Monday, July 7, 2014

Conscience, A Sense Unrecognized

There are plenty of people in this world who will assert that good and evil have no objective reality.

Some of them are materialists, who believe that human beings, and all other living creatures, are merely meat-machines, driven by our biology to survive at any cost. Morality, for them, is at best, a utilitarian affair, a socially convenient illusion. "Evolution", according to the materialist paradigm, is purely about survival. Survival of the "fittest", is the only "good" that matters. In other words: might makes right.

Some of them are followers of religious cults, who believe that goodness is defined by the will of their deity, as laid out in His best-selling books. Why? Because their deity is ultimately powerful; and therefore, who are we puny mortals to question His judgement? If He says sexually mutilating babies is the moral thing to do, then by golly, that's good enough for them! If their deity, (through His earthly representatives of course)) mandates a genocide, they will carry it out and sleep soundly during and after. Because might makes right.

Some of them drank the new-age kool-aid. They've been sold the idea that there's no such thing as evil, because it's all good! (Apart from the deplorable practice of thinking negative thoughts, that is.) Everything is perfect, so whatever is, is what should be. If the strong torment the weak, it might look like evil, but it's really only the out-working of karma or voluntary soul agreements. One should never give it any attention, or attempt to stop it, because then you'd be giving it energy and opening a door to those unacceptable negative thoughts. I feel sorry for these frightened bunnies. Their beliefs are so contradictory and incoherent. They deny the existence of objective morality, so "might makes right" is never really affirmed or denied. Nor could it be, because that would be judgemental. (Judgement being another exception to the it's-all-good rule.)

At the extreme end of the, objective morality-denying, spectrum are the moral nihilists, generally known as "Satanists", who not only affirm, but adore, the principle of "might makes right". These incredibly deviant individuals believe that, not only do the strong have a right to torment the weak, but that they should do so, to the ultimate extent possible, as a "spiritual" practice. These people currently rule the world.

All of these groups, as a matter of policy, either openly affirm, or fail to denounce, "might makes right". From every side, it is upheld. It's the reason so few are allowed to take so much from so many. We have to use money to reward the "fit" and punish the "unfit", because "might makes right". It's the idea that goodness is defined by the decree of authority; and that, authority, rightly belongs to the strongest. "If the many did not submit to the domination of the few, all would be chaos!", so "might makes right".

Might makes right.

It's either true, or it isn't.

It's no use flopping around, pretending that it sometimes is, and sometimes isn't. Where do you draw that line? And by what criteria? If not might, what does make right?

There is only one thing that can stand against the assertion that "might makes right". It's CONSCIENCE. Every other argument against "might makes right" ultimately depends on conscience. By "conscience", I don't mean: a set of internalized rules from one's culture. I mean the inner certainty, regardless of what one was taught, no matter what authority mandates or condones it, that torturing children is wrong. That knowledge arises from within, and nowhere else, yet there is nothing arbitrary about it. People who base their moral judgement on conscience are remarkable for their spontaneous unanimity. All people of conscience uphold these characteristics of goodness:
Furthermore, all people of conscience denounce these things as evil:

I might not be able to put my assertions before a court of law or a research scientist, But I know that no one blessed with a conscience of their own, and a lick of common sense, is going to disagree. Even most people whose awareness of conscience has been rendered dis- or non- functional, through various means, would not dispute those lists. It is laughably disingenuous to demand legal or scientific proof for something so self-evident. It's like asking for proof that grass is green. This consensus exists because conscience is a sense, just like sight or hearing. Just as we're all in general agreement about what we see with our eyes, we also all generally agree about what we KNOW with conscience. It does what all senses do; it interprets vibration within a given frequency range. Like every other sense, it can atrophy with lack of use. Like every other sense, its acuity varies, but it is commonly present. And just as a few are born, or became deaf or blind, a few lack the sense of conscience. Some of those were born without it, or they lost it as a result of brain-injury. They're called primary psychopaths. Primary psychopathy is analogous to total blindness, the physical inability of the eyes to respond to light. Some became that way through emotional trauma; they're called sociopaths (although, not all sociopaths lack conscience). Sociopathy is analogous to extreme myopia or "hysterical blindness". All psychopaths, and many sociopaths, have no functioning sense of conscience.

As I said before, conscience is the only thing that can, and does, absolutely refute the belief that "might makes right". A person who lacks the sense of conscience has no inner defense against that belief. He has only two options:
1.) He could take note of his deficit, and decide it's to his advantage to be guided by "the rules", of civil law or religion (unless he was pretty sure he could get away with something). He would idolize those sets of rules, and consider unquestioning obedience to them, absolutely necessary to maintain social order.
2.) He could decide that his freedom from conscience was a great blessing, and proceed to take full advantage of the silly fools who are bound by it.  He may, or may not, believe that people with conscience are delusional or faking. "Might makes right!", he would cry. I'm willing to do absolutely anything to get what I want. I am the fittest of them all!

Just as a blind person is able to experience through his other senses, often more keenly because of his blindness, those without conscience can still appreciate some social values that are not tied to morality per se. One of these is orderliness. It appears that conscience-less people often attach more importance to orderliness than a normal person would. Orderliness is one of the commonest justifications of "might makes right". It is asserted that, if the few did not rule over the many, chaos would ensue. Most people with impaired or non-existent conscience have no more wish to see a break-down of social order than anyone else. They are understandably convinced that "Mad Max"-style mayhem would inevitably follow. For social order to achieve maximal stability and efficiency, they believe it must have a single head (one world government). They believe that social order has to be artificially imposed. They believe all these things because they lack the sense-faculty, conscience, that allows for spontaneous order among humans. It's too bad they've managed to get so many people to share their baseless fear. It has created the risk of a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Most of the people in the first three groups mentioned earlier, do not lack the sense of conscience. As disfunctional as our civilization is, it would be much worst if they did. They have, instead, been conditioned to believe that the source of conscience lies outside themselves. Psychopaths know they're different. A long time ago, the cleverest of them figured out that their best chance of success lay in convincing the rest of us to see the world as they do, in order to render their own deficits invisible. They've been very successful. Only very recently have a very few begun to take notice of their existence. Even so, the most important implications have been largely missed because a missing sense of conscience has not been recognized as the defining feature of the disorder.

The main tool, currently being used for diagnosis, is Robert Hare's Psychopathy Checklist. It is, unfortunately, a dangerously flawed tool. It works well for identifying sociopaths, but not psychopaths. Unlike many other diagnostic checklists, it doesn't rank its twenty items according to importance, but assigns them all equal weight. That's a mistake, because only two of the twenty items are essential features of psychopathy: "lack of remorse or guilt" and "callous/lack of empathy". The remaining eighteen items are inessential and secondary traits. In other words, if a person displayed every one of the twenty features apart from the two essential ones, he would be a sociopath, but not a psychopath. If he displayed just those two, and no others, he still would be a psychopath, but he would entirely escape detection through this diagnostic tool. To make matters worse, the list was developed through studies of prison populations. As a result, some of the items are probably not features of psychopathy/sociopathy at all, but rather, features of the ones who end up in prison; "impulsivity" and "poor behavior controls", for example. If any other psychological disorder (eg. autism or schizophrenia) were studied only within prisons, would you really expect an accurate picture to emerge?

We don't have much hope of properly understanding and dealing with psychopathy, unless the central role of missing conscience is acknowledged. That can't really happen until we're able to face the fact that conscience is a sense, and like every other sense, it is designed to perceive a shared and objective reality. The perceptions of conscience can certainly be distorted or unclear, but so can those of any other sense. Nobody claims on the basis of this, that when I assert that the grass outside is green, it's just my personal opinion! How is it that, a sense that most people share, is not recognized as being a sense?

Conscience differs from the five physical senses in one important respect: the information it perceives does not pertain to the material realm. It pertains to the moral realm, which materialists believe has no objective existence. That makes the recognition of conscience, as a sense, a hard sell for materialists. Materialism is the dominant paradigm in academia today.
The major religious cults are not much more open to the idea, since their relevance and power would be diminished by its implications:
1. That morality is not synonymous with an internalized set of rules. It is rooted in an objective aspect of our reality that transcends the edicts of their pet deity.
2. That ordinary people are naturally qualified to tell the difference between moral right and wrong.

Almost everyone in this "civilization" has been successfully herded into one of those two camps; materialism and religion. They're frequently represented as the only two choices that exist. These two socially powerful groups have a strong vested interest in suppressing the truth about conscience. Also, it is the suppression of that truth which has allowed psychopaths to go unrecognized and, by utilizing their advantage of utter ruthlessness, to amass untold wealth and power- those "mighty", who claim to make right. They stand to lose even more, if the truth were known.

It really is tragic. It's like "The Emperor's New Clothes" in reverse. People are seeing something and pretending not to see; even convincing themselves that it isn't really there. And yet, there it is! Apart from the exceptions noted above,,,

You know. Don't you? That's what the sense of conscience does. It knows. You might not have realized it until now, but you know. Sometimes you just don't notice something, like a very faint noise for instance, until someone with keener perception points it out, but once it has been pointed out, you do notice. If we could admit that we know, we couldn't be fooled and ruled so easily. Every lie requires at least two people; one to tell it, and one to believe it.

You know what the truth is. Even though everyone told you that you were mistaken. "Naive." "Too idealistic." Most of them believed it too. Maybe you were punished when what you knew turned out to be against "the rules". The people who forget that they know, are lucky, in a way; the same way blind people who live in ugly environments are lucky not to have to see them. But many people are never really sure if what they know is true or not. It's not easy to trust your own experience when everyone around you is in a state of committed denial. It's a form of "gas-lighting", and I think it's an important aspect of the "depression" epidemic. I know it was in my own case. I had let other people almost convince me that there was something wrong with me because of what I know. It was only when I resolved to trust and honour that knowing, that I was able to heal myself. That was more difficult than it might sound. I had to put my foot down hard against the enormous weight of dominant cultural belief-systems. I had to say, "I'm not crazy; the world is!" and mean it. I don't even know if I could have managed it if it hadn't been a matter of life or death. Nobody should berate themselves for having succumbed to manipulation of that intensity, on such a scale.

All the physical senses are capable of sending pain/pleasure signals to the brain. They send pain signals in response to threat. For example, if you put your hand in boiling water, it hurts. The pain is there to warn you that damage is being caused to your skin. A very loud noise hurts your ears; the pain warns you that your ears are being damaged. That is the purpose of all pain. It's a warning that says, "STOP! damage is occurring!"
Pleasure signals are at the other end of the spectrum. They are there to let you know when optimal conditions exist within the vibratory range of a given sense. Vibrant physical health feels wonderful. Music gives pleasure to the ears. Visual beauty gives pleasure to the eyes. We don't know why. We do know that beauty, or its absence, has an significant effect on our health and well-being. What we call "beauty" could be defined as: optimal conditions within a given vibratory range. "Optimal conditions" vary somewhat from one person to another. I dislike country music, but other people like it. That's because we each embody our own unique vibratory patterns, and how we react to a stimulus is affected by how the two fields interact. On the other hand, nobody enjoys the sound of a jack-hammer.

Conscience is a sense. It too, sends pain/pleasure signals to the brain. The intensity of those signals, and the specific forms they take, vary as with any other sense. It's not something people usually talk about, except in passing. I have only a vague idea of what other people experience, but I can try to describe my own. I'll start with the pleasure signals. I experience these whenever I am involved in, or witness to, any of the items in the first list, above: Kindness, Compassion, Fairness, Truthfulness, Generosity, Gratitude, Freedom. Some of the pleasure signals are emotional: joy, affection, admiration, thankfulness, wonder. Some signals are physical. Those include: a feeling of very pleasurable warm expansion in the centre of the chest, a lump in the throat and/or the urge to cry from gratitude, an increased feeling of vitality, the urge to smile or laugh as an expression of delight, generalized warmth and relaxation. The pleasure signals I've listed will be recognizable as effects of beauty in general. No surprise, since their triggers also represent optimal conditions within a given vibratory range.

Then there are the pain signals. I experience these whenever I am involved in, or witness to, any of the items in the second list above: Cruelty, Callousness, Injustice, Deceitfulness, Greed, Destructiveness, Domination/submission. Again, many of the pain signals are emotional ones: anger, sadness, revulsion, anguish, horror, shame, remorse. Some are physically felt: adrenaline surge, a feeling of having been punched in the solar plexus, nausea, dizziness, crawling skin sensation, hot or cold pressure in the head, aching pain in the center of the chest and palms of the hands, the urge to cry or scream. I don't usually experience all of those at the same time. It depends on the situation and on which emotional states are strongest. It isn't an on/off sort of thing. Intensity varies from mildly uncomfortable to extremely painful, again, depending on the situation. Those feelings might sound like something to be avoided. However, it's very important to recall the purpose of pain here: a warning. STOP! Damage is occurring! I believe it would be a dangerous mistake to try to suppress them. It is far better to let them come, and respond appropriately to whatever caused them.

The pain/pleasure signals I've described, are the reason I've never really understood the whole heaven/hell and karma thing. Posthumous rewards and punishment just seem superfluous as incentives to moral conduct, when I'm getting this kind of feedback in real time. I have no idea how widespread sensations like these are. I wish I did. I only know they can't be universal or this world would be a different sort of place. My best guess is that most people experience them to some degree, but they have been encouraged to mistrust, and therefore, disregard and suppress the information. With time it grows fainter, atrophying from lack of use. The trend in that regard is not encouraging, and that way lies extinction or worse. We must find some way of turning it around. "The rules" just don't cut it. We've had those for thousands of years. Only conscience can stand against "might makes right". If it were recognized to be a sense, people might respect it more because all senses exist for a good reason.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Weaponised Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is a state of extreme discomfort/anxiety caused by holding two contradictory beliefs or values at the same time. It also arises when a person's beliefs are in contradiction to his actions or experiences.

A little while ago I attempted to research cognitive dissonance on the internet. I had begun to strongly suspect that the phenomenon was being deliberately used as a method of mind-control, that it had, effectively, been weaponized. I wanted to know if it had been studied and what was known about it.
I soon realised that most people who think they know what it is, don't. It's not that surprising, given the tragic deterioration of language skills in recent decades. Reading comprehension is at an all time low. It seems like many people are talking and writing without really caring whether anyone can understand what they mean to say. To make it worse, many people reading or listening don't seem to care if they understand what is intended. They just use the words as random stimulus for their own imaginations, making words mean whatever they want! The whole point of language is communication. (deep breath) Cognitive dissonance is caused by contradiction, not conflict. It is apparent through the examples given, that most interpretations of cognitive dissonance confuse those meanings. Conflict can be resolved through compromise; contradiction can't. Conflict could be likened to friction between two surfaces; there is resistance between them, but no metaphysical laws prohibit their co-existence, as in the case of contradiction.

For example, most of the sources I could find chose to use tobacco smoking to illustrate the concept. (I find this sort of blatant social engineering offensive, by the way.) The example given is that of people continuing to smoke cigarettes even though they believe it is unhealthy. That is not an example of cognitive dissonance at all. Cognitive dissonance only occurs when two beliefs, or a belief and an action, cancel each other out and cannot rationally coexist. Smoking while believing it is unhealthy, doesn't meet that criteria. We all do things we believe to be unhealthy because other considerations outweigh the perceived health risk. This doesn't logically require a total denial of the perceived risk. There is no fundamental contradiction here; it's just a question of priorities. In order for smoking to work as an example, one would have to believe something like, "I would never do anything I knew to be unhealthy", and then continue to smoke, while believing it to be unhealthy. That would meet the criteria for cognitive dissonance. I hope I've made the distinction clear because it's important.

Some of the confusion probably stems from over-emphasizing the role of actions in cognitive dissonance. Action is not an essential aspect of the phenomenon. It is impossible for two actions to produce cognitive dissonance. On the other hand, one or more beliefs must always contribute. Belief is at the root of it all; no contradicted beliefs = no cognitive dissonance.

Actual cognitive dissonance is not mildly uncomfortable. It is very unpleasant. The conscious awareness of it produces extreme agitation and anxiety. This instinctive response shouldn't come as a surprise. It is highly adaptive because cognitive dissonance is a form of insanity. I'd go so far as to say that holding two contradictory beliefs at the same time is the very definition of insanity. To believe something, is to "accept it as true". When you accept two ideas as true, but are aware that logically they cannot both be true, panic is a perfectly appropriate response. "Reality" can't have any meaning under those conditions.

The discomfort caused by cognitive dissonance serves an important function. It warns us that reason has been violated and that a  mental immune response is required. Ideally, the immune response should consist of removing the contradiction. In the revised example, given above, (believing, "I would never do anything I knew to be unhealthy", and then continuing to smoke, while believing it to be unhealthy), there would be three possible ways of accomplishing that.
1. Change the first belief to something like, "I prefer to not do anything unhealthy, but there are some things, like smoking, that I prefer more."
2. Change the second belief (that smoking is unhealthy).
3. Stop smoking immediately and never do it again. You would also need to acknowledge that cognitive dissonance had formerly been present.
Those are the only ways to fully resolve the cognitive dissonance. However, there are other strategies available that don't remove the contradiction, but do assuage the unpleasant symptoms. People instinctively employ these whenever it is undesirable to change their contradictory beliefs.

This happens a lot more often than you might think. While specific instances are ubiquitous and far too numerous to list, there are only two basic reasons for suppressing the mental immune response demanded by cognitive dissonance. They are:
1. Social pressure
Humans are social animals. Our physical and emotional well-being is strongly tied to social acceptance. If one or more of the social groups you belong to upholds an untrue belief, you risk a great deal by dissenting. To even question such a belief may be dangerous because it triggers the symptoms of cognitive dissonance in other members of the group. They would, most likely, misidentify you as the cause of their anxiety/fear and could react violently towards you.
2. Self Image
The vast majority of people lack genuine self-esteem. True self-esteem only comes from awareness of, and identification with, the spiritual center of one's being. Those who understand this, know that their value (and that of all other spiritual beings) is infinite. This value cannot be added to, or lost; only expressed/experienced, or not. Instead, most people value themselves (and others) in comparative terms. What they value is an image of "themselves", a social commodity, false ego, the flyers' mind. Denial of reality is often needed for the enhancement and preservation of that image.

Actually, these two motivations for suppressing, rather than resolving, cognitive dissonance are both designed to protect false ego. The only difference is that the first is to protect a collective, and the second, an individual, manifestation of false ego.

Moving on from the why of it, it is interesting to observe how we suppress cognitive dissonance. I know of no clearer description of this maneuver than that given by George Orwell in "1984". He gave it a name, doublethink. We'll let "George" take it's definition from here:
"To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully-constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them; to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy; to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the world ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink."
"The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth."
All this happens subconsciously, by reflex. People don't deliberately set out to destroy their own minds. I'd like to add to Orwell"s description, a specific technique used to accomplish the double-think maneuver. It consists of using words without ever, ever, considering what they mean. "Freedom" is a really common example. People say that word, a lot, but in a whole lot of cases, if you asked them what it means, they couldn't tell you. They don't know, don't want to know, and won't thank you for having asked. Propagandists and politicians take full advantage of this knowledge.

One thing I found conspicuously absent from the information I could locate on cognitive dissonance was any reference to the relationship between it and doublethink. According to cognitive dissonance theory, there are only two solutions for resolving the discomfort of conflict. One can either change one of the conflicting elements or one can consciously justify the discrepancy. I believe that doublethink represents a third option; bury one's awareness of the conflict. I find it note-worthy that the doublethink Wiki article mentions doublethink as a way of coping with cognitive dissonance, but not the other way 'round. The cognitive dissonance Wiki entry makes no mention of doublethink as a possible strategy. Yet, based on my observations, doublethink is the most common strategy for dealing with cognitive dissonance. Right off the top of my head, I can think of ways that this knowledge could be used for deception and mind-control.

1. Unresolved cognitive dissonance makes it impossible to think rationally, if at all, about any topics involved in it. In functional terms, it makes people less intelligent.
2. As a result of the above, topics related to cognitive dissonance, no matter how important, are marginalized and not discussed in mainstream society.
3. When conscious awareness of cognitive dissonance has been suppressed, it produces free-floating fear/anxiety which can be easily re-directed towards any convenient target.

If cognitive dissonance were being deliberately used to cultivate doublethink for the purpose of mind-control, it would explain why we've been increasingly treated to so much contradictory information from official sources. I don't mean differences of opinion, but statements of purported fact. For example, one still sees dietary fat being blamed for high blood cholesterol in spite of peer reviewed studies refuting that belief. Another example would be climate change, in which both sides in the debate reference contradictory official data. Or what about the continued insistence of regulators that cannabis has no medical value, in spite of a mountain of evidence to the contrary? Are wars of colonial aggression and depleted uranium munitions illegal or not? And let's not forget the laws of physics relating to the alleged events of 911! People regularly dispute things that are self-evident. This sort of thing is becoming so common that I find it hard to believe that it's not deliberate. It doesn't make sense, otherwise. I can only conclude that cognitive dissonance has been weaponized.