Friday, 30 October 2015

Further down the Gestalt

This article deals with the revolution that is Gestalt Therapy. it allows us all to realise that all is but a lens through which we see the World. That change occurs when see, hear, touch, taste or smell a new reality. Literally another world is posssible.

The central question of Gestalt therapy both in terms of theory and practice is how both individuals and groups change in the direction of health, wholeness and growth and attempt to challenge both stasis and blockage . I will analyse and describe how the paradoxical theory of change lies at the heart of the central approaches, theories and methods of Gestalt therapy.

In Gestalt theory the therapist is not the central agent that makes change happen. Instead the therapist is an agent in the quest to create conditions that maximise the possibility for growth to occur when it has been arrested or limited and that further possibilities are needed for healing and growth. The therapy trusts orgnismic self-regulation more than therapist directed change. Rather than aiming to move the client to be different, the Gestalt therapist aims to meet the client as they are by using an increased awareness of the present, including figures that start to emerge ( thoughts, feelings, impulses and others) that the person might or might not allow to organise new behaviour.

Laura Perls stated that she was profoundly influenced by a personal meeting with Martin Buber and that the true essence of Gestalt Therapy was the relationship formed between therapist and client. . Flew (1990 states that “gestalt therapy acknowledges and recognises that from the first meeting-of the client and therapist both acknowledge and recognise each humanity. It is here that the most fertile ground work is established “.( Cited Philosophy for beginners 1990) With this present centred awareness, change is allowed to happen without the therapist aiming for a pre-set goal. The paradoxical theory of change lies at the heart of Gestalt therapy. The paradox is that the more one tries to be who one is not, the more one stays the same. ( Beisser 1970) When individuals identify with their whole self, when they acknowledge that whatever aspect arises in the “here and now”, then the conditions for wholeness and growth are created. 

When people do not identify with parts of who they are, inner conflict is created and the whole of the persons resources cannot go into needed interactions of both the self and with others. When people identify with their mode of restraint and identify their basic feelings, they disown that which is needed for motivating energy and direction. When people identify with their impulses and disown their modes of restraint, they disown what they need for safe, sane and healthy behaviour.

When people try not to change, the more they resist natural changes in self and in the environment then the more they will change in relating to the changing conditions . Thus psychological health is largely a matter of identifying with the whole self and using to a maximum the self for necessary tasks in the environment Thus this paradoxical theory of change is closely related to the fundamental principles of Gestalt therapy, Field theory, phenomenology and dialogical existentialism. 

Elements can also be seen as being influenced by Zen.(Crocker 2005) Unlike Freud who saw the dream as the Royal road to the unconscious Perls saw the dream as the Royal road to integration. Thus the dream fits clearly into field theory and becomes a new aspect to notice in the foreground of the client.

The Gestalt therapist focuses on the client becoming aware and increasingly able to be aware as needed to notice whatever forces are operating in the personal/environmental field.. To be aware of theses forces and to own them, is to own the choices made. The Gestalt therapist prefers to create the conditions for self awareness that will support natural change rather than become an agent of programmed behavioural change. In Gestalt therapy model of change, significant increase in awareness occurs by virtue of dialogical contact.

The therapist strives to establish contact as a whole person to the whole person of the client : as the client experiences him or her self. Out of this existential meeting, new awareness and growth occur. In turn, the growth in awareness supports further contact.

The paradoxical theory of change is based on the ability of human beings to self regulate in a manner that achieves the best possible adjustment in the context in which they live, Gestalt therapy is a holistic theory that believes that people are inherently self regulating, oriented towards growth, and cannot be validly understood apart from their environment Thus Gestalt therapy theoretically sees people as part if an organismic environmental field. This contrasts with a conventional view point that people exist separately but also have relations with one another.

The Gestalt therapy view is that this conventional isolated person is only an abstraction out of the field and pout of this organismic environmental field. People only exist as part of a relational field they are “of the field.” In may therapist the viewpoint exists that it can only be meaningful to consider individuals without considering their context. In other words it is only meaningful to view others are just added and dispensable considerations. In Gestalt therapy, people can only live and be meaningfully understood in relationship to their context. People exist, are born, grow, deteriorate and die as part of this organismic environmental field.

The whole field determines change or stasis.. The basic sense of self as a phenomenon of the field is constructed by the individual and the environment. The individual and the environment are co-creators of each other. Identity is formed and maintained, expanded and contracted by the whole field, by mutual construction of the individual and the rest of the organismic environmental field.

The sense of “I” is formed by contact with and differentiation from the rest of the organism environmental field by the processes of the contact boundaries. Self and others create boundaries that connect people to other people and also maintains autonomous identities. Martin Buber ( 1965, 1970) states that”I” can only exist as a relationship of I -Thou or I-It. Winnicott(1960) stated that there is no mother or child, there is only the mother child unit. In therapy the field is largely the therapist and the client as the agency delivering change.

Field theory is essential to understand the Gestalt theory of change it comprises the organismenvironmental field, the paradoxical theory of change and a holistic belief in organismic self regulation. Gestalt therapy field theory is a viewpoint on how the world is organised, how it works and how change happens.( Malcolm Parlett 2005) The following principles of field theory are an integral part of the theory of change.

Firstly change is a function of the whole context in which a person lives. Therefore the awareness work in therapy must attend to the whole context in which the client lives and the whole context of the therapy. Gestalt therapy is interested in all of the factors that determine the course of human change whoose outlook of change in therapy is a result of the whole client-therapist field. ( Perls et al 1951/1994; Jaconbs 1995a, 1995

Secondly change anywhere in the field affects all subsystems of the field. The elements of the field are interdependent and subordinate to the whole and are regulated by their function in the whole. Although individuals function separately in some sense they are always dependent on each other and upon the whole. Any change in the complex relational events that compose the organism-environmental field affects all other parts of the field. A change in one member of a family or group will effect very other member of the family or group. In the field of the therapist and client, a change in one will affect the other. (Yomtef 1993)

Thirdly, Gestalt therapy focuses on the subjective awareness of the client , the interaction in sessions, and also on an understanding of the whole context of forces that is the background of the everyday life of the client. Where the past experiences of an individual is still effecting the current field the operation of those processes, thoughts, affects and habits must also become part of the achieved understanding.

Fourthly change in Gestalt therapy must be seen as part of a temporal/spatial process. The forces of the field are in flux, movement and change and this change temporally and spatially are all part of one understanding. Process therefore refers to the dynamics of this change in time and space. Change is not just a change in structure, a spatial viewpoint nor is just a change in dynamics atemporal viewpoint.These forces are events that happen and move through time and space.This means that change happens as a function of the who;le field and of all of the forces that compose the field and that this happens over and through time and space. (Yomtef 1993),

Finally that all observation is from a particular, place, time and perspective.. This is a phenomenological viewpoint in other words that all reality is interpreted and that there is no objective reality. Nor indeed is any awareness subjective since all awareness does point intentionally something. The therapist neither has an objective nor an uninterpreted viewpoint. All events happen in a particular time and space and all observations are interpretations from a particular time ans space. I observe a particular client on a particular day in my room and this a particular day in the life of a client. 

On another day in another context the client may appear very different to me. One can observe this in a client who appears to be passive while working in relationship counselling session but very lively in an individual or group therapy. A holistic view or awareness of epoche takes into account interactions not only at the moment but as a view of the person over different contexts of time and of situation. Meaning is not objective, it is the experience in a figure in relation to the ground. For example the use of the word “love “ may mean different things to someone experiencing a mature healthy relationship to someone who has experienced manipulation or sexual abuse.

Awareness consequently characterised by contact, sensing, excitement and by Gestalt formation ( Perls et al 1951/1994) Contact refers to what we are in contact with. If I am sitting with someone and thinking of the things I must do , then I am in contact with my*to do” list and not the other person. One can be in touch with some thing without being aware of it. So in this example I might not realize that I am sitting with a person while being in contact with my list. Sometimes in therapy a person believes they are “aware” only when experiencing some aspects of awareness. Frequently clients will know about something but do not fully feel it, sense it or be in contact with it and know what they do not allow to be emerge as figure in the foreground of the field.. This is what Merleau-Ponty (1960) called “aware agency” and which lies at the heart of Gestalt therapy.

A secondary association that could be called sensing refers to how one is in touch by receptors such as hearing or by proprioception, or close sensing such as touching, smelling and tasting or by intuition. Sensory data could be used to orient and organise our iprocesses ( urges, provocations, desires, impulses appetites, needs etc) and our experience of the field or the environmental influences.
Finally In Gestalt therapy Excitement refers to emotional and physiological excitation. I may be physically touched by someone9 feeling the touch in or on my body) and I may be stimulated. 

This emotional quality of the excitement arousal might be joy, pleasure, disgust, fear and so forth. This may also allow an awareness of transference or counter transference to be imported from Psychoanalytic theory directly into the field and foreground either showing the need for epoche or indeed noticing the event in the here and now of the unit of the client and the therapist.
In conclusion I would like to examine the link between process in the field with change in therapeutic practice. A change in treatment is determined by the therapist client field as a whole.. 

When therapy flows well, the client, therapist and their systems together are all responsible. Importantly when there is a disruption, failure and so forth this is also caused by the client, therapist and their system together. Secondly perception is relative and not absolute. A field is always seen from some vantage point and is neither objective or universally true. In therapy there are at least two view points that need to be taken into account and respected. The “truth” of the therapist is only one of many possible perspectives.-it is not privileged. Thirdly A field viewpoint always involves space and time Any valid observations must specify the time and the location and the developments over time and space.. 

A client may come in my room with intense emotions spilling over and creating chaos. Any generalisations must take into account that this is happening in this particular space in my office and at this particular time. The client may not show such powerful emotions in any other location. The quality of the emotions might not be an ongoing quality but may occur because of contemporaneous events. Or perhaps this moment may be atypical one for this particular client.

Finally field thinking is holistic Gestalt therapists take into accounts and work with the body, the environment, contemporary systems, residues of childhood systems and so forth. Consequently Gestalt therapists can use a wide range of interventions and various ways to bring the field forces into awareness and allows allow holistic and health to stem from the pradoxical theory of change.

Bar-Yoseph levine, (20120T.G Advances in Theory and Practiceestalt Therapy Routlledge
Beisser , A. R. (1970) The paradoxical Theory of Change gestalt Therapy Now
Buber , M. I and Thou (1958) Edinburgh , T and T Clark.
Clarkson, P. Gestalt Counselling in Action sage Publications
Crocker, S. F. (1999) A Well Lived Life: Essays in gestalt Therapy Gleveland press
Flew, A. Philosopy For Begginers Inner City Books London.
Jacobs L. Dialogues In Gestalt Therapy Gestalt Journal
Joyce, P Skills in Gestalt Sage publications
Merlleau-Ponty, M The Phenomenonolgy of Perception London Routlledge
Parlett, M. Reflections on Field Theory Gestalt Journal
Perls et at (1951) Gestalt Therapy Excitement and Growth Penguin

Yomtef., G. Awreness, Dialogue and Process Gestalt Therapy History and Process

Are you local?

Here is my genetic profile. Wow what an interesting mix. Where will you send me back to Mr Frage. I am nearly 10 % Irish......and really like the Italian IHreek mix......
Europe 100%
Great Britain 79%
Ireland 9%
Trace Regions 12%
Europe West 8%
Scandinavia 4%
Europe East 2%
Italy/Greece 2%
I jad my DNA result yesterday/ Have long been interested in mymongrel dna. I discovered that there is a very healthy Irish element to me. The Jewieh element seems to come from Eastern Europe, and there is Greek and Italian elements there as well. I found my not being local put to the test last night. It reminded me of a scene I remember from the League of gentlemens series.Any emblance to any local NPT Councillor is entirely accidental and nothing to do with me..

What an interesting evening at the anti wind farm meeting in Ystelyfera. After being asked what we thought. I was then told I could not speak as I was not local. Then a particularly lovely community councillor told me that because of my accent I could not possibly understand the issues. The strange thing was though two or three members of the committee and several anti wind farm protestors had English accents...but that was clearly different.I have only lived in Wales since I was 16...almost 42 years ago. My great grandmother was from Angelsy and my family moved to the Midlands to find work. If I had experienced this as a Jew or Pakistani or was of Islamicist culture I would now be exploring a case of racist action. As we left two local residents apologised for this disgraceful outburst by one of the local community councillors. I will be contacting Leanne Woody of Plaid Cymru in the morning. I will let Neil Wagstaff tell his perceptions of the meeting, I am in favour of an independent Wales and was briefly a member of Plaid Cymro . My colleague Neil Wagstaff drscibed it like this
"NPTGP members had a wdescribedarm welcome thrust upon us this evening at the Tegwch/Farteg Wind Farm consultation in Ystalyfera Community Hall (not). The anger, animosity and hostility was palpable towards us Greens after we raised our hands upon being asked who was in favour of the project. A community councillor on the committee denigrated Martyn's opinions because he had an 'English accent', despite having lived in Wales since he was 16 years old; AND two members of the four-man Tegwch committee were suspiciously.. REALLY English! Lol. Plus, an NPT Plaid councillor accused me of recording the meeting on my phone (falsely), so I had to remind her that, despite raising her hand moments before to say she was against fracking, she actually voted in favour of the the exploratory borehole drilling that's about to take place in Pontrhydyfen. I was quite happy to have not spoken at the meeting tonight - we all agreed we were just going to be there to listen to people's complaints and grievances, but once we were set upon (no other words for it), well, we had to try and convey a voice of reason to the proceedings, but, alas, to no avail.. In fact, a couple of local people came up to us after the meeting to apologise for the disrespectful way we were treated! No one told me that upon joining the Green Party I'd be considered a social outcast and pariah lol..

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Badgers to cull Britain’s Tories

I found this on a  Scottish Site called  Flip side  its great great
A systematic cull of Britain’s Tory population looks set to go ahead after senior badgers brushed aside objections from scientists and conservationists. Badgers have been arguing for years that the cull is necessary to protect Britain’s dairy farms from diseases like xenophobia and a poor grasp of basic science. Having rejected as inhumane a plan involving copies of the Daily Telegraph laced with strychnine, the badgers instead will use specially trained badger marksmen and intend to reduce the Tory population by one third over two years.
“We understand that the public have a nostalgic affection for Tories,” said the spokesbadger for the Department of Rural Affairs, “so we promise not to shoot that scruffy blonde one in London that everybody likes.”
The prospect of gun-toting badgers roaming the House of Commons worries some, but farmers are delighted. “I had a Tory on my farm last week,” said one frustrated landowner, “and since then the cows have been jeering at the sheep and telling them to go back home to where they came from. I had to have the whole herd destroyed.”
“All my cows keep going off and protesting about windfarms,” said another. “Our milk production has almost stopped!”
One farmer was more directly affected. “Eric Pickles sneaked onto my farm last week and ate half my cows,” he said.
However, the badgers’ plan is not backed by scientific evidence.  “Culling Tories won’t reduce xenophobia among cows.” said one scientist. “We believe the increase in Bovine Xenophobia and scientific ignorance is caused by the new practice of feeding cattle pulped copies of the Daily Mail.”
Some bloke off Springwatch agreed. “Tories are a vital part of the political ecosystem. If you kill too many, then more dangerous animals will move in to fill the vacuum, like Ukippers. Last time the Tory population dwindled too far, we got ten years of Tony Blair. I think the badgers need to think a bit more about this policy.”

Intruduction to Marxism Asclepius Education Thursday November 12 2015

Starts Thursday November 12 2015 10 to 12 at Asclepius Therapy 33 A Walter Road Swansea tel 01792 480245. The course will be for 10 weeks and cost £50.
I am going to start running this course in early November. I am fed up with the nonsence I have been hearing about Marx recently. The course is not to convert you to is simply a course to make you aare of how influences us all from right to left.. I will also present critiques of marx from a feminist and a Green perspective.
MARXISM IS COMPLICATED by the fact that Marx is by no means the only influence on critical thinking ; indeed, given the various sorts of political movements that have been inspired by this thinker (socialism, Trotskyism, communism, Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, radical democracy, etc.), one despairs at trying to provide a fair and lucid introduction. Add to that the fact that Marx himself changed his mind on various issues or sometims expressed opinions that appear mutually exclusive, and one is faced with a rather high hurdle. Nonetheless, there are a number of Marxist thoughts and thinkers that have been especially influential on recent scholarly developments (particularly in literary, cultural, and political studies). In short, the goal of this is to give a sense for the major concepts influencing this approach while attempting to stay conscious of the various ways that individual terms have been contested over the last number of decades.

The major distinction in Marxist thought that influences literary and cultural theory is that between traditional Marxists (sometimes, unfairly, called vulgar Marxists) and what are sometimes referred to as post-Marxists or neo-Marxists. The major distinction between these two versions of Marxist thought lies in the concept of ideology: traditional Marxists tend to believe that it is possible to get past ideology in an effort to reach some essential truth (eg. the stages of economic development). Post-Marxists, especially after Louis Althusser, tend to think of ideology in a way more akin to Jacques Lacan, as something that is so much a part of our culture and mental make-up that it actively determines what we commonly refer to as "reality." According to these post-Marxist critics, there may well be some hard kernel behind our obfuscating perceptions of reality but that kernel is by definition resistant to articulation. As soon as one attempts to articulate it, one is at risk of falling back into ideology. This understanding of ideology is what Fredric Jameson famously terms the "prison-house of language." The links on the left will lead you to specific ideas discussed by Marx and those "post-Marxists" who have proven to be most influential on literary and cultural studies; however, you might like to begin with a quick overview:
KARL MARX is, along with Freud, one of a handful of thinkers from the last two centuries who has had a truly transformative effect on society, on culture, and on our very understanding of ourselves. Although there were a few critics claiming an end to Marxist thought (and even an end to ideology) after the fall of the communist system in the former Soviet Union, Marxist thought has continued to have an important influence on critical thought, all the more so recently after the rise of globalization studies. As protests at recent G7 and IMF meetings and anti globalisation protests make clear, that marxism can also still have important political effects.

Political reflections at Samhain

Its the time of the Crone, the period before Samhain. Its a good time to look back . I always catch myself at this time of year reflecting on my political experiences of the last 40 years. I think it must be the approaching AGM of the Wales Green party that sends my memories reeling and cascading through my dreams and my perceptions . Perhaps its because Robert David Ackland is coming to see me or that I just noticed a posting by Gwynoro Jones that has started it Perhaps its because I can see the pre-election frantic press campaign and activity of Peter Black. Perjaps its the launch of my blog.

Last year the death of Jeremy Thorpe has had the effect of making me reflect on that period of the late 70`s, In those days nearly forty years ago . Whatever can be said about Thorpe does not take away from the fact he understood pro to-Environmentalism, called for the bombing of Rhodesia and thought in challenging ways. He was a long way from the bland Liberal Democrats of today. When I look at Tim Farron, amongst others the blandness overwhelms me And I see the sharksuited bullies massing on the troty side of the House of Commons waiting to gobble him up just as they consumed and destroyed Nick Clegg I see the community politics that they once espoused becoming no more than a means to keep a few AMs in the Assembly. There is no existential meaning for them anymore. I see it peeping out of the eyes of Peter Black and Kirsty Williams. They are all action with no purpose or meaning.

At Christmas 1977 I was elected Chairperson of the Welsh Young Liberals. It was a difficult election I had begun as the outsider and was facing two other candidates . I stood on a Libertarian Socialist platform my main rival was a traditional Liberal from Cardigan and another candidate from Cardiff.
Leighton Andrews our minister of Education in Wales pushed the Bangor delegation my way and I narrowly won. I can't escape the irony though that when I became Leader of the Welsh Green party most of my critics came from the same area..West Wales. I must have some ancient and long lasting Karma with the area. And I cannot help noticing that another former Liberal ,one Mr Andy Chyba must also form part of this karma..I wonder if I burnt him as Witchfinder or perhaps it was the other way round. Of course all this speculation is a literary device.

I think of other events of the 70`s. Peter Hain`s aquittal on a bank robbery charge in 1975 at that time we believed that the South African Secret Service was seeking to destroy the old Liberal party to make Tory victory certain at the next election. We believed the same thing about the Thorpe allegations and some hints from Harold Wilson’s reflections made us more suspicious of intelligence plots. There is a very interesting book called the Penncourt files and I recommend itThen I remember a TV programme about infiltration of the Stop the 70`s tour by police and intelligence services. And now nearly three years short of my 60th birthday I still reflect on this role of the state in disrupting the radicals.

Even Fred Fitton of the SWP had spent some time as a Young Liberal at the time of Louis Eaks time as chairperson of the Young Liberals
I remember Dai Griffith beating the future Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans to become President of Swansea Students union. Some weeks ago I heard the same but now Nigel Evans MP lay into Tom Watson over allegations against Leon Britain. I can't help thinking that Nietzsche's observation was that our morality was based on our wounds. Young Nigel is raving about Witch Crazes and persecutions. However,I can't help thinking that it was Nigel's government that brought in Section 28 and despite his own revaluations and experiences I would simply say to him if your Party brings in legislation that allows persecution and witch hunting then your true morality and integrity should have made you resign at the time.

I remember a book written by Peter Hain called “ Radical Regeneration” in it he condemns Labour as a hack party. Having lived in in his constituency for three years I realise that he was he describing the Neath Labour party and I wonder if late at night he reflects upon that. In chapters 4 and 5 he describes a realignment of the radicals into a new political, movement. Looking back nearly forty years I realise that the time has come to see those principles in my ageing self that makes me rave at the time of the Celtic new Year.........

But to return to the book I ask you to Take a look. You will be surprised. We are there, the modern Green Party in Peter Hain`s words. Perhaps the rise of Jeremy Corbyn is also a reflection of this. However I see no changes in the bland Neath Labour Party and I reflect that in Neath Port Talbot Adult Social Services has become “outsourced” to a private company.
Now I am the agent in Neath again for the Assembly elections of 2016.. Perhaps it is the dark mornings and the experience of ageing at the time of the arising of winter ..... but then again it may be that I am now liberated from the past and can begin to tell my story. This blog will allow me to do this , there are many articles, speculations, literary and philosophical issues and a novel called “Valley of Steel”. It deals with the experiences of a leader of a small environmental party in a Southern Welsh City during the early years 21st century. It's all made up though..there never was an Edwn Salesbury...but you may know different. And Spring 2016 is coming after a long personal Winter'

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

On the Lefts attitude to sport as the new opium of the People

A few Sundays ago we were having breakfast in Loaf in Ystradgynlais and we began talking began talking about the defeat of England by Wales last weekend and Englands defeat by Australia last night. I began to reflect on the Lefts view of sport. Over the last 35 years I have often heard the view that organised sport was the new "opium of the people" designed to keep the masses docile and to distract people away from the real issues. I thought of a very different tradition in South America, where the left organised on the terraces, where Che Guevera played Rugby and wrote a sports column in a newspaper, where the French Philoxpher Albert Camus was a keen footballer and a lover of the sun.
I remember some ten years ago we in Swansea Green Party celebrated and congratulated Swansea on the erection of the statue of John Charles, the prominent sportsfigure of the area. I remember getting more positive comments about that one press story than any other story we had publushed that year. People congratulated the party on understanding the significance of John Charles. At the next Green Party meeting I was criticised by a former member of the party for daring to wade into such a minor issue. Some weeks ago I published a Green Dragon story on Welsh sporting success on a local party web site and got told off once more. I really think that sport is a blind spot for the Left and for Ecosocialists in general. Perhaps its because we were once the serious ones, who were useless at team games, or like me because my sight was lousy.....I dont know....perhaps we consider ourselves above it all. I do know those who celebrate great works of literature often forget that in Elizabethan England all classes and people attended the plays of Shajespeare and the like. Perhaps we experience a major disconnect between high culture and popular culture.?
Its no accident that Maradona has a tattoo of Che Guevera, its no accident that in the 1970's the far right recruited on the teraces of the football match.
Organised sport would enable criticism by us to be made of the corporations
that the premier league is, the facts that ma y ordinary people can no longer afford to watch Rugby or Football live, to expose the schemes of Rupert Murdoch and his ilk.I wonder if we could appreciate this.
Then there is the subtext that we could comment on. As an exile returning to Wales I had foregotten that Rugby was the sport of ordinary Welsh people, it England Rugby is the game of the Public Schools and the Old Grammar schools, of the English ruling class.Thats why its great to see England humiliated by a subject nation and a former colonial state.Its the return of the repressed, its a collapse of the corporate campaign of the English brand, tied to big business, the denial of the role of ordinary people in sport.
There is a major role for the left to be involved in sport it would enable us to ask questions on the role of sport in promoting notions of gender and sexuality and of power. Womens football and Rugby has far to go in acheiving parity with that of men. The obscene payments made to Premier League players illustrates inequality of income, the attitude to gay players is shocking paticularly in the Premier League.
We fail to understand Sport ion the left, yet fitness, health and self confidence is the key to empowerment and self realisation. Sport deserves to be an area the left can get its ideas across in. Change begins when popular culture is understood and sneered at. We need to grasp this point to began real engagement. Even the popular culture of the Big Brother house teaches us much about political power and group psychology. I make a plea for us to understand and act.
Some months ago we were in a taxi chatting about politics to the driver. His analysis was radical and left wing but he hated politicians. He wasclearly on the left but did not see it this way at all.Sport offers a way to reconnect, to learn the ĺanguage, to connect popular culture and high culture and to stop us all within the left appearing smug, condescending and to realise the smug condescending attitude we have comes from is our own individual psycholgy......

Where Psychology meets the Political Activist+

I have always been interested in seeing what goes on behind the scenes, at the things that I deny about myself and what others deny about themselves. Over the last 50 years or so it has led me to some interesting places, people and ideas. At Christmas a  friend of mine bought me a copy of the Pencourt File, it's a study of the Intelligence Services attempts to destabilise the Wilson Government of 1974 to 1976. When I was involved in a previous incarnation of political activity, I read the magazine "Borderlands" which looked at the role the same services role in their infiltration of the Radical, the Left and the Green movement. As we approach another five years of Right wing government my thoughts go back to these issues.+

There is an area where the secret state intersects with our paranoia and our fears. The Left and all critical views tends to attract to it a higher proportion of people who are suspicious, egotistical and obsessive. Of course this proportion is small but nevertheless there. Just recently I read a psychotherapy article about that if you compare 100 political activists with 100 non political activists the non activists are significantly less neurotic. Anthony Storr`s book the Political Psyche is a rich read indeed......tut still there is no harm in a speculative flow of consciousness.......
There is however something I have observed over the years...wherever I have been involved in politics and campaigning I always encountered individuals who have a military or police background underwent an Epiphany and turned to the Left........perhaps innocent I know, but then again......I often wonder that with the growth of the anti fracking movement, for example, would reveal about police or military backgrounds of a few key activists. I have charted how some activists reappear and disappear over a number of years. They usually appear when the Green party is gaining in strength and power and are always involved in controversy and dispute. Some disputes in anti Fracking camps and actions can be most instructive particularly when they coincide with police raids on these camps. That old Welsh Republican Socialist Jac o the North has much rich speculation on these subjects as do those rascals who produce Green Dragon.

The psychological view of Freud is that individuals project and displace their fears and loathings on to others One individual in particular has created a web site suspecting that prominent Greens are or have been members of the Israeli Secret Service and spends much of their time researching mine and others wicked pasts. The sadness is that where the secret state meets the psychotic the intersections are many and varied and defeats speculation. . Knowing the difference is crucial and essential. But then again, which quadrant of the Venn diagram have I wandered into in the silly season in the dog days of rationality that is July? And of course I am working my way through the ten series of “Spooks”.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Become who you are: the illusion of freewill

I propose to examine the three main traditional solutions to this problem. I will discuss the contribution of Nietzsche as a critic of both freewill and determinism and examine his will to power concept as an attempt to break out of this binary opposition. His critique also implies that Descartes cogito arguments is part of cause and effect and I will also examine the role of psychology in the conception of the existence of the self and its role in the freewill debate.

Traditionally there appears to be a conflict between, on the one hand, the scientific desire to explain everything in terms of cause and effect (determinism) and on the other the personal experience that each of us appears free to choose ( freewill). From a scientific point of view, each action must have a cause, and that cause in turn must be the effect of another cause. However this claim of causation would never have a beginning or an ending, and this result is a problem for the idea of free will: if all our actions are determined by other causes, then none of them can be said to be freely chosen. We would in a real sense be merely robots who possess the illusion of choice.

Before I examine Nietzsche’s approach to the problem of freewill I will examine some traditional approaches. Determinism is the view that there is a strict cause and effect relationship between events, and that there is no room for free choice or an “uncaused cause”. This view may take many different forms; someone maybe a determinist because they believe that individual` actions are predetermined by their genes; religious believers may also be deterministic if they hold that all events are preordained by God. Determinism has a stronghold in many scientific perspectives, and is commonly associated with traditional views of causation. Isaac Newton could be considered as an example of such an outlook. In fact it could be argued that if a mind existed that knew all the forces and laws that governed events, and the actual constitution of the world then such a mind could predict the future exactly.

However Bohr and Heisenberg argue that there is a limit to what we can know about subatomic particles this is known as the uncertainty principle. So for instance in any one time we may only be able to know with relative certainty the position of a particle, but not its momentum or indeed its momentum but not its position.. (1)(Gribbin, 1982, p 119-120)

A belief in free will is the opposite of determinism. It holds that determinism is false and that free choice is in some way possible. There are different forms of freewill, and the reason it believes we are free to choose will differ accordingly. Some might argue we have an immaterial soul or self which is the free cause of action, whilst others would argue that degrees of randomness in the universe stop all actions being determined. Many religious believers fall into the above category. Descartes may be considered representative of the freewill approach.

The first two traditional attempts are incompatible with one another because they deny that freewill and determinism are compatible with one another and cannot therefore both be true. I would call both examples of incompatibles. However a third position could be called compatibilism that argues to some extent that determinism and freewill are in some sense compatible and that they are both in some sense true. Both Thomas Hobbes and David Hume (2)(Robin Baker 1983) held versions of compatibilism and argued that in an everyday sense, we can hold that some events are either forced or free. Body reflexes such as dilation of eyes may be an example of an action over which we have no control. However there are actions where it is natural to acknowledge choice such as whether we cross the road or not.

The basis of the concept of free will is the idea that a thing may be a causa sui, the cause of itself. There is great difficulty in imagining an uncaused cause, since a scientific understanding argues that all things have causes. Nietzsche argues that the simplicity of this idea of causa sui and that if we were to accept it we would have to accept its possibility then it would require a rejection of cause and effect.

David Hume made a similar point when he argued that our sole knowledge of cause and effect comes from the experience of seeing one thing “cause” another many time over in “constant conjunction” , and that there is not ( as philosophers such as Descartes claimed) an absolutely ”necessary connection” involved ( or at least, none that we can identify with any certainty). (3) ( David Hume sections IV to VII)

Whilst Nietzsche is critical of this unscientific way of thinking he is also critical of the scientific tendency to “naturalise” these concepts which he termed reification. Nietzsche argues that cause and effect are not physical things, but ways of explaining the world. They are purely abstract concepts, and as such should not be confused with the events that they are used to describe. This is an important and yet subtle point, the main significance of which is that human beings use concepts to explain and control the world, but that these concepts are not in the world. In other words we make the concepts and we do not discover them:

It is we who have fabricated causes, succession, reciprocity, relativity, compulsion, number, law, freedom, motive, purpose, and when we falsely introduce the world of symbols into things and mingle it with them as though the symbol world were `in itself`, we once more behave as we always behaved , namely mythological “. (4)(section BGE 21 p 51)

Thus when scientists behave as if cause and effect were physical things in the world they mistake the symbol world, the world of concepts we have created, with the real one the world in itself, as it exists independently of human understanding. . When this mistake is made it is as if we are creating a myth as to how the world is rather than see the world as Nietzsche argues as a place where concepts are created and chosen to fulfil deeper purposes that we have.

But not only causa sui is a myth so is "unfree will” (or determinism) and it is these two myths which reflect different psychological tendencies. For example a strong willed individual will see their actions as being under their control, whilst the weaker willed person will see their actions as being determined largely by things out of their control such as environment and biology.

The opposite interpretation Nietzsche says would be one which saw the world in terms of different wills in constant competition for dominance over one another. This doctrine he terms the will to power. Of course he points out (5)( BGE Section 200 p79 ) “this too is an interpretation. This implies that all that exist are competing interpretations. Thus the Will to power is not so much a governing principle but rather the state of things when all law are absolutely lacking. From this perspective science would appear to be a battleground for different versions of the truth.

Nietzsche’s view is somewhat difficult to define. On one hand, he is critical of causa sui and therefore appears at odds with freewill; but he is also critical of determinism. He states:

..”Assuming that it is in this way possible to get beyond the peasant simplicity of this concept of freewill and banish it from one's mind, I would then ask whoever does that to
carry his enlightenment a step further and also banish from his own mind the contrary of that unusual concept freewill: I mean unfreewill, which amounts to an abuse of cause and effect” (6) (BGE section 21 p51)

We must consider in which way traditional cause and effect is unsatisfactory? These terms, he argues, should only be used to help us in talking about the world but simply as an explanation for it. Nietzsche points out that when we talk about cause and effect, we think of the cause as being the source of what is produced as opposed to simply being a way of describing certain events,. Furthermore, just as the idea of causa sui is something that we have invented in making the world in our own image, so determinism is reliant upon the same way of thinking,. Determinism is a mechanistic picture of causation in that like Darwin’s theory of evolution it treats nature as if it were a machine where all decisions are made by external forces. His preferred picture is one where nature is a battleground of competing drives each of which has its own internal agenda, like a desire which compels it to extend its power or dominance over others.

..”Unfreewill is mythology in real life it is only a question of strong and weak wills”
(7) (BGE section 21 p51)

For Nietzsche will is a matter of will to power. In other words when we feel a sense of freedom in our actions, what we are actually feeling is the vigour of existence as we give full expression to a certain drive or instinct. Over time we learn to associate this feeling of being in control, and successfully willing actions. It also implies in contrast that when we associate with the expression of contrary instincts comes to be associated with lack of control. So in reality there is no such thing as the will only the dominance of certain drives over one another.

. .”Freedom of the will is the expression for that complex condition of pleasure of each person, who wills, who commands and at the same time identifies himself with the executor of the commands- who as such, enjoys also the triumph over resistances involved but who thinks it was his will itself which overcame these resistances. “ (8)(BGE section 19 p49)

This implies that a unified will might be possible if certain drives joined together or that one drive might become as dominant as to dominate all that we could see as the ultimate goal of personal development. This may explain why certain clients in Psychotherapy are able to transcend difficult circumstances and others not. Jung and Freud both argued that to know our respective drives and instincts was vital to self knowledge.

The argument of competing drives can be read as a criticism of Descartes Cogito.. So instead of asking about the existence of freewill. He asks what is this thing we call the will/. He argues that the self is made of many “souls” and asks why we must assume that there is a separate and distinct “I” which thinks or even “that it has to be something that thinks”. Descartes assumes that he knows what thinking is and that it involves a cause and effect relationship between self and thought.. To call this knowledge intuitive is to beg the question as where do these intuitions come from. It is a mistake, Nietzsche argues, based on the analysis of language that there is a subject “i and a predicate “think”. The temptation to think of the “I” or “cause” is simply another example of the psychological need to think of something as having a centre or “atom” (9)(BGE section 16 p48)

I consider that the major problem with Nietzsche’s view of freewill is the question to the extent we can make sense of our traditional understanding of cause and effect. It is very persuasive to argue that the whole problem is self made and that if we simply abandon or amend our understanding of these terms we can arrive at a more satisfactory picture.. It seems that Nietzsche appears outside of the freewill and determinism opposition.. yet when he comes to replace the traditional concept of free will he does so by a deterministic picture.. Our nature is determined by our drives, and our drives are determined in turn by factors outside of our control. Such as environmental conditions, biology, genetic influence and education.. So the drives that are dominant for us would therefore appear to be determined for us.

Nietzsche also can be said to argue for room for freewill for some.. In his concept of the “free spirit” he describes certain individuals who have evolved beyond their programming (ASZ) . That they do so, initially, is perhaps a matter of chance; either that they find themselves with qualities or instincts that make them gain mastery over their instincts, or else they arise out of an awareness of their inner conflict with a desire to resolve it. (BGE Section 200 pp89) This freedom arises from the development of will and discipline in relation to the instincts and not as some critics of Nietzsche have suggested a letting go into the irrational drives.. The free spirit is an individual who has achieved freedom through discipline, which allows in turn the choice to express an instinct or another..

In this sense Nietzsche as indeed do I suspect that many people lack freedom. Without self-knowledge a lack of responsibility for our own actions means that many are not aware of how we repeat mistake upon mistake. In Psychotherapy I regularly meet people who do not accept responsibility for their actions. This may be because of lack of knowledge of self or indeed from environmental factors. (10)(Schatt, 1983 pp 304-309)

This last point is particularly important to the debate between freewill and determinism.
Nietzsche’s concept of the Eternal Return argues that the most positive conception of life would be to live it all over again exactly as it was.. This is almost a love of fate, whereby to accept responsibility for everything one is, provides the basis for true freedom, whereas to desire to change anything about oneself would be to give to an individual desire and bring about internal conflict and therefore become unfree.. .So therefore freedom from my point of view resides in both acceptance and resistance. It may be possible to see this approach to certain strands of Buddhism where the overcoming of desire is seen as a means of liberation or enlightenment.

1 Gribbin, In search of Schrödinger’s cat, p 119-120
2 Robin Baker 1983 Philosophy for beginners Inner City books London 1989
3David Hume An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding sections IV to VII
4 BGE section 21 p 51
5 BGE Section 200 p79
6 BGE section 21 p51
7 BGE section 21 p51
8 BGE section 19 p4
9 BGE section 16 p48
10 Richard Schatt, The Arguments of the Philosophers, Nietzsche London;Routledge&Kegan Paul1983 pp 304-309)

David Gribbin, In search of Schrödinger’s cat. London;Routledge& Kegan 1982
David Hume An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding sections IV to VII

Friedrich Nietzche Thus Spake Zarathustra (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature) 2008

Richard Schatt, The Arguments of the Philosophers, Nietzsche London;Routledge& Kegan Paul 1983

Richard Schatt, The Arguments of the Philosophers, Nietzsche London;Routledge& Kegan Paul 1983

Monday, 26 October 2015

I could only believe in a god who dances................

When I was five my father began to read mythology to me . I found a great tension between the religion I was taught at school and the tales of the Greeks, Romans and ancient Egyptians. I remember asking at school why the Christian stories we heard at school were true and the mythologies of the ancient world were false. No teacher ever adequately convinced me . The best they did was to tell me I was foolish or indeed odd.

Some fifty years later after much exploration and reading and  of dancing in the woods with neo Pagans, after running a Western Mysteries group for ten years, after leading the Wales Green party for five years   while seeking a solution for political ecology I am still convinced that all faith is “Mythos”. I do not use this as a pejorative term but recognise now that we are all animals of varying abilities and talents. Our spirituality must reflect this if we are to have true understanding and a means to live spiritually and passionately. What follows is part rant and part passion. Perhaps the mixture of rant and passion still explains my ambivalence even now to organised religion

If they want me to believe in their god,
they'll have to sing me better songs.....
I could only believe in a god who dances.

Companions the creator seeks, not corpses, not herds and
believers. Fellow creators the creator seeks--those who write
new values on new tablets. Companions the creator seeks, and
fellow harvesters; for everything about him is ripe for the

-- Friedrich Nietzsche,
"Thus Spoke Zarathustra",

No polytheist ever imagined that all humankind would come to live in the same way; for polytheists took for granted that humans would worship other deities. Only with Christianity did the belief take root that one way of life could/should be lived by all.. If only one belief is true, every other is wrong.For polytheists, religion is a matter of practice,not belief, and there are many kinds of practice. For Christians , religion is a matter of true belief, and therefore every way of life which does not accept must consequently be an error..

While many polytheists may vigorously defend their deities, they never perceive themselves as missionaries. It is certain that without monotheism humans would still be violent unstable beings ; yet history would have spared us from wars of religion. If the world had been spared monotheism we would not  have developed communism or indeed global democratic capitalism. It is possible to dream of a world free from militant faiths religious or political.

Yet it is also true that unbelief is a move in a game set by .believers. To deny the existence of a God is to accept the categories of monotheism. As these categories fall into disuse, unbelief becomes uninteresting, and soon is meaningless. Many humanists say they want a secular world, but a world defined by the absence of the Christian God is still a Christian world. Secularism like chastity, a condition defined by what it denies.. If atheism has a future, it can only be in a Christian revival ; and it is true that both Christianity and atheism are declining together.

Atheism is a late bloom of a Christian passion for truth. No Pagan is ready to sacrifice the pleasure of life for the sake of mere truth.. It is an artful illusion, not unadorned reality that they prize. Among the Greeks, the goal of philosophy was happiness or salvation, not truth. The worship of Truth is effectively a Christian cult.

The old Pagans were right to shudder at the uncouth earnestness of the early Christians. None of the Mystery religions of the late Roman Empire would have claimed what the Christians claimed- that all other faiths were in error. For that reason non , none of their followers could ever become an atheist.. When Christianity alone claimed they possessed the truth they condemned the rich and lush profusion of the pagan world with damning finality.

In a world of many gods, unbelief can never be total It can only be a rejection of one one practice and gods and acceptance of others or else as Epicurus and his followers the conviction that gods do not matter since they have long ceased to bother about human affairs.Christianity struck at the root of pagan tolerance of constructed interpretation. In claiming that there is only one truth faith, it gives truth a supreme value that it has not had before. It also made unbelief in the divine possible for the first time. The long delayed consequence of Christian faith was an idolatry of truth that found its most complete expression in atheism. If we live in a world without gods , we have Christianity to thank for it. Iamblichus of Chalcis commented

"You Christians have driven the Gods from the world and made it a lonely place".

Algernon Charles Swinburne writing in the late 19th  century felt the same . In his poem Hymn to Proserpin he bold states

"You have conquered O Pale Galilean, the world has grown grey from thy breath".......

In D H Lawremce`s story “The man who died” Jesus comes back from the dead only to give up the idea of saving mankind. He views the world with wonder and asks himself; “ From what ? and to what , could this infinite world be saved ?”

Humanity considers itself as perfectible beings superior to all other non human animals upon the planet and yet at the same time we never cease to escape from what we consider ourselves to be. Our religions are attempts to be rid of a freedom that we never perhaps have had.. In the last two hundred years the utopias/dystopias of right and left have served the same function. Today when politics is bland and unconvincing even as entertainment, science has taken on the role of humanities deliverer..

I believe that we need an esoteric teaching that stresses that there is nothing from which to seek deliverance, a teaching whose aim is to free humanity from the yoke of salvation.

Nikos Kazanantzakis states my belief clearly “Whoever says salvation exists is a slave , because he keeps weighing each of his words and deeds at every moment. Will I be saved or damned? He tremblingly asks.......salvation means deliverance from all you understand who is the perfect saviour. is the saviour who shall deliver mankind from salvation.”or indeed Nietzsche once more claiming,
Man is a rope, tied between beast and mg-back, a dangerous
"What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under.”

Many people today think that they belong to a species that can be master of its destiny. This is faith and not science. We do not speak of a time when whales or gorillas will be master of their destinies. Why then should we humans?

Science today has an authority that common experience cannot rival, jet us remember that Darwin tells us that species are assemblies of genes, interacting at random with each other and their shifting environments. Species cannot control their fates. Species do not exist. This applies to us as humans. Yet it is forgotten whenever people talk of the progress of mankind. . We have now put our faith in that which originated in Christian belief and in the last hundred years it has been been taken over by scientific rationalism.

I believe that at heart humans and other animals are kin. By contrast, arising from Christianity humans are set beyond all other living beings, and have triggered a bitter argument that rages to this day. In Victorian times this was a conflict between Christians ans unbelievers. Today it is fought between secular humanists and those who believe that humans can no more be masters of their destiny than any other animal. This is the hope of rational science today for although human knowledge will very likely continue to grow and with it human power, the human animal will stay the same; a highly inventive species that is also one of the most predatory and destructive.

Darwin showed us that humans are like other animals, humanists claim they are not. Humanism insists that by using our knowledge we can control our environment and flourish as never before. In affirming this they renew one of Christianities  most dubious promises -that salvation is open to all. The humanist belief in progress is only a secular version of the Christian faith.

Perhaps is is therefore impossible to describe an adequate definition of real progress. To anyone reared on humanist hopes this ls  intolerable. As a result, Darwin teaching has been stood on its head, and Christianities` cardinal error-that humans are different from animals- has been given by science a new lease of life.

Many Green thinkers like myself realise that humans can never really be masters of the earth. Our spirituality must recognise that we are mere stewards of the biosphere and therefore must except a neo -pagan or pantheist belief For much of our history and all of prehistory humans did not see themselves as being any different from the other animals among which they lived. Hunter gatherers saw their prey as equals, if not superiors and animals were worshipped as divinities in many traditional culture.

The humanist sense of a gulf between ourselves and other animals is an aberration. It is the animist feeling of belonging with the rest of nature that is normal. Feeble as it may be today the feeling of sharing a common destiny with other living things that is embedded in the human psyche.

Those who struggle to conserve what is left of the environment are moved by the love of living things, a "biophilia" a frail bond of feeling that ties humankind with the earth and that should form the basis of our spirituality.
 dangerous across, a dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous shuddering and stopping.