

But, while we may be destined to move our consciousness towards other more sacred, spiritual, or dare I say Divine attractors, we are still spell bound by those that dominated our species in the past. These historical attractors have created "social habits" that are hard to get rid of and hence why we see the emergence of similar patterns within the ruling structures through various civilizations. As such it doesn't matter if the ruling class were Romans, Persians, Mongolians, and modern day Democratic cultures, they all look alike in their "modus operandi" because this is what the historical "social building attractor" does.

What gives me hope is that I think as we "evolve" (and I don't really like using this word because it invokes the Darwinian concept that I find fallacious to describe with is really going on) we'll be moving toward another attractor. Perhaps it's just a question of time before it completes it's own evolution, sort to speak, and gains momentum as more and more people fall into its field. And as Sheldrake points out, the more we go there, the easier it becomes for others to go there.

This may just be speculation, but the language used to elaborate this alternative point of view may be what is needed to get us out of the of Cartesian reductionist/mechanistic, or fanatical religious explanations of how things unfold in the Universe?

Getting "unstuck" is a blessing as long as we don't get stuck to some other fanatical belief system. This is the great challenge: how to discern between higher knowledge and frivolous nonsense created by ego or wild imagination.
Paix, Amour et Lumiere
06-10-2014, 01:18 PM,
RE: Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
So basically the attractor in the field is democratic in that the more a particular type of programming occurs, the more it pervades the whole. I would strongly hope the field is bunk if that is the case as I highly doubt that more than a handful percentage of people being born will ever 'wake up' meaning the field is constantly being strengthened towards viciousness by the other 90+% of people being born who will remain asleep.

The biggest attractor I think amongst the masses is the programming of the victim mentality which is rooted, as per usual, in narcissism and leads to the persecutory complex, paranoia and the entitlement mentality.

Religious people feel their religion is under attack, women feel they are persecuted by men, blacks by whites, liberals by the elites, progress by tradtion, poor by the rich and when people become somewhat aware they retain the victim mindset so now its the nWo, its the Jews, its liberalism, its feminism, its whatever making me feel like a victim of oppression.

From there you get the inevitable lack of perceived acceptance along with the distrust of others. All this damage then means an entitlement mentality emerges dictated to by narcissistic perfectionism meaning any attempts to satisfy the so called victims can not be achieved.

Culture strengthens entitlement as products, ways of life and even spirituality (think the Secret and similar claptrap) etc are promoted as people deserving them and as having a right to them. Subsequently, confirmation bias exists everywhere leading to false information which perpetuates the cycle of disinformation.

If you want to see how pervasive victimhood is, go and study left wing groups and their crusade to defend groups of all kinds where they invariably highlight the discrimination of all those groups. I remember watching a video on youtube where a gay, a lesbian, a transgendered person and a feminist where all arguing with each other at an event over who was persecuted the most by the system. It degenerated into a shouting and swearing match.

Politics is politics and will always do what it can to recruit people into its crusade which is simply to create the clashes with its opposition to change society towards an agenda that victims are too stupid to see. We all hear about divide and conquer but this is a brief introduction to how it is achieved.

Now the persecuted tend to become very self-righteous and on constant alert for perceived injustices and fairness. They become somewhat dictatorial and very quick to anger. Throw a bunch of them together and a siege mentality occurs to the point where they have no chance of reintegration with others who do not share their opinions and viewpoints and will readily enforce their views on others.

The field then seems to be at the mercy of human emotions rather than exerting any effect on humans. This is to be expected as Sheldrake is essentially a humanist which pretty much places humanity at the pinnacle of existence because it is a feeling being. Humanists are always blind to the darker emotions of humans though and there is an arrogance inherent within humans especially to get them to believe they and their thoughts are that important to have the kinds of effects mentioned in the field. But if so I would like to see what the effects of the dark triad are on the field.
06-10-2014, 03:18 PM,
RE: Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
(06-10-2014, 01:18 PM)R.R Wrote: So basically the attractor in the field is democratic in that the more a particular type of programming occurs, the more it pervades the whole. I would strongly hope the field is bunk...

Not if the attractors extent beyond the scope of humanity. If consciousness can exist in other beings then they too must be participating in the "evolution" of the Universe. It would also not be democratic if there is an eschaton, or if other forms of consciousness are pulling us out of an attractor to another. This would mean that history is not fully random; it proceeds with chaos --giving it certain degrees of freedom- but unfolds according to the pressure of outside forces.

If the "Universe organism" --this thing monotheist religions call God- is evolving, then we are part of it's evolution and evolving with it.

(06-10-2014, 01:18 PM)R.R Wrote: The biggest attractor I think amongst the masses is the programming of the victim mentality... The field then seems to be at the mercy of human emotions rather than exerting any effect on humans.

Interesting. Emotions do seem to function as attractors. Can we evolve out of the victim mentality? Can we suppose that one day we'll move further away from our monkey brain; that we're still stuck to it because not enough time has passed since "something happened to our consciousness"?
Paix, Amour et Lumiere
06-10-2014, 04:53 PM,
RE: Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
The universe will evolve/do whatever it is going to do regardless of human beings. This is similar to other humanistic arrogance placing too much emphasis on humans being special. We may be evolving with the universe but unless one believes in reincarnation (or attempts to download their consciousness into a machine or try some occult type transference of consciousness) our 70 odd year life spans mean we will not see this evolution. That alone should absolve anyone feeling any attachment to such things and elevating its importance.

Quote:Can we evolve out of the victim mentality? Can we suppose that one day we'll move further away from our monkey brain

I highly doubt any monkey displays a victim mentality. Our consciousness, while containing great potential, is currently at war with and ashamed of its animal past as part of a narcissistic hatred/lack of acceptance of oneself. Civilization is characterised by this and often this lack of acceptance is accompanied by the love of death hence the civilized variety of human doing a good job of destroying wild humanity and nature. Remember, humans (or at least the civilized variety) are just about the only species that we know of that kills for pleasure.

I do not believe there is a collective evolution, rather there is possibly individual evolution. I don't believe we are spirit beings but there is spirit which can be tapped into depending on one's personal 'evolution'; mind, body and emotional development to gain spirit. Consciousness is merely the ability to be aware that such a process occurs but spirit is available to all forms of life regardless of a knowledge or understanding of such processes. But I would speculate that it contains a great acceptance of oneself, warts and all, and to live accordingly. Animals can be greatly spiritual because they accept what they are and have no interest in modifications or allegedly perfecting their environments. They simply live and I'd say the life of an average animal is many times more exciting than the life of most civilized humans.

Now that fabled acceptance is simply acknowledging we have an animal side and instead of trying to transcend it, the ordinary person should try to heighten it. The beauty of humanity is in how certain traits boost others such as a little weight loss increases your own confidence, gives you more energy and fitness and alters how others perceive you generally in a positive way and all these combined impel the individual to improve further. It does not make sense to those stuck in believing humanity's rational brain is the be all and end all. In fact rational is to ration a ratio - leave out a particlar segment or portion of mind. But we have to accept our emotions are powerful and will always be there and neglecting them is what causes atrocities. It is why emotional development is the most attractive thing even transcending physical and intellectual attraction but again humanity's beauty is that all traits amplify each other hence developing all three for that fabled spiritual existence.
06-11-2014, 08:34 PM,
RE: Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
(06-10-2014, 04:53 PM)R.R Wrote: I do not believe there is a collective evolution, rather there is possibly individual evolution.

How is that possible? If individual can evolve and the collective is the sum of individuals, why cant the whole be changing?

I guess you don't think that a species can evolve?
Paix, Amour et Lumiere
06-11-2014, 09:59 PM,
RE: Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
Perhaps you should define what you mean by 'evolve' because in a previous post you said you do not mean it in a Darwinian sense.

I will give a description in a slightly Darwinian sense.

An individual in a collective? Let's see. One man amongst ten women - are they all women? One adult amongst 15 children - are they all children?

By calling it a collective you miss out on the importance of variation and what will survive. Here's a post-apocalyptic example. One man with a machine gun vs 30 men with only their fists. Lets say the 30 men were the last remaining atheists and the man with the machine gun is guarding a harem of women and is also a Christian. The man with the gun kills all the atheists who are after the harem in order to reproduce. The man had his gun due to paranoia over liberal governments while the atheists, in an attempt to appear more moral, decided guns are evil and would not use them. The man with the gun kills them all and his Christian philosophy will survive into the future where there are no atheists remaining. That is crudely how 'evolution' has worked and it does not mean the surviving people or philosophies are any better (or worse) - they just survived.

Now as the survivor, he is free to use any type of propaganda and history for his emerging people. As he is the only man, the new generation will match his DNA quite well until many generations pass and mutations occur which increases variation. This is also a little known constant that is rarely mentioned in politically correct evolutionary theory - that a minority of men actually have the majority of children throughout history. Eventually it occurs again where a large mass of people die off for whatever reason and variation is low again.

Therefore a collective is in fact a new generation taking over from an 'obsolete' one. Different dog breeds were not evolved simultaneously across the world - it took specific tampering in particular regions to create them. Many obsolete breeds went extinct simply because those in charge of their breeding did not allow their lines to continue.

Now why mention this?

Evolution itself is a confusing term which is usually confused with an improvement. Evolution is actually just a development and can go in a 'good' or a 'bad' direction. It is merely describing change.

The things you discuss are couched in an alleged improvement of the human condition. I can tell you that the vast majority of people do not intentionally mean to inflict 'evil' yet evil persists. Either people are inherently evil or there is another force at work - perhaps the elites of this world. If morphic resonance was true, surely the minority elites would not have so much power over the direction of this world? Especially if the majority of mankind have no intentions of doing harm. Or perhaps those elites are aware of how to create populations which influence morphic fields in the way they want - which is essentially saying the majority of people are 'contaminated'. Who can say but it certainly seems morphic resonance does not jive with majority sentiment simply because, if it is a law, it has to have been in use throughout human history just like gravity was and still is.

If you understand the agricultural origins of civilization, you will understand how domestication was applied to plants and animals. You will also need to understand that domestication was also applied to humans. If you study the slave system, you will look into its origins and you can comfortably take it back to the origins of civiliztion. If you understand that the mystery schools seem to be the constant philosophy of ruling elites throughout history, you will come across literature that I've mentioned to you before - namely Theosophy and how it claims to essentially do what I described in the hypothetical man with gun situation above which is take a few people and 'reseed' humanity just like Noah's Ark and just like the scheme of the machines in the Matrix movies.

Humanity is generally a conservative animal, preferring to retain a familiar way of life. Change or evolution is enforced from the outside whether that is environmentally or elite driven.

Do not forget when a species 'evolves' it usually entails the elimination of the species that preceded it.

Species usually tend to have a survival instinct however. The masses no longer use violence, instead they use philosophy. It is self-evident to me that by invoking a 'divine' evolution, proponents are essentially asking for protection. Just as Nietszche observed that Christianity was a slave morality, I see nothing in morphic resonance that suggests it is nothing but more slave morality constructed out of fear as the masses reach extinction just as the person at their death bed suddenly finds god.

These considerations are what I was hinting at when I mentioned self-acceptance through understanding what you are. Spiritual information almost always leaves out the biological side of life. You have a survival instinct; are you sure promoting morphic resonance is not your survival instinct talking at the expense of the truth you seek?

Ideas like morphic resonance are just nice ways to describe how collective evolution has always worked; it is simply one thing out of many which splits and becomes many again and usually the many become extinct. Ideas of collective evolution try to make out that all members of a species just magically 'evolve' at the same time when it is not the case at all. If you put your thinking cap on, you will see how such ideas are simply examples of altruistic narcissism.

I also have an answer I didn't mention in a previous thread where it was asked how do we explain the co-existence of promiscuity with a depopulation agenda? There is also another thread about r/K Selection Theory which will tell you that a species under the threat of extinction essentially attempts increased breeding in order to survive. Not everything is social/cultural conditioning - we are not blank slates that can be modified at will. We have a biological side which will come into play at some point.

So I hope that answers 'how is that possible', 'why the whole can't be changing' and whether or not I think a species can evolve.
06-12-2014, 12:33 AM, (This post was last modified: 06-12-2014, 12:39 AM by Watchdog.)
RE: Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
Not bad!

I guess when it comes to humans and "Darwinian evolution" all bets are off. That machine gun example made it clear. An other example is how technology has stack the cards. Everyone gets to put their gametes in the cauldron of humanity, even those that would of died before sexual maturity or fallen prey to those that feed on the weakest of the species.

Perhaps Sheldrakes' morphic resonance stems from altruistic narcissism. I don't know. It sure would be nice to have him participate in this discussion ^^. It seems that I too suffer from this delusion, however it may not be fully narcissistic as I include all life and conscientious entities into this roller coaster ride. It's not about me and not about humans. It's about the entire universe.

As relative as it may seem I feel the cosmic wind blowing waves of change; waves that will someday sweep us all into other realms of consciousness and modes of living. In the past, some have felt even the tiniest waves and have spoken about them, but in time these waves have grown and, while they may still be imperceptible for the masses who have been locked and chained in the straitjackets of culture, will continue to grow until we're all floating towards a new state of being, including the elites and their archaic power structures. Can I prove this? Absolutely not! Nor can people that pimp the doomsday scenarios that have been constructed out of feelings of fear. Feelings that have been given to them buy those who seek to keep them in their grip, in the old attractor, sort to speak.

Perhaps Sheldrake's hypothesis is not well suited to couch my feelings. I'm not married to it you know ^^
Paix, Amour et Lumiere
06-12-2014, 01:02 AM, (This post was last modified: 06-12-2014, 01:03 AM by R.R.)
RE: Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
Change is the only constant in life.

As for narcissism it probably doesn't have long to live as new research suggests growing up in a recession may reduce future narcissism. With the threat of technology and a further scarcity of resources, there will probably be a shift towards K selection which generally brings with it 'traditional' values and morals although they will be updated to include new considerations.

Seems to be part of that transformative aspect of life - death and rebirth into something stronger so inspite of my pessimism and cynicism I do concur with your ideas of a beneficial change coming.
06-14-2014, 03:44 AM,
RE: Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
I was reading this and found some parallels with what I think you're saying (i.e. the sickness being narcissism):

"One of the main themes running through McKenna's work, and the title of his second book, was the idea that western civilization was undergoing what he called an "archaic revival".

His notion was that western society has become "sick" and is undergoing a "healing process", in the same way that the human body begins to produce antibodies when it feels itself to be sick, humanity as a collective whole (in the Jungian, sense) was creating “strategies for overcoming the condition of dis-ease” and trying to cure itself, by what he termed as "a reversion to archaic values.” McKenna pointed to phenomena including: surrealism, abstract expressionism, body piercing and tattooing, psychedelic drug use, sexual permissiveness, jazz, experimental dance, rave culture, rock-n-roll and catastrophe theory, amongst others, as his evidence that this process was underway" WIKI
Paix, Amour et Lumiere
06-17-2014, 05:21 AM,
RE: Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
From the narcissism thread in response to archaic revivals:

Quote:The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations
by Christopher Lasch
© 1979

Published in New York by W. W. Norton & Company.
ISBN 0-393-30738-7

The following excerpts appear in the Afterword of the 1991 paperback edition, as reprinted from The World and I of February 1990.

A Faustian View of Technology

These considerations [of narcissism] help us to see how psychological defenses against separation anxiety – against early feelings of helplessness and dependence – can be elaborated in human culture. One way to deny our dependence on nature (on mothers) is to invent technologies designed to make ourselves masters of nature. Technology, when it is conceived in this way, embodies an attitude toward nature diametrically opposed to the exploratory attitude, as Klein calls it. It expresses a collective revolt against the limitations of the human condition. It appeals to the residual belief that we can bend the world to our desires, harness nature to our own purposes, and achieve a state of complete self-sufficiency. This Faustian view of technology has been a powerful force in Western history, reaching its climax in the Industrial Revolution, with its remarkable gains in productivity, and in the even more remarkable advances promised by the postindustrial information explosion.

Modern technology has achieved so many dazzling breakthroughs that we now find it difficult to envision any limits to collective human ingenuity. The secret of life itself is within our grasp, according to those who predict a revolution in genetics – in which case it may be possible for us to keep ourselves alive indefinitely or at least to extend the human life span to unheard-of lengths. This impending triumph over old age and death, we are told, is the ultimate tribute to humanity's power to master its surroundings. The prolongevity movement embodies the utopian possibilities of modern technology in its purest form. In the mid-seventies, Albert Rosenfeld, the movement's leading propagandist, predicted that "most of the major mysteries of the aging process" would be "solved" by the third decade of the twenty-first century. August Kinzel, former president of the Salk Institute, announced in 1967 that "we will lick the problem of aging completely, so that accidents will be essentially the only cause of death."

In psychological terms, the dream of subjugating nature is our culture's regressive solution to the problem of narcissism – repressive because it seeks to restore the primal illusion of omnipotence and refuses to accept limits on our collective self-sufficiency. In religious terms, the revolt against nature is also a revolt against God – that is, against the reality of our dependence on forces external to ourselves. The science of ecology – an example of the "exploratory" attitude toward nature, as opposed to the Faustian attitude – leaves no doubt about the inescapability of this dependence. Ecology indicates that human life is part of a larger organism and that human intervention into natural processes has far-reaching consequences that will always remain to some extent incalculable. Nature retains the upper hand: The very technologies designed to overcome natural limitations on human comfort and freedom many destroy the ozone layer, create a greenhouse effect, and make the earth unfit for human habitation.

Careful study of the consequences of our attempts to master nature leads only to a renewed appreciation of our dependence on nature. In the face of this evidence, the persistence of fantasies that envision technological self-sufficiency for the human race indicates that our culture is a culture of narcissism in a much deeper sense than is conveyed by journalistic slogans like "me-ism." No doubt there is too much selfish individualism in American life; but such diagnoses barely scratch the surface.

Twentieth-Century Gnosticism and the New Age Movement

Even our deeply rooted, misplaced faith in technology does not fully describe modern culture. What remains to be explained is how an exaggerated respect for technology can coexist with a revival of ancient superstitions, a belief in reincarnation, a growing fascination with the occult, and the bizarre forms of spirituality associated with the New Age movement. A widespread revolt against reason is as much a feature of our world as our faith in science and technology. Archaic myths and superstitions have reappeared in the very heart of the most modern, scientifically enlightened, and progressive nations in the world. The coexistence of advanced technology and primitive spirituality suggests that both are rooted in social conditions that make it increasingly difficult for people to accept the reality of sorrow, loss, aging, and death – to live with limits, in short. The anxieties peculiar to the modern world seem to have intensified old mechanisms of denial.

New Age spirituality, no less than technological utopianism, is rooted in primary narcissism. If the technological fantasy seeks to restore the infantile illusion of self-sufficiency, the New Age movement seeks to restore the illusion of symbiosis, a feeling of absolute oneness with the world. Instead of dreaming of the imposition of human will on the intractable world of matter, the New Age movement, which revives themes found in ancient Gnosticism, simply denies the reality of the material world. By treating matter essentially as an illusion, it removes every obstacle to the re-creation of a primary sense of wholeness and equilibrium – the return to Nirvana.

One of the most shocking psychological events of early infancy, as we have seen, is the discovery that the beloved caretakers on whom the infant depends for its life are at the same time the source of much of the infant's frustration. Parents – mothers in particular – provide gratification, but since their capacity to do this is not unlimited, they also, unavoidably, inflict the infant's first experiences of pain and sorrow. Parents also inflict pain on the child in their capacity as judges and disciplinarians. The reason the child finds it so difficult to acknowledge the union of gratification and suffering in a common source is that he thereby acknowledges his own dependence and limitations.

The perception of the parents' double nature entails the discovery that they are not mere projections of the child's own desires. A standard defense against this discovery – one of the standard mechanisms of denial – is the splitting of parental images into good and bad images. The infant's fantasies dissociate the frustrating and the pleasure-giving aspects of the adults who take care of him. Thus he invents idealized images of breasts side by side with images of omnipotent, threatening, and destructive maternal or paternal authority – a devouring vagina, a castrating penis or breast.

Religious dualism institutionalizes these primitive and regressive defenses by rigorously separating images of nurture and mercy from images of creation, judgment, and punishment. The particular version of dualism known as Gnosticism, which flourished in the Hellenistic world in the second, third, and fourth centuries A.D., carried this denial to its most radical conclusion. It condemned the entire material world as the creation of dark, evil powers. Gnosticism gave mythological form – often very touching and expressive form – to fantasies that serve to maintain the archaic illusion of oneness with a world absolutely responsive to one's own wishes and desires. By denying that a benign creator could have made a world in which both suffering and gratification have a place, Gnosticism kept alive the hope of a return to a spiritual condition in which those experiences are unknown. The secret knowledge that Gnostics prized so highly, into which only a few privileged souls were ever initiated, was precisely the original illusion of omnipotence; the memory of our divine origins, antecedent to our imprisonment in the flesh.

By interpreting the resurrection of Christ as a symbolic event, Gnostics avoided the Christian paradox of a suffering God. Unable to conceive of a union of spirit with matter, they denied that Jesus was a human being at all, depicting him instead as a spirit who presented himself to human perception in the illusory form of a human being. Their "grandiose mythology," as Hans Jonas calls it in his historical study The Gnostic Religion, purported to offer a definitive account of creation, according to which "human existence ... is only the stigma of a divine defeat." The material creation, including the life of human beings in the flesh, represented the triumph of inferior, diabolical deities; salvation lay in the spirit's escape from the body, in the remembrance of its celestial origin – not (as Christians believed) in reconciliation to the justice and beauty of a world that nevertheless includes evil.

The New Age movement has revived Gnostic theology in a form considerably adulterated by other influences and mixed up with imagery derived from science fiction – flying saucers, extraterrestrial intervention in human history, escape from the earth to a new home in space. What was often figurative and metaphorical in Gnosticism becomes literal in New Age writers like Ken Wilber, Robert Anton Wilson, and Doris Lessing. Where second-century Gnostics imagined the Savior as spirit mysteriously inhabiting a series of human bodies, their twentieth-century descendants conceive of him as a visitor from another solar system. Where the early Gnostics sought to recover the memory of man's original homeland without, however, assigning it an exact locale, New Age enthusiasts take the idea of heaven quite literally: Sirius seems to be the current favorite. (See, among many other books, Lessing's novel The Sirian Experiments.) They believe, moreover, that visitors from space built Stonehenge, the pyramids, and the lost civilizations of Lemuria and Atlantis.

The New Age movement is to Gnosticism what fundamentalism is to Christianity – a literal restatement of ideas whose original value lay in their imaginative understanding of human life and the psychology of religious experience. When Shirley MacLaine finds Walt Whitman demanding that the universe be "judged from the standpoint of eternity," she takes this to refer to the immortality of the soul, not to the desirability of holding humans accountable to some kind of superhuman standard of conduct. In the same way, she attributes to Heinrich Heine a belief in reincarnation because he once asked, "Who can tell what tailor now inherits the soul of Plato?"

New Age spirituality may take strange shapes, but it is a prominent feature of our cultural landscape, like fundamentalism itself, which has grown steadily in recent years. The flowering of such movements has confounded earlier assumptions about the increasing secularization of modern life. Science has not displaced religion, as so many people once expected. Both seem to flourish side by side, often in grotesquely exaggerated form.

More than anything else, it is this coexistence of hyper-rationality and widespread revolt against rationality that justifies the characterization of our twentieth-century way of life as a culture of narcissism. These contradictory sensibilities have a common source. Both take root in the feelings of homelessness and displacement that afflict so many men and women today, in their heightened vulnerability to pain and deprivation, and in the contradiction between the promise that they can "have it all" and the reality of their limitations.

The best defenses against the terrors of existence are the homely comforts of love, work, and family life, which connect us to a world that is independent of our wishes yet responsive to our needs. It is through love and work, as Freud noted in a characteristically pungent remark, that we exchange crippling emotional conflict for ordinary unhappiness. Love and work enable each of us to explore a small corner of the world and to come to accept it on its own terms. But our society tends either to devalue small comforts or else to expect too much of them. Our standards of "creative, meaningful work" are too exalted to survive disappointment. Our ideal of "true romance" puts an impossible burden on personal relationships. We demand too much of life, too little of ourselves.

Our growing dependence on technologies no one seems to understand or control has given rise to feelings of powerlessness and victimization. We find it more and more difficult to achieve a sense of continuity, permanence, or connection with the world around us. Relationships with others are notably fragile; goods are made to be used up and discarded; reality is experienced as an unstable environment of flickering images. Everything conspires to encourage escapist solutions to the psychological problems of dependence, separation, and individuation, and to discourage the moral realism that makes it possible for human beings to come to terms with existential constraints on their power and freedom.

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