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A few thoughts on Karma

When you think about it on a mathematical and a psychological level karma must exist. Psychologically we all maintain an approximate balance so that we cannot be too happy or too miserable in perpetuity. This can be seen in the difference between people who live in first world nations and those who live in third world nations. Those of us who are blessed to have computers and electric, houses to live in, etc have different things to feel bad about, we can have bad days, we can even feel suicidal. Those who live with none of these benefits, no house, no electric, no food, etc can have good days; they find their joy elsewhere. If someone who is in a 1st world country will kill themselves out of misery then they obviously feel worse than someone in a third world country who is not miserable enough to kill themselves. The result of this internal balance which draws our feelings and sensations back towards a central stable area will mean that anyone who takes advantage of others for their own gain will achieve nothing because their experience will always pull back towards that central average.

It is similar in action to the way a drug user will gradually feel less joy at using their drug and will always want more an more. There is never any way in which a person can have more than others on an internal experiential level on any lasting basis. In fact there is also no way that a person can maintain an average feeling of sensation unless they are mentally damaged in some way because their experience will always be fluctuating either side of the central average or else the highs will have no lows to contrast against in order to be able to recognise the difference in them.

This psychological tendency to always aim for balance works in tandem with the mathematical tendency for numbers to always balance out. If you roll a dice millions of times you will ultimately find that any particular number will have approximately the same chance as any other number coming up. Life may be more complex than a six sided die but the same principle will apply. Over time things will have a tendency to average out. You may have a number of good days but you will also have a number of bad days in how fate tends to treat you. One day you will find a penny and on another day you will lose a penny. If you work harder you will earn more but if you work less hard you will earn less.

Most of the time this principle is very easy to see in action. The outliers are the problem in this theory. Human experience could be represented on a bell curve where most experience will be in the centre of the bell curve and at the edges there will be a few who seem remarkably lucky or remarkably unlucky. I have already pointed out that these outliers will have their experience drawn to a central stable set of feelings so the appearance of good luck or bad luck is merely an appearance as it seems to those viewing their experience from outside. The homeless person has advantages in some manners and, believe it or not, the wealthy person also has disadvantages. For instance, when you can afford anything you want instantly, then where is the joy of anticipation?  You move from one purchase to another experiencing a fraction of the joy any of those purchases would give one of us. Likewise, if you are cold and wet then the sheer pleasure you can feel from the occasions when you step into the warm and put on dry clothes are unimagineable to someone who has never had that experience. So once again we see the action of the psychological manifestation of karma combining with chance to always see that balance is achieved.

When it happens that someone seems to experience misery or joy for longer than seems natural then it is usually because they have imposed that upon themselves. Someone who has done something bad to another person will often feel guilty about it and that sensation of guilt will force them to judge themselves badly, while someone who has brought joy to others will go away with a warm feeling of having done the right thing. This has been proven in experiments where people were given money and told to go out and spend it. At the end of the day their feelings of happiness were compared to the beginning of the day and it was discovered that those who had helped others with the money felt far more happiness than those who had spent it on themselves. This is probably an evolutionary mechanism that is inbuilt by the mutual protection we gain from living in groups above the danger that individuals would have felt if living alone in the wild. This nature of cooperation and sharing would have greatly facilitated communal living and seen reciprocaton from others, which of course is a far more obvious manifestation of karma achieving balance between individuals.

The obvious exception to this would be sociopaths who feel little compulsion to help others due to their limited empathy. Hoever even sociopaths have been shown to have emotions, although on a greatly reduced level, so even they will be able to feel unhappiness or happiness in response to their actions. Additionally the greatly diminished state of their emotional level could be considered by those who have a typical experience of joy to be a punishment in itself. Plus the sociopath will often have had to have been through a horrific experience to damage their mind in that way so the loss of emotion is once again a way in which the psyche tries to achieve the central balance and withdraw from the extreme of the horror that they have already experienced.

In essence it ultimately becomes impossible for anyone to ever experience any joy over and above their fellow humans, no matter how much they take advantage of them, but similarly as karma dictates, noone is able to experience more misery than their fellow beings. Balance will always be achieved in the end.

However I am certain that everyone reading this will be uncertain about this conclusion.  Everyone knows of somebody, or is somebody who has suffered a terrible life changing incident that has greatly reduced their overal happiness.  There is certainly evidence that such circumstances can impact upon a person’s ability to feel happiness in their lives.  Regardless of what conclusions you draw from this evidence there still may be a way for karma to redeem itself, but to do so the conversation must pass into areas that are somewhat more philosophical.  In religion the problem is easily dealt with through reincarnation or the afterlife.  There are certain harshnesses to the idea of hell and heaven but karma is more likely to be associated with reincarnation.

I am not going to step into discussion of contiuity from one life to another but I will propose that in the event of reincarnation, if it does indeed exist, we are unable to retain memories from previous lives.  If we did then there would be little point in reincarnating in a form to learn the lessons of the previous life as we would simply continue where we left off.  Given the lack of memory actual physical continuity is not necessary as much as a mathematical continuity.  Indeed the essence of spiritual issues is their detachment from the physical.  The question should therefore centre around how much spiritual existence resembles physical existence.  All that would be needed for the corresponding and contrasting life to come into existence following the end of our own would be the laws of averages.  To put it simplistically, if at one point a person has behaved heinously and must therefore be taught the error of his ways then a corresponding life must come into existence in which those lessons can be learnt, perhaps the life of a devout monk or the life of a beggar.  As there is no memory from one life to another there is a missing continuity between the death of the one and the birth of the next.  Additionally there is no physical continuity.  There is a ‘spiritual’ continuity but what exactly does that mean?

 

Essentially, do we have individual souls?  The answer according to many religious and philosophical beliefs is that ultimately we are all one.  We all have god within us and we are seeking for reunification, etc, etc, etc.  Unsatisfying though it might seem, the only continuity necessary appears to be that the death of one with the birth of the other must both be connected by being related by both being part of the same existence.  Given the perceived nature of an all powerful god it is not even necessary that the two lives should exist consecutively.  The nature of us all being one, means, that in the formless nature of a fluid universe, we can in our ‘spiritual’ aspect be experiencing two contrasting lives separately and simultaneously.  Such is the nature of being part of a unified spiritual embodiment that is purported to have omnipotence.  To give it any limitation in that regard or to insist it follows the laws of physics misunderstands the nature of omnipotence and the power it has to be governed by physical laws, yet simultaneously not governed.  Naturally this falls a little outside the previous arguments I have made but considering karma is a theory that has always been considered to fall in line with the more esoteric ways of thinking it would probably be inappropriate not to cover some of the less conventional and scientific manners in which the concept could be described.

Naturally, if we need to rely on this final hypothesis, that can be difficult to come to terms with if we do not already believe in some kind of spiritual world already.  The impossibility of seeing beyond death or before birth renders any concerns academic.  The logic falls into place upon certain assumptions, but even if those assumptions prove to be false it makes little difference.  Similarly to a legal fiction this is a fiction that explains an idea and process, but does so in such a way that is not verifiable by material means.  Unfortunately this means that we have to rely on faith alone to accept this final argument as it is a faith based argument.  The positive side is that it makes no difference whether we believe it or not, so the action of faith is to simply take it for granted in the same way as Pascal might wager.

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Objective sanity in a crazy world, or madness in a sane world. Probably both.

I was reminded of my byeline today.  A sane voice in an insane world or vice versa.  When I originally wrote this I saw the truth that lay within but largely wrote is out of a sense of humour.  The reason I was driven to think of it today was because of discussion of psychological disturbance in Oliver James’ book Britain on the Couch.

It shows how good my attention span is these days that I have taken to writing a blog by something that was mentioned at the beginning of chapter one.  At least I made it through the introduction anyway.  James describes the case of Jim, a lawyer who has led a fairly successful life and has had no history of mental illness.  He has reached the age of 33 and is progressing well in his career and is married to what sounds like a marvelous and intelligent girl.  Things begin to fall apart on a trip to Scotland with an old friend from university.

In Scotland Jim is convinced to try MDMA.  The result is a weekend of deep introspection that leads to a crisis.  Jim realises that his life does not hold the meaning he had previously accepted it did.  The MDMA seems to have pulled the trick of enhancing Jim’s world view so that he can look at his own life from a distance with a far broader viewpoint and what he sees leaves him in serious conflict.

That is as far as my attention span has so far allowed me to read, but it got me thinking.  Jim’s life is relatively successful but he has been conditioned like most of us to plug away at his job day after day as one of the cogs in the mechanism of society.  It is probable that Jim is giving himself too little credit for his importance but it has led him into crisis.  The crisis strikes me as being a sign of having been overwhelmed by an insane society.

We all need to survive and we do that by fitting into our niches the best we can.  Sanity is to conform to the standard set by everyone else around us.  If we look normal then we are normal.  When we stop being normal it becomes pretty obvious to the rest of the world.  We become the loony, the mad bloke that everyone avoids.  The problem is that in being normal we are conforming to a society that has no objective comparators in our daily experience.

If we look far enough we can see the example of many other different societies but largely they are all in as much difficulty as our own.  Corrupt politicians and collapsing economies seem to be a theme to most advanced societies.  In order to really make a judgement about the way in which a society operates we need to take years of study at university, perhaps even writing a Phd before our understanding is solid enough to take action.  Or we could pop some MDMA on a weekend away like Jim did, and then those years of understanding will hit home in about 20 minutes instead of 5 or 6 years.  It is hardly any wonder it caused a crisis.

The things about which Jim was concerned within his life were simply who he was.  They were aspects of his nature as a homo sapien and of the world around him.  The resultant neuroses was the natural response in someone who has not had the chance to build a coping mechanism to deal with the circumstances in which he found himself.  A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
This ultimately led me to realise that the world around us all is mad but only when held up in comparison to our ability to cope with it.  If we can cope with the world then it is relatively sane.  If we can’t cope with it then we appear to be insane, though really if the world is that difficult to cope with then it is hardly a shining example of balance itself.  Perhaps my byeline should read that I am a sane voice in a sane world and an insane voice in an insane world simultaneously.  Though that is far less catchy.

Jimmy Savile and the Reality Distortion Field.

It is shocking to read the information that has been coming out at the inquiry into the activities of Jimmy Savile.  A lot of what has been said implies further actions that cannot be proven.  A child taken by Savile who is not seen alive again; admissions of strange behaviour in the morgue and abuse of bodies; the keeping of trophies taken from the dead; connections with children’s homes where sexual and physical abuse was now known to be rife.  Worst of all is the fact that all this latest information is only that which is associated with his behaviour within the hospital system.  There is such a huge amount of abhorrent behaviour that it is easy to forget that he would have led a similar life out in the rest of the world.

A lot of the claims being made against Savile in the NHS reports being discussed at Leeds General Infirmary sound so outlandish that if it weren’t known that this is an official inquiry it would be easy to believe that a lot of his behaviour was nothing more than urban legend surrounding a vile criminal.  As it is, the truth is that he very probably did not just the things that have been claimed in the NHS reports but also much else besides.  

Inevitably where there is a likelihood of making financial claims against his estate and claims in tort against the hospital services that enabled him there will be people trying to take advantage of this.  Even if there is no one trying to take advantage there will be a perception that people will try to take advantage.  For this reason each claim of abuse will have to be examined to determine that the claimant is not simply making things up.  Another inevitability is that a lot of real claims may not have the requisite level of proof to satisfy an investigation.  When many of the victims were already dead there is even less proof; dead men tell no tales.

The police have identified fewer than 300 crimes according to one of the reports I have read today.  Over the long life of Jimmy Savile this would not even represent the tip of the iceberg.  Anecdotally, sexual assault was literally something that Savile habitually committed with a far greater frequency than anyone I know has ever had hot dinners.

When I first started investigating Savile I was struck by the coincidences surrounding his connections with The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe.  One of the victims was left just outside Savile’s home; another was left inside the grounds of a hospital, not one of the hospitals with which Savile was intimately associated, but that would be stupid, however it would certainly cross his mind that a hospital’s grounds would be a reasonable place to dump a body; another victim left at a location that even shared Savile’s name, sadistic humour?  Savile’s friendship with Sutcliffe at Broadmoor; the fact that during Sutcliffe’s teenage years Savile was the manager in one of the local clubs Sutcliffe may well have frequented.  As if all these coincidences weren’t enough I later discovered that during the investigation into the murders Savile was even accused by an anonymous tip off.

I am certain that the crimes of Savile go far further than we will ever be able to prove, far further than we will ever even be able to suspect.  What interests me now is how he could ever have managed to get away with it for so long.  If anyone were to commit half the atrocities the police are certain about they would ordinarily have spent most of their lives in prison.  Savile has been described as being perceived as a National Treasure despite the fact that so many people knew about his personality traits that everything short of public accusations had been made on television.  Somehow he sustained his image as the kindly millionaire doing a lot of work for charity right up until his death.  Once he was gone the house of cards collapsed.

An expression associated with the late Steve Jobs was the ‘reality distortion field’.  Steve Jobs was able to assert his personality so strongly that he could make the impossible real.  His engineers knew that the things he asked of them could often not be done.  Steve asserted that they would be done anyway.  By the time of Steve Job’s death the things they had made were of such excellence that they had reshaped the technological landscape and made his company the most valuable company in the world.  Steve travelled in India in his youth, spent a lot of time meditating, and had claimed to have been enlightened.  These are all the sort of things that one would expect to hear from the sort of person who could have an ability to shape reality with the force of his own personality.  

Steve had the backing of the traditions of eastern mysticism and ancient belief systems in the qualities he used to change the world.  It seems to me that Jimmy Savile exercised a dark counterpart to this reality distortion field.  He could seemingly do whatever he pleased and never be caught.  It was so obvious that his behaviour was conducted in full view of the British public.  He was a regular fixture on British television, often with children sitting on his knee, often with his arms around scantily clad teenagers on Top of the Pops.  He made open admissions of some of the things he did to nurses in the hospitals.  Many of the things he did there were well known to them; he had a reputation.  Yet it was only after his death when his personality was no longer there to exert its influence that the reality distortion field came crashing down.

This all sounds a bit esoteric and I apologise for that.  I am making no supernatural claims about either man.  I am merely observing that there is a similarity in their two vastly contrasting contributions to mankind, a similarity that could certainly appear to more primitive minds to have supernatural explanations.  The psychology behind whatever allows for such forceful personalities to extend beyond themselves is at present something that we are not yet able to fully understand.  The disciplines of psychology and psychiatry are still in their infancy and the number of variables involved, plus the difficulty in making constant enough and accurate enough observations on something as impermeable as the human mind makes it tricky to develop our knowledge further.  

Despite my belief that this could all be explained in purely scientific and rational terms I am convinced that what we are able to observe in these two contrasting examples is an ability to shape the perceptions of others by providing such psychological cues that they could effectively twist reality to their own wills.  The fact that folklore has developed describing such personalities before is evidence that this sort of thing is not previously unheard of.  Where Steve Jobs has changed many of our lives for the better with his ability to push technological development forward, Jimmy Savile has done the opposite, satisfying his own selfish desires and inflicting misery and unhappiness around him.  Where one might have been seen in the past as the prophet (he certainly turned a profit), the other would have been seen as one of Satan’s minions on earth.  Had he lived in an age where such beliefs were prevalent I have no doubt that Savile would have used such a title to enhance his power.