The Fundamental Attribution Error

           I’ve always been drawn to Gnosticism because it’s one of the few religious traditions to admit that all may not be right in the world. It didn’t take me long to learn that most people seem to very quickly rationalize away any problems that they feel unable or unequipped to face head on, a phenomenon that social psychologists have labeled “the just-world phenomenon.” This defense mechanism encourages people to justify any number of atrocities, as well as the perpetuation of blatantly unfair social inequalities, in order to allow themselves to personally feel less powerless and vulnerable; most religious doctrines seem to cater quite nicely to this insanity, even within some versions of Gnosticism, but nothing, after all, is perfect.

           Without a doubt, that this current world is the best of all possible worlds is nothing but a dangerous delusion concocted by the weak and helpless which only serves to keep them that way. After all, if the world metes out rewards and punishments according to fair, or at least nonarbitrary, standards, then one can attempt to control the otherwise unpredictable whims on fate simple by obediently “acting right.” It’s a great comfort to believe that the rich and powerful have all done something to deserve their high stations in life, if only in a past one, and that the terrible tragedies that befall people on a daily basis were each somehow called down upon them by some invisible and mysterious justice. Virtue, far from being its own reward, is often merely a bargaining chip by which we hope to bring good fortune while simultaneously helping us to avoid the bad, but this is not really the case; This is not really what virtue is meant to do anyway.

           Many social scientists credit this just-world phenomenon as being behind yet another common injustice of human rationalization called the “fundamental attribution error,” which is the tendency of people to attribute various positive or negative outcomes to some kind of personal quality inherent in the people involved rather than to impersonal situational factors. This is also observed in conjunction with something called the “actor-observer bias,” whereby if you trip over a rock I’ll be quick to assume it was because you’re clumsy, in accordance with the fundamental attribution error, but if I trip over a rock, I’ll probably very easily find some sort of situational cause for the event, namely a big rock being placed somewhere that it obviously shouldn’t be.

           In the end, it would appear from social research that even though we may make excuses for ourselves quite often, and are even willing to make excuses on behalf of the entire world in order to preserve an undeserved and unfair illusion of safety and security, we are rarely so generous towards other people.

           I myself am not innocent of such unfairness. It’s far easier for me to look down upon the multitudes of people who have failed to educate themselves outside of the corrupt and unworkable institutional structures set up for mass indoctrination, or who have failed to rise up and find justice in any sort of forum beyond the leverageless strictures of our rigged political system, or who have become slaves to jobs they hate in order to feed children they didn’t want with a spouse they no longer know how to love, than it is for me to realize that they are all simply locked within a sophisticated web of pacification strategies and crippling taboos that have left them each cowering alone beneath the shadow of a seemingly monolithic governing machine. They have not failed me; their world has failed them, and I have failed them as well.

           Being that we are now a bit more conscious of the enormously unfair situational forces that have shaped our fellow human beings, perhaps each one of us in the Neo-Illuminati, myself included, can attempt to give people the benefit of the doubt and work a bit harder to show them new ways to secure their safety and bring good things into their life, beyond their continued thoughtless compliance with the nearly ubiquitous control machines that are exploiting them at every turn and transforming each successive generation into even more perfect servants for the rich and powerful. Good luck and Namaste.

Meditation on the Gnostic Demiurge

“What if there were an ultimate villain out there, unseen; an absolute mastermind, closing in for the kill? What if there existed an invisible, implacable foe who’d calculated my every weakness? Who had access to allies, weapons, and tactics I couldn’t imagine? An adversary whose plots and grand designs were so vast, so elaborate, that they went unnoticed until it was too late? How could I prepare for a challenge like that? Would I have the resources to deal with it? I’ve often wondered.” –Batman

           What I find most fascinating about comics is that people tend to fixate on the medium and are unable to appreciate or acknowledge its exceptionally valuable messages. Academia is only recently beginning to credit comic books, and particularly graphic novels, as having any sort of artistic or literary merit, despite the fact that for the last 20 or 30 years, in many cases, they're not even remotely being written for children.

          I felt that the above quote was an intriguing point of Gnostic departure from this character's otherwise banal career of crime fighting (as banal as a world full of comic-book villains can get anyway). Some would caution we can theoretically manifest what we fear by failing to cultivate a constructive attention for more positive things (although I think "magnetize" might be a more accurate term to use for that phenomenon) but one should be careful not to fall into the now fashionable magical conceit that we can rid the world of evil by being oblivious to it. “The Secret” has introduced millions to a basic Hermetic principle, the “Law of Attraction,” that far too often I see being used to justify the willful ignorance of frail new agers who are now even more afraid to think of bad things than they instinctively were before.

          I guess my point is this: The world may be transitory from the perspective of our time in it, but each one of us, if eternal, might want to be careful who and what we are establishing ourselves as within the context of this temporary respite. What could be more worthwhile spiritually than the affirmation of our abilities to both face and resist the powers of evil, particularly in such a difficult context as this one? Comic book heroes, like the Batman, have provided me with encouraging models of resistance in the face of overwhelming odds, good examples that have helped me to truly appreciate how much of our lives are composed of rationalizations and excuses designed to allow us to more comfortably capitulate to the negative forces that rule our world.

          The depth and dangerousness of your imagined Demiurge and His evil schemes, in my opinion, directly corresponds to your potential as a true Gnostic, although most Gnostics, as with most people, are obviously far less willing to embrace, much less take seriously, such a heroic paradigm as this. Only by conceiving of our enemies in their most overwhelming and nefarious manifestations might we possibly be able to conceive of a proper defense against them, like the architects of the great cathedrals who designed those holy spaces to be impervious even to the demons who they knew probably held the leases on the buildings. There are some things that even the greatest evil cannot fathom and it's the preservation of these things that will provide us with our best weapons against it.

Simon Zealot vs. Cortisol: Round 1

           Lately I’ve been overwhelmed by a host of stress factors, including altered sleep patterns, increased workload, mild heat exhaustion, minor legal trouble, financial loss, health problems, car troubles, and, last but not least, the end of a long-term relationship. As is not uncommon, these events have spurred small but significant increases in my consumption of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine as well. The end result, now confirmed through a bit of research, is a marked decrease in my overall cognitive functioning caused by actual damage done to my brain by prolonged exposure to increased levels of cortisol; damage which I am confident can be, and will, of course, have to be, reversed.

           Scientists have found that each one of the above stressors, including the above mentioned classic dietary staples of the stressed (coffee, booze, and cigarettes), all cause an increase in the body’s production of the infamous stress hormone cortisol, an imbalance of which has been linked to “low energy, muscle atrophy, poor bone repair and increased bone loss, thyroid dysfunction, depressed immune system, poor sleep quality, poor skin regeneration and impaired growth hormone release.” Prolonged exposure has been shown to weaken and degrade the brain’s hypothalamus, which is an area essential to both memory and learning. This explains much of the troubles I myself have been struggling with recently, but, like any good superhero, when one encounters an unsolved and pervasive problem such as this one, it’s obviously time to leap into action.

           My research up to this point has not proved very promising. In my efforts to find some degree of relaxation I had initially assumed that, like many of my peers, I could simply turn to video games, marijuana use, and chronic masturbation, but most of the clinical studies I’ve read suggested that these things only cause to further increase levels of the dreaded cortisol hormone, with regular pot smoking also being linked to significant decreases in testosterone production, lean muscle mass, testicular size, and general sense of well being. Although the results of many of these marijuana studies have been disputed on the grounds that human effects are far less predictable due to increased levels of tolerance in habitual users, my informal observations of hippy culture seem to support this idea that there might be some degree of positive correlation between, if nothing else, pot smoking and lowered levels of testosterone.

           So what can we do to fight against the rise of this brain killer cortisol? Obviously, step one is to simply relax, although, as we’ve seen, many of the things we might turn to for that are not as safe as we had assumed. Obviously, maintaining adequate amounts of sleep and exercise, breathing deeply and slowly, as well as avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, are all very important factors in our battle against cortisol, yet doing so will be complicated by the fact that heightened stress levels directly interfere with our management of all of these things.

           Meanwhile, while masturbation has been shown to be unproductive, sex, although responsible for an initial boost in oxytocine, epinephrine, and other related hormones, including cortisol, has been found to decrease cortisol levels in the long run, so I guess it’s a good thing that no one’s ever been additionally stressed out by efforts to obtain sex, right? However, Instead of worrying about intercourse, try and appreciate the far less complicated pleasures derived from hanging out with friends and family. After all, some good laughs, sincere conversation and a simple hug will also do wonders for your health.

           Finally, there are at least two potentially uncomplicated dietary modifications we can turn to for immediate relief, which are increasing one’s consumption of high quality, non-processed, carbohydrates, like those found in fruits and vegetables, which also just happen to be high in antioxidants and essential nutrients such as vitamin C, which, if taken in mega-doses, may also help to counteract the effects of the cortisol.

           However, the quick fix is never the best answer, so I'm pursuing a theory that all cortisol producing stress can be treated like any other unwanted inflammation. Physical inflammation is typically our immune system's response to an unwanted foreign substance entering the body, but this sometimes misfires, causing the body to attack itself instead. One such mistake is seen in the process of withdrawal from any chemical substance one might find themselves addicted too, such as caffeine, nicotine, love and heroine. As cortisol appears to primarily be an anti-inflammatory, the solution to stress may be as simple as getting one's mind to either truly accept one's circumstances, and one's self, as something that need not be treated as an invasive threat, and from such a space confidently affirm and assert our control over the situation, so as to stop what appears to be yet another misplaced attack on one's own health and well being. This is, of course, easier said than done, but far better said than unacknowledged.

          Unfortunately, that’s all I have right now, but I’ll return to this essay as more information comes my way. Good luck and Namaste.

All the World a Stage?

           Tonight I sat down and considered all of the things that make me happy, my original intention being to improve my life by structuring my time to better accommodate such experiences, but what this exercise has brought me to realize is something far more important, and a bit disturbing, about who I really am. I realized that the only things that really make me happy all seem to be some manner of performance, and I think perhaps that I am incapable of comprehending myself as a truly solitary being, completely separate from the estimations of all others; my life seemingly begins and ends with you, and what I can’t quite figure out is if I think that there’s anything wrong with that.

           Even the seemingly solitary act of creating things is, for me, something that’s almost always done with the sole intention of producing a praiseworthy accomplishment. Obviously writing something like this has a therapeutic and introspective value to it, but I’m not sure I’d even bother if I didn’t think it would make a good post. My early creative efforts were originally focused on visual art, but I stopped drawing back in high school so as not to be placed in any sort of contention or uncomfortable comparison with my best friend at the time, who’s still a visual artist to this day; instead, I simply became a poet, and eventually a prose writer.

           Although there was a bit more to it than that, there’s nothing in the details that negates the idea that I’m anything other than an entirely social creature. As I recall, I also found the medium of visual art to be too fragile and cumbersome (scanners were not quite so prominent or sophisticated back then), while the written word… well, that was infinitely replicable, and could reach anywhere there was a computer screen. In short, it was all done for my audience and my desire to connect to them and, ultimately, to be admired.

           Ironically, singing and dancing, which are more obvious forms of performance, seem to give me an enormous amount of pleasure even without the apparent aid of any audience, although I wonder if that’s not just because I’m simply performing for myself, content with my estimation of what other’s would think IF they were there. After all, I have to admit that I usually find fire spinning to be a bit too much trouble if there’s no one there for which to perform, and when I used to make myself do it alone just for practice, I always resented the curmudgeonliness of all those passerbys who simply refused to stop and take notice.

           With some of the other happiness producing things that I do, the performance may be more subtle, but it’s still undeniably there. For example, I love to spar, but I doubt that I would find it as satisfying if I had to fight a dummy instead of a real person, and even when I do fight a person, or a even a whole group of people, I’m well aware that I enjoy it far more when I have an outside audience to observe our contest, preferably with at least one person present who actually wants to see me do well. For me, sadism or masochism have nothing to do with it; it's all for glory alone.

           This performance lust is obviously also the reason that I relish socializing in large groups, for those informal opportunities to engage in public speaking, standup comedy, and a bit of pedagogy all at once. Indeed, I wonder if there’s anything else but the thrill of performance that drives my passion for teaching, even down to my willingness to conference with parents. I’m well aware that I’m being scrutinized and judged under the full weight of the sort of entitled consumerism that only comes from someone who feels like they’ve bought and paid for you, and I absolutely love it; I feed on their attention, their positive estimations of my competence, like it was honey, even as I attempt to hide this shallow fact, so as to do so even more gracefully. Being graceful, after all, generally makes me happy as well.

           In short, it appears that I am revealed, by all of the things that give me real pleasure, to be utterly vain and self serving. You may have noticed that sex is conspicuously absent from my list; well, my lover is gone, and now no one else will do, and so that is that. I also left off learning and training, but that’s because I don’t think that I inherently enjoy these things nearly as much as I enjoy showing off all the things that I know or that I can do. In the end, my only real passion in life turns out to be for myself alone, but if this is really the truth of me then, regardless of what people say about such things, why should I be ashamed?

           I find myself in a quandary; What started as an attempt to introduce more levity into my life has lead me to a very depressing revelation that I really don’t know how to accommodate. I detest “writing for therapy” pieces like these, particularly when they’re passed off as some sort of consumable media or “art,” but I’m going to post this because I feel that it raises a valid existential question, one which I am unequipped to answer at this moment, and so will humbly pass onto my readers for consideration.

           Most importantly, in the interest of transcending this problem, I think it’s best to leave it without any place to hide. My hope, then, is that by dragging it out into the light in this manner, with your astute help, I’ll be better able to either destroy it or to accept it for what it is. Thank you and Namaste.

The Sacred Power of Naming

           Be careful who or what you allow to control the names for all the many things that make up your life, least of all the names that describes who and what you are. Whether you like it or not, human life is a secret war of countless loud proclamations that have been made incessantly throughout history about pretty much everything. Things have gotten very bad along these lines, as if the angels, who once spoke the most beautiful and the most true names imaginable for all things, all went into hiding, or perhaps, they’ve been all but destroyed. No, it’s not the language itself that’s lacking; it’s the courage to put the right words to the right people, places, and things. In short, it’s our fault.

          I ‘m dangerously close to madness from the sheer ridiculousness of the words that most people have been conned into using and I need to believe that, deep down, so are most of you as well. It’s not really your fault if you’re trapped under this spell either; most people come into this world with very little hope of getting the true names, the beautiful names, the ones that they find most natural, the words that best express their own innate understanding of things, to actually stick. Call the wrong thing beautiful or right or true or just and you will find yourself corrected and mocked and punished until you dare not speak out of turn again. It is thus that we all give in to the all too common tongue of the corrupt and diseased.

          However my greatest complaint is that it seems that there’s only one popular alternative being used to fight against this grand perversion of meanings, and that’s to cast bitter derision onto ALL attempts at naming, becoming stubborn iconoclasts of all possible definitions, declaring, upon the painful failures of your own adolescent names for things, that there is no truth in any of it, that all names are lies, and the most craven surrender of all, that there is no God.

          Not that Atheism lacks all merit; I attempted to use it myself, when I was young and confused, to spite the God that the word was pointing towards, but the word’s still there, pointing where they’ve forced it to point, an illustration of a small mind’s concept of divinity. Denying the existence of the very idea is as unfair and unreasonable as the idea itself. More importantly, the word can still point towards what it was originally intended to denote, back before they stole it away, if more people found the courage, and let's not forget actual insight, necessary to simply speak that truth.

          As far as I’m concerned, this immature postmodernist denial of meaning is just as bad as believing in all the garbage words of my enemies and not only reveals one’s lack of courage, but, ultimately, one's poor intelligence as well.

          No, I’m sick of these ontological nihilists most of all; they are wrong and they are cowards, sore losers in this most secret, and perhaps endless, war of names. Regardless of the popular postmodern appologetics, all truths are not created equal, although nearly every version of the truth expresses some piece of it, if only by revealing the selfish individual needs of a craven, deceitful, or simply shallow heart. Good luck and Namaste.