Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Forgiveness is a path to non-attachment.

When you realize that it is much more pleasant to forgive than to let hate and anger poison the quality of your existence, it becomes possible to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean you trust someone who is not trustworthy, or that you allow people to harm others or yourself with impunity, or that you allow others to treat you like a doormat. Forgiveness means you let go of the unpleasant feelings that poison the quality of your existence. You can take appropriate measures to protect innocent people and help offenders learn, but you do it out of love not hate or anger.

Forgiveness leads to non-attachment. A large part of what some people call "enlightenment" is forgiveness. When you understand the power of forgiveness, you will want to forgive everything and everyone because it results in a more pleasant existence. At the root of all attachments is liking and disliking. When you want something you don't have or don't like something you do have, you might blame another person, fate, the universe, God, yourself, or some such object of blame. When you forgive that object of blame, you let go of your anger and desire and you develop non-attachment. Try to forgive other people for doing things you don't like. Forgive fate or God for bringing things into your life that you don't like. Forgive yourself for falling short as you try to live up to the expectations you have for yourself.

It can help you forgive others if you try to understand why someone would do what they did. How did they learn to be the way they are? Were they victimized in their past? If you can remember when you made a mistake, it can help you understand why someone else might make a similar mistake. Periodically reminding yourself, "Forgive everything" or "Forgive others, forgive fate, forgive yourself" can help too.

Meditating daily can also help you to develop forgiveness and non-attachment.

Revenge will not bring you advancement in the afterlife. Forgiveness will. Turn adversity into advancement by forgiving.

Copyright © 2016 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

What Spirits say about God.

I have previously posted about the direct voice medium Leslie Flint. Here are some quotes from spirits communicating through him that show spirits believe God.

Alfred Higgins

And here we live together in peace and harmony. And colour and nationality mean noting to us. We're all seekers, we're all children of one God developing and progressing together in love and in harmony. There's none of this nonsense that you get on Earth and none of this narrow-mindedness and this pettiness. There's no friction like there is in your world between religions and organisations and political parties and all that sort of thing. Here we understand, here we realize that we are all truly part of God's kingdom, we're all part of his handiwork and that we're all striving to develop and to better ourselves mentally and spiritually. And we're very human.

Lord Birkenhead

We can implant within Man the truth, and that truth shall make him free, and he shall learn to live and to dwell in peace and in harmony one with another, all nations under one God.

Rupert Brooke

Whereas man should be free and man should realise these things, and this is natural law - that God has created man in his own image and in consequence is indestructible. Only the material and physical aspect of life is destructible in itself, but you, the real spirit of man, goes on.

Charles Marshall

It is the development and it is the tremendous realisation that one must have eventually of how we are all linked and bound together and how actually the very fundamental thing that flows through us all, is the very essence which is of God. And so we gradually evolve more and more to God or become like him.

I do not refer to shape or form, I refer now to the infinite spirit which is the very life blood you might say of all humanity; where we lose in each other ourselves and discover that we are all in a oneness and in accord. And when we have this oneness and accord we reach a stage of spiritual development where we can be considered to be living in a form if you like of paradise because we are conscious of everything around and about us as being not only "us" but "all".

Copyright © 2016 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Love is the Supreme Spiritual Realization

The way to be happy is to love others unconditionally. If you love everyone, no one can hurt you. Love is another way to get rid of the ego which can produce profound realizations. But love itself is the supreme spiritual realization. It is the lesson we are incarnated to learn, the purpose of life.

Love does not necessarily mean you try to please another person. We try to please another person when we want them to love us. Wanting to be loved is a completely different phenomenon from loving others unconditionally.

You can learn to produce feelings of love through meditation. When you experience reality through the filter of love instead of egoism, all the reasons for many unpleasant emotions, anger, hate, jealousy, envy vanish. Existence is transformed, and you will not want to go back to the old way of existing.

At first, meditation is a way to produce love intentionally. But after you experience how love transforms existence, meditation becomes natural because existence in love feels so much better than existence in ego. You will express love naturally because love is a preferable way in which to exist.

Copyright © 2016 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Someone on reddit asked about feelings of bliss during meditation. This is approximately how I replied:

Experiencing bliss during meditation is easier than you might think. See this link:

Breathe in a relaxed way and notice the pleasant feeling of relaxation. Imagine you are relaxing on vacation and totally at ease in pleasant place with no worries or cares. Does that make you want to smile? That pleasant feeling is the first inkling of bliss. After that you just have to grow it by patiently meditating on the pleasant feeling of relaxation. Smile when you feel like it. When you smile, notice the additional pleasant sensations and emotions that are released. Notice the feeling around your lips. Continue like that. That's all. There is nothing unfamiliar about it or the stages leading to it. Just a pleasant relaxation which increases to happiness, love, connectedness, and equanimity.

This process creates a feedback loop in the brain. Attention to a pleasant sensation results in feeling pleasure because of it. And the attention to that pleasure results in feeling more pleasure because of that. It's like you are happy because you are happy, etc. etc. etc. That is the role of attention. It happens in meditation because people pay attention, but you just need the attention, meditation is only a vehicle. You can do it walking, lying down, whenever you are in a situation where you can relax and pay attention to your feelings.

But read the link. The section on equanimity tells you how, according to Buddhism, this can lead to the cessation of suffering. When you learn to produce this feedback loop, not just in meditation, but in daily life, then anytime you feel an unpleasant emotion, you just accept it, relax, and return to the blissful state. It's that simple, it just requires practice. The way you become non-attached to external things is by becoming non-attached to internal emotions because the way external things get to you is through your own emotions. When you are happy, you don't worry about yourself and you begin to see that self is an illusion that causes suffering and keeps us from seeing things as they really are. Bliss is your true nature. (The brain does not produce consciousness, it filters consciousness.) To realize your true nature, follow the bliss inward to its source.

Copyright © 2016 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


It is possible to induce a type of non-dual experience of the feeling of being by meditating on the feeling of "I am" (or possibly the feeling of bliss) while by asking oneself, "Who am I?"

SELF-INQUIRY by Sri Sadhu Om at

Chapter 7 from The Path of Sri Ramana, Part One


The nature of the mind is to attend always to things other than itself, that is, to know only second and third persons. If the mind in this way attends to a thing, it means that it is attending (attaching itself) to that thing.


On the other hand, if our awareness is directed only towards ourself, our knowledge of existence alone is nourished, and since the mind is not attended to, it is deprived of its strength...


The feeling ‘I am’ is the experience common to one and all. In this, ‘am’ is awareness. This awareness is not of anything external, it is the awareness of oneself. This is awareness.


The pure existence-awareness, 'I am' is not a thought; this awareness is our nature.


The awareness, 'I am' is not a thought; it is the very nature of our 'being'.


... for those who ... attend thus, 'What is this feeling which shines as I am?' it is suitable to be fixed in Self-awareness in the form 'Who am I?'.

What is important to be sure of during practice is that our attention is turned only towards 'I', the first person singular feeling.

According to Ramana Maharshi, Brahman is sat-chit-ananda, being-consciousness-bliss. He says consciousness and bliss are not different from being. It would seem that meditating on bliss, with the understanding you are trying to understand sat-chit-ananda by asking "Who am I?" would be equivalent to meditating on being. It might be easier for some people to meditate on bliss rather than being because being is a very subtle feeling while bliss produced by meditation can be much easier to focus on.

From Be As You Are The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi Edited by David Godman


Q: Brahman is said to be sat-chit-ananda. What does that mean?

A: Yes. That is so. That which is, is only sat. That is called Brahman. The lustre of sat is chit and its nature is ananda. These are not different from sat. All the three together are known as sat- chit-ananda.

Q: As the Self is existence [sat] and consciousness [chit] what is the reason for describing it as different from the existent and the non-existent, the sentient and the insentient?

A: Although the Self is real, as it comprises everything, it does not give room for questions involving duality about its reality or unreality. Therefore it is said to be different from the real and the unreal. Similarly, even though it is consciousness, since there is nothing for it to know or to make itself known to, it is said to be different from the sentient and the insentient. Sat-chit-ananda is said to indicate that the supreme is not asat [different from being], not achit [different from consciousness] and not an anananda [different from happiness]. Because we are in the phenomenal world we speak of the Self as sat-chit-ananda.

Copyright © 2016 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


When The Buddha was asked if there is a self (an atta, an eternal self or soul), he remained silent. He felt the answer would not help his students understand his teaching.

What The Buddha did say was that anything you can identify is not self and he explained why, and that therefore nothing is worthy of being emotionally attached to.

This can be hard to understand, so here is an explanation:

Suppose you are calm and at peace.

Then someone comes over and says or does something that annoys you. Or something happens that upsets you.

Now you are upset. How did that happen? You didn't want to be upset. You liked being calm and at peace. You wanted to have equanimity and be indifferent to conditions.

Those unpleasant emotions are not under your control. They arise from somewhere unasked. Not by your intentional doing.

Most people consider the self to consist of their body and mind; thoughts and emotions. But if unpleasant emotions are not under your control, if they arise unasked for, not from your own intention, then how can they be "self"?

They are not self.

They are not yours. You don't control them. They come upon you unasked, unsought for.

When you see that, now you can let go of them. Those emotions are not yours, not you. Who cares about them?

This is the illusion that fools people.

They wonder "How can I let go of this unpleasant emotion?"

But they don't see that the very fact that they can't let go of it means that it is not self, not theirs, not worthy of being attached to.

It is like a magicians trick. A misdirection. The unpleasant emotions attract your attention so strongly and distract you from everything else, that you never think that they are not yours.

We all think, "I should be able to handle this without reacting emotionally." But that is the wrong view. That is the trap we all fall into. The right view is, "I can't control this so it's not me or mine." Then you don't care about the emotional reaction and it fades.

Another illusion involves craving. Craving is an unpleasant emotion that often goes unnoticed. We think getting what we want will make us happy but too often craving and chasing after things only makes us stressed, anxious, and unhappy. Seeing craving as not self can help you let go of it just like with other unpleasant emotions.

To see through these illusions, quiet the mind with meditation and observe what happens as unpleasant thoughts and emotions arise. When you notice an unpleasant emotion, craving, or an unwanted impulse, compulsion, obsession. or fixation, say to yourself, in a pleasant, relaxed, friendly way without suppressing or resisting it, something like:

Who asked for that? I perceive it so it's outside me. It's an illusion.

Then remember:

Self is the illusion that causes suffering and keeps us from seeing things as they really are.
Unpleasant emotions tend to feed off themselves. When you are upset, you get upset that you are upset. It's like a feedback loop. Resisting emotions just reinforces the feedback loop with more unpleasant feelings. Rather than trying to suppress an unpleasant thought or emotion, react in a relaxed and pleasant manner. When you see that you did not try to make it arise, that it came unasked for, that you don't own it, that it is not yours, it is much easier to let go of. But old habits die hard, so you may have to repeat the process as the thoughts or feelings recur.

The way to develop equanimity, the way to become non-attached to external things, is by becoming non-attached to internal emotions because the way external things get to you is through the emotions you experience. When you are non-attached it does not mean you are indifferent. When you are not thinking about yourself, you feel more compassion for others not less.

If you are pure awareness just watching the universe unfold, nothing is good or bad, it is only when there is a self that things can happen in relation to that you can have unpleasant thoughts or emotions. When you meditate, notice the absence of mental chatter as you concentrate on saying the numbers while you count the breath or saying "in" and "out" while you inhale and exhale. Notice how peaceful that is and how pleasant that peacefulness is. When an unpleasant thought or emotion arises, try to see how it is the idea of self that that is at the root of the unpleasant feeling. For example, if someone annoys you, is it because their act offends your ego? If you want something, it is because not having it affects your status in the social hierarchy? Who wants? I want. Who likes? I like. Who doesn't want? I don't want. Who dislikes? I don't like. All attachments and aversions, liking and disliking, ultimately resolve to "self". But as we saw above, self is an illusion. Try to see how all unpleasant things resolve into problems caused by the illusion of self. If you are just pure awareness, just meditating on "in" and "out" there is no mental chatter, everything is peaceful and pleasant, there are no problems. But every time unpleasantness arises, self, appearing from nowhere, is at the root of it. Try to observe this transition between "non-self mind" and "self mind". See how the idea of self is always part of any unpleasant thought or emotion. And see how pleasant it is, after releasing the unpleasant thought or emotion, to return to non-self mind. As you do this, learn to abide more and more in non-self mind.

Copyright © 2016 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Non-duality is a term is used to refer to a group of similar experiences that may be described in various ways. Sometimes a person may feel like he is a universal consciousness that consists of all beings and all things. This may be called an experience of oneness, or a unitive experience. Another person might perceive that all that exists is pure consciousness and the self is really an illusion produced when the mind discriminates between different things. This may be called an experience of no-self. Another person may further observe the interdependence of mind and matter and apprehend that there is no firm foundation for either. This is sometimes called an experience of emptiness.

The discussion below could be accepted by a materialist because it describes what people feel they experience subjectively, it doesn't require belief that consciousness is not produced by the brain. However, for completeness, I should point out that most people who have a deep experience of non-duality believe that they perceive that consciousness is not limited to the mind of one person but consists of all consciousness and all things in the universe. The discussion is also not exactly correct. Non-duality, reality undifferentiated by words and concepts, cannot be described with words and concepts. And different experiencers also describe it slightly differently and may disagree on the fine points of what the experience is.


Non-duality is the idea that if a mind does not distinguish between things, then everything can be considered one big thing. When one looks at the universe without distinguishing between different things, everything and everyone is just one big thing. Without a mind to think, "this is a chair", "this is a car", "this is a tree", "this is my self", "this is something other than my self", there is no duality, there is no multiplicity, there is just what is.

For example, suppose you have a room with a chair in it. "Chair" is a human word, a concept that does not exist outside a mind. Without a mind to look in the room and perceive a chair, there is no "chair" anywhere. There is just the undifferentiated non-dual reality. The matter may exist in its form, but "chair", a concept, does not exist until someone thinks "chair" or recognizes a chair. When a human looks into the room, the human sees what is in there and discerns there is a chair. The concept "chair" now exists in his mind. In that instant, duality is created by the mind, for the mind, in the mind.

A person who has realized non-duality, will understand this creation to be the illusion that hides the ultimate reality, the non-dual reality, from most people.

A person experiencing a non-dual mode of consciousness would not experience any separation between himself and the chair. He might, in an experience of oneness, feel that the chair is himself, or in an experience of no-self, feel the chair is the knower.

Once, when a Zen Buddhist teacher gave an introductory class in Zen, he showed a small bell to the students and asked, "What is this?" One student said, "It's a bell." The teacher was silent. Another student took the bell from the teacher and rang it for everyone to hear. The teacher said, "Very good!" The second student was demonstrating non-dual consciousness.

Consciousness cannot exist without anything to be conscious of. So a chair, giving the mind something to be conscious of, creates the mind. The mind creates "chair" and the chair creates the mind. Interdependent, without any firm foundation.

Self is just like that. The mind sees and feels its body and creates "self" just like it created chair. The mind perceives feelings, sights, sounds, tastes, smells, impulses, opinions, awareness, liking, disliking, wanting, not wanting, and creates "self" and "other" just like it created "chair".

In the undifferentiated reality, I and my friend are not different people and we are not the same person. Without mind to think "same" and "different" there is no same or different. There is just what is. Not two. Not one.

Non-duality, when realized due to direct experience and understanding, produces happiness, contentedness, compassion and selflessness. When you make no distinction between yourself and everything and everyone else, you don't worry about yourself, you don't want anything, and you have the same concern for others' suffering that you have for your own. However, the experience does not automatically make you a saint. It does not necessarily produce personality changes that will make everyone love and admire you. And there have been ethics scandals involving a number of spiritual teachers.

Samadhi, a non-dual experience that can be produced by meditation, is the experience of "the before thinking mind" i.e. non-duality, undiscriminated reality, reality undifferentiated by mind. Samadhi is the experience of reality before the mind creates a multiplicity of things and self.

Without the experience of samadhi, the understanding of non-duality is superficial. Without the understanding of non-duality, the experience of samadhi is meaningless. Together they can produce a realization of non-duality.

Further Reading

Copyright © 2016 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Video: Biology of the Baroque: Nonadaptive order cannot be explained by Darwinism.

"Biology of the Baroque" is a documentary that explores the amazing patterns, order, and beauty in biology that go beyond what can be explained by Darwinian evolution. It features geneticist Michael Denton and is inspired by Denton's new book Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (2016).


Human language is so complex and nuanced that it has become impossible to simulate perfectly in even the most advanced intelligent machines as any simple conversation with Siri will show. Human language is varied and textured, adapted to both concrete and abstract conversation across every people group and culture. What makes human language so intriguing is not just a great variety of different languages but their underling similarities. Despite superficial differences, human languages share deep structural similarities. This is why an Australian aborigine can learn German despite the many differences between German and the languages of the Australian Aborigines. The fact that humans, no matter what part of the world they're from, share both language and equivalent higher intellectual faculties means that these abilities must have arisen in the earliest human ancestor and that poses a problem. The capability to compose a symphony understand advanced mathematics or discuss abstract ideas would not have been of any survival value for early man. His needs were shelter and food. The idea primitive man needed our current linguistic or other higher intellectual abilities to survive is untenable. Nevertheless early man must have had this capability because it was passed down to every human in every part of the world. Even today things like art literature or music are understood to be valuable not for survival or reproduction but for their own sake. Such capacities reach far beyond the algorithm of natural selection. They're excessive, superfluous, even a gift. Their very existence is completely incomprehensible if humans are solely the result of Darwinian forces. The case that human language developed step by step through natural selection is further weakened by the fact that no single language gene has ever been discovered. That is the needed complexities seem to have arisen spontaneously in a self organizing emergent fashion.

An interesting example in the video is the mammalian red blood cell. In mammals the red blood cells eject their nuclei when they differentiate from the parent cell type. It is hard to understand how this could evolve because it requires a complicated cellular process and there is no way to explain how a process so complex could evolve gradually because there would be no selective advantage until all the parts of the system existed. In addition, birds keep the nuclei in their red blood cells and birds are much more efficient at using oxygen than mammals, so it is hard to understand why the ejection of nuclei would ever evolve by natural selection.

The video concludes (17:30):

Narrator: Nonadaptive and beyond adaptive order poses an existential challenge to Darwinism because it means there are huge parts of the history of life that not only can't be explained by Darwinian evolution but they are completely outside the domain of natural selection. Natural selection only selects for adaptation. If non adaptive order exists, Darwinism cannot be the whole story of life. If nature is an artist, not just an engineer, Darwinism is in a dire position.

Denton: For a designer, lots of patterns might exist in nature which have, as it were, are deeply adaptive but not adaptive in a specific organism. On the other hand a designer might decide he likes this pattern. He likes the pattern of a maple leaf. Or it's beautiful or its symmetrical or something like this. In other words, on a design hypothesis, you don't need to show that all the order of biology in the world is specifically adaptive in a specific organism.

Narrator: Intelligent design leaves room for nature's peculiarities and novelties because it acknowledges there are some things that are not irreducible to mere adaptation and survival. There are other forces at work in nature besides that of natural selection and death.

Denton: If you imagine that there's a designer behind the world, the designer would be free to choose whichever patterns he wants. But I think non adaptive order poses a far less of a challenge to intelligent design theory than it does to Darwinism. 'Cause Darwinism necessitates that all the order of nature is adaptive or once was adaptive. But if you can't show that, Darwinism can't be shown to be the engine of evolution.

Copyright © 2016 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Monday, February 1, 2016

How Meditation Affects the Brain

Scientific research shows how meditation can alter the brain to improve mental health.

There are different neural networks in the brain. The analytical network is used for solving problems. The narrative network produces mental chatter - the internal talking we do about ourselves, our past, and our future. The experiential network1 is active when a person is meditating mindfully. Too much analytical thinking causes callousness, too much mental chatter can cause or worsen anxiety and depression. Experiential thinking increases empathy, compassion and wisdom1. Mindful meditation quiets the analytical and narrative networks and stimulates the experiential network.

Permanent changes in the brain are possible because of a phenomenon called neuroplasticity - the ability of the brain to rewire itself. Whenever you do a task, the neurons involved recruit neurons away from other tasks to help strengthen the current task. When you meditate mindfully, you strengthen the experiential network. However, during the rest of the day, that strength is being recruited away by everything else you do. The way to strengthen the changes in the brain caused by meditation and maintain them over time, is to meditate for longer periods of time and meditate more often. When you are not meditating, try to be in the mindful state whenever possible. Be aware of what you are doing as you are doing it, not thinking about the past, the future, or anything else. Notice the absence of mental chatter as you do that. Everyone needs time to plan for the future, digest and understand their past, and solve the problems in their life, so you shouldn't eliminate those activities entirely, just do them deliberately at times you control rather than letting them control your mind.


1) From my web page on meditation:

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. In the transcript of a podcast on, he describes how meditation can quiet mental chatter made up of anxious and depressed thoughts:
If you put people in a scanner and tell them to just do nothing; just rest in the scanner; don’t do anything at all, it turns out that there’s a region in the midline of the cerebral cortex that’s known as the default mode network that just lights up, that all of a sudden gets very, very active. I mean you’re told to do nothing and then your brain starts to use up energy a lot. ... And that’s called the default mode network because when you’re told to do nothing, you default to activity in this mode and when you inquire what’s going on there, a lot of it has to do with my wondering and just daydreaming. And a lot of that has to do with the self-referencing our favorite subject, which is me of course. So we generate narratives. ... it’s also called the narrative mode network or the narrative network. And it’s the story of me.

When you train people in MBSR, you find that another area of their cortex lights up more lateral after eight weeks of training in mindfulness. And that that area is associated with a region called the insula and that doesn’t have a linear, time-based narrative. It’s just the experiencing of the present moment in the body — breathing in, breathing out, awake, no narrative, no agenda. And the interesting thing — and this is the study — when they put people through eight weeks of MBSR, this narrative network decreases in activity and this experiential network increases in activity and they become uncoupled. So they’re no longer caught together in such a way. So this one can actually attenuate and liberate you a little bit from the constant thinking, thinking, thinking — a lot which is driven, of course, by anxiety and, "What’s wrong with me?" The story of me is often a depressing story. And a fear-based story. We’re like driving the car with the brake on, with the emergency brake on. And if we learn how to just kind of release it, everything will unfold with less strain, with less stress and with a greater sense of life unfolding rather than you’re driving through it to get to some great pot of gold at the end, which might just be your grave.

Dr. Kabat-Zinn also says the benefits of suppressing the narrative network and stimulating the experiential network with meditation leads to wiser, more empathic and more compassionate thinking in an interview at:
One pathway is a mid-line pathway, very akin to what is called a default mode, that seems to be functioning when nothing else is supposed to be happening — like being or mind wandering, or something like that, which is what they call the narrative network for self. So like what you tell yourself about who you are, where you’re going, how things are going, how stressed you are, how great it’s going to be in the future, how horrible it was in the past, or vice-versa, how wonderful it was in the past, or how horrible it is in the present. So it is a narrative ongoing story of me. And that occupies a certain kind of brain territory.

They showed that people who are taking the MBSR program showed activity in a whole other, more lateral ventral pathway in the cerebral cortex, again in the prefrontal cortex, which was involved with what they called experiential focus. It’s like no more story, just this. Just this moment. Just this breath. Just this unfolding. And I want to emphasize that it doesn’t mean that all of a sudden you are either disassociating or that you’re going to get really, really stupid practicing mindfulness because now you’re just in the present moment and you don’t know what’s really happening and you’ve now gone beyond thought. Not at all. I mean it’s much more an effective, wise and emotionally intelligent way to make use of one’s thoughts and emotions, but hold them in a much, much greater and more empathic, and in some sense, more compassionate and wise container, and that container embraces what I mean when I use the word mindful."

Copyright © 2016 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Constructive Approach to Bridging the Conservative / Liberal Divide

The political polarization in the US is caused by journalists and politicians who are misleading the public. Research by sociologist Jonathan Haidt shows that all people throughout the world have the same five basic intuitions about morality. The differences between liberals and conservatives occur in slight preferences about which aspects of morality they think are most important. Liberals and conservatives have much more in common than they have differences. However, journalists and politicians gain personally by demonizing and dehumanizing people who disagree with them when they portray these differences as a matter of smart vs. stupid or good vs. evil. This is a scam. This hate mongering makes it harder to find solutions to problems because it leads discussions to rapidly degenerate into name calling and vilification. It breeds mistrust and keeps us fighting among ourselves which makes us susceptible to exploitation by demagogues and moneyed interests1. Good, intelligent people can disagree3. Every scientific controversy shows that the interpretation of facts is only an opinion. If people will stop being fooled by this deception, the hate mongers will become powerless and our society will be able to solve problems through civil discussions based on mutual understanding and respect. The politicians are not going to solve this problem until it is in their interest to do so. We the people have to come together ourselves and reject media sources and political candidates that persist in dividing and polarizing the country. As Milton Friedman said, we the people need to make it politically profitable for the politicians to do the right thing2.

Jonathan Haidt is a sociologist who studies morality and ethics. In the two videos below, he discusses his research which explains why liberals and conservatives should be able to come together in a positive, cooperative, working relationship instead of their current antagonistic mode of interaction.

Haidt's research identifies five intuitions about morality that people of all cultures recognize. Each moral factor is beneficial in certain situations. Haidt has found that that conservatives and liberals in the US have different opinions about which moral factors are most important and this minor difference is the essence of what differentiates conservatives and liberals.

Haidt himself is a liberal who has come to appreciate the good qualities in conservatism. He likens the relationship between conservatism and liberalism as like yin/yang. Both are a necessary part of the whole of humanity. This is a much more accurate and healthy way of viewing the relationship between the two outlooks than the antagonistic approach many people (particularly journalists and politicians) have. Haidt explains political differences not in terms of smart vs. stupid or good vs. evil but in terms of inborn traits and neither outlook is better or worse in its consequences. A society with both liberals and conservatives will be superior than a society of only liberals or only conservatives.

One of Haidt's interests is the political deadlock and polarization in the current US government. The implications of his research are that in the legislative assemblies in the US, legislators of each party should understand the positive contributions both liberalism and conservatism make to society and they should work together with mutual respect using this knowledge rather than taking an adversarial approach that the other side is stupid or evil. By understanding the different aspects of morality and which situations each is appropriate in, legislation and amendments can be justified on moral grounds - providing a rational, respectful, basis for discussion and compromise.

Electoral politics and commercial journalism seem to me to be a huge obstacle to this vision. Haidt thinks holding open primaries is a good way to improve the situation. I think it would be also be helpful if the political candidates and journalists understood this research and talked publicly about it so that it becomes part of our culture.


  1. Part of the problem we have solving problems in society is understanding what the actual facts are. Frequently, moneyed interests use media and internet savvy to create a false reality that fools most people including politicians, doctors and scientists who then spread the misinformation. Because of the acrimony caused by political polarization in society, it is very difficult for people to sort through these deceptions because attempts at civil discussions about the facts quickly descend into accusations of the stupidity and evil of those who disagree.

    This TEDx by Sharyl Attkisson explains how these false realities are created:

    In this eye-opening talk, veteran investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson shows how astroturf, or fake grassroots movements funded by political, corporate, or other special interests very effectively manipulate and distort media messages.

    The talk includes a discussion of how Wikipedia (3:57) has been complicit in the problem. Wikipedia contradicted medical research 90% of the time (5:31).

    Attkisson suggests how to recognize propaganda and astroturf (at 8:55):

    • "Use of inflammatory language such as crank, quack, nutty, lies, paranoid, pseudo, and conspiracy."

    • "Astroturfers often claim to debunk myths that aren't myths at all. Use of the charged language tests well, people hear that something's a myth maybe they find it on snopes... and they instantly declare themselves too smart to fall for it. But what if the whole notion of the myth is itself a myth and you and snopes fell for that."

    • "Beware when interests attack an issue by controversializing or attacking the people, personalities and organizations surrounding it rather than addressing the facts."

    • "Astroturfers tend to reserve all of their public skepticism for those exposing wrong doing rather than the wrong doers. In other words, instead of questioning authority, they question those who question authority."


    These videos explain how some people manipulate the media to generate false news stories. False news stories are used to induce opponents to react in ways that make them look bad and make supporters more emotionally involved in the cause. The author, Ryan Holiday, expresses his political views which I am not endorsing, but both sides use these techniques and these videos and the link do a good job of explaining how they work.

  2. No we don't need to change congress. Excuse me. People have a great misunderstanding about this. People in congress are in a business. They're trying to buy votes. They're in the business of competing with one another to get elected. The same congressman will vote for a different thing if he thinks that's politically profitable. You don't have to change congress. People have a great misconception in this way. They think the way you solve things is by electing the right people. It's nice to elect the right people but that isn't the way you solve things. The way you solve things is by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.

    Milton Friedman:
    quoted at
    I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or it they try, they will shortly be out of office.

  3. Here are a couple of examples of how people can have different interests without either being stupid or evil:

    • Globalists think it is unfair that national borders keep people from fleeing war zones and prevent them from living where there is economic opportunity. Nationalists think national borders are needed to keep terrorists out, to prevent drug trafficking and human trafficking, and to prevent lower wage workers from displacing them in the work force or lowering wages.

    • High earners may often favor environmentalism and government regulation over economic growth because they don't suffer when the national economy performs poorly. However, for low earners, economic policy is not theoretical or philosophical, economic growth can mean the difference between having enough food for their children or not.

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