Short essays from Martin’s upcoming book ‘The Anti Teachings’
Separation is the problem
The primary problem facing humanity today is not global warming, pollution, war, hunger, poverty, or the unequal distribution of resources. Nor is it our personal challenges such as stress, depression, anxiety, grief, greed, selfishness, pride, anger or desire. However much these conditions weigh on us and make us destroy the basis for life on this planet, this is not where our fundamental problem lies.
The fundamental cause of our destructive way of life and personal problems is that we experience that there is separation between ourselves and the rest of the world. The foundation of all our present challenges is this experience of separation. It is because we experience that we are separate that we to an extreme extent exploit, destroy, and wage war against each other and the life surrounding us. This separation is also the cause of our personal problems such as stress, anxiety, grief, insecurity and depression.
We can try to patch up our personal problems through therapy, spiritual practices, body work, or other methods. We can also seek to moderate the extent of our destructive and selfish tendencies by means of morals, ethics, laws, rules, behavioural regulation and various other solutions. While we may also feel that some of these methods can be helpful, they will not fundamentally change anything.
Unless we get rid of the experience of separation, we humans will continue to live in a way that is destructive and in conflict with ourselves and the world around us…
The thinking-ability creates the separation
Our experience of existing as separate individuals is created by our thinking-ability. It is this ability that defines us to be a separate entity and insists that this definition is true.
The thinking-ability’s function is to imagine life as being divided into separate entities and appoint characteristics to these entities. This is the fundamental task the thinking-ability is helping us to carry out. At some later point human beings invented what we call thoughts, words and language to communicate the notion of these separate entities and their characteristics.
The experience of being separate entities emerges at the same time as the thinking-ability gains control over our actions. The thinking-ability has not always been in control of us. It gains this function at some point during the human evolution.
Originally the thinking-ability was just one of the tools man could make use of in order to thrive and survive. It was not its role to be in control of us. It was just an ability that was available for us to use as we found appropriate. We knew that we could not and should not use it to define reality or to be in control over our actions.
At some point the thinking-ability anyhow begins to control our actions. To make this possible the thinking-ability simultaneously must begin to define reality. Naturally it must believe its own understanding is true to be able to carry out the task of controlling us.
When the thinking-ability begins to define reality, it is not a decision it makes. It happens automatically as it for unknown reasons gains control over us. The thinking-ability does not have free will but is a physical function in line with our other abilities and senses…
Culture misleads us
Our culture is created on the basis of our experience of there being separation between ourselves and life. Therefore culture does not tell us that the separation is false, but on the contrary teaches us that we must live life on the basis that it is true. Furthermore, culture tells us that there is something wrong with us, that there is something else we need to reach that is better and more real than what is living now.
Culture teaches us that as separate individuals we can find a more or less permanent state of peace, joy, meaningfulness and togetherness. In religious societies, religion and spirituality are the primary exponents of this and in secular societies it is psychology, philosophy and various forms of personal development that fill out this role.
Because our experience of separation makes us feel insecure and out of sync with life, we can’t help but seek to feel better. That is why we believe in the goals that culture imposes on us. Paradoxically, it is this quest and the belief in the goals that culture teaches us that keep us from seeing that there actually is no problem.
Our culture is contributing towards maintaining our experience of being separate individuals and that there is something wrong. It tells us that we must reach a different place from where we are at this moment. Believing that this is true is our problem, our only problem. It is a form of psychosis that of all humanity is caught up in.
Mans evolutionary trap?
The field of evolutionary research uses a concept called an ‘evolutionary trap’. This refers to a situation where a species continues to live in a way that previously helped it to survive, even though the behaviour now has the opposite effect.
An example is newly hatched sea turtles. During their evolution, they have developed a tendency to move towards the light from the sea, as they emerge from their nests in the sand. The sea is lighter than the beach during the night, so this is how they find their way to the sea.
In the modern world, however, they are moving instead towards the man-made beach lights. It looks like these lights confuse them. It causes them to move away from the water and they end up dying from exhaustion or other causes. The fact that they learned to navigate by the light from the sea has become their evolutionary trap.
There is much to suggest that the way the thinking-ability controls us humans has become our evolutionary trap. The dominion of the thinking-ability over us has had such far-reaching consequences for the human organism that it seems unable to get rid of it again. Maybe it can happen to a few rare individuals, but at a species level we do not seem to be able to let go of the thinking-ability’s control.
Over the course of evolution, the thinking-ability gained control over our actions, which in the first place benefitted our survival. Now it has become an ingrained habit. Like newly hatched sea turtles, we continue to use an ability that is no longer conducive to our survival…
I practiced celibacy myself at one point. But no matter what I did to get my sexual desire under control, it was still there from time to time.
What good is it that you manage to discipline yourself to avoid having sex if you are full of sexual desires and fantasies anyway? In the case of guys, the sperm still comes out, either by ‘wet dreams’ or through the urine. It does not stay inside of you.
Those who teach you sexual abstinence also have sexual fantasies, but they just aren’t honest enough to admit to it. They have based their business on having transcended these desires and needs. Instead, sex almost always takes place secretly and is expressed in distorted and pathological ways. People try to suppress an aspect of life and pretend it’s not there.
Some rare individuals may have managed to bring an end to their sexual desires, but rather than being a good thing, I would think that is a bad thing. It is natural to be physically attracted to another human being. If this ability is no longer active, it is because there is something wrong. Why would anybody be interested in achieving this? If you are born with a dysfunction and do not have this ability, then of course that is how it is. If not, it’s certainly not worth striving for.
The same is true if one practices Taoist or Tantric sex and tries to use the sexual energy to achieve something or other. That is also not a natural way to have sex. That is why we often end up having to seek help and guidance from the so-called experts in order to be able to do so.
I am not opposed to people engaging in some intentional sexual practice. For me, there is no problem in seeking to create experiences of energy and meaningfulness through the sexual act. If people feel like it, they can do it just as much as they like. The only thing I point out is that it is not what sex was created for, but that it is what we have made out of it…
If the experience of being separate entities disappears, we will have no idea about what takes its place. If this happens, all cultural values and ideals will crumble and no longer have a hold over us, as there is no longer anywhere for them to hold on to. This includes the highest moral and ethical ideals of culture, such as love, compassion, selflessness, etc.
You will never be able to characterize yourself as full of unconditional love and pay homage to it as the highest good. If the experience of separation stops, you will not know what is replacing it and you will never be able to call it love.
If someone is released from the control of self-awareness, they will not begin to love everything around them and have their life becoming an expression of love and togetherness with all sentient beings or something like that. This person will not try to help the whole world and the universe to get enlightened. There will be no socially responsible and altruistic aspect of such a person’s actions.
A person like that will no longer know where they themselves stop and where the rest of the world starts. Therefore, they will not be able to deliberately harm their surroundings. They will naturally do what they can to alleviate any suffering in their surroundings. However, their actions will not be motivated by love and care.
It would be more correct to say that such a person lends their help out of selfishness. They literally feel the suffering of the surrounding world on their own body, not spiritually or psychologically but physically…
Meditation and spiritual practice
Those who recommend spiritual practices are not the ones who have gotten rid of the control of the thinking-ability. At best, they have met someone for whom it happened and whom they are now trying to copy. This is possibly why practices have been developed where you recommend to people to meditate without expecting anything, to become ‘the neutral witness’, etc. It might have looked like those who were no longer controlled by the thinking-ability lived in this way. Therefore some people might have tried to imitate them.
More often, however, the reason for prescribing practices is to legitimize oneself and to hold onto one’s followers. If you manage to convince people that you know the way and the methods to reach the goal, you can become extremely popular.
In the end, any kind of practice will be misleading no matter where our motives for carrying them out originates from. If we try to do the ‘expectation-free practice’, it will only contribute to the creation of more pretense. It would only give more momentum to the dominion of the thinking-ability over us.
We are an entity created by the thinking-ability and everything we do will only serve to sustain the experience of this entity being real. This includes all spiritual practices and all other types of techniques and methods. It is the thinking-ability in the form of the separate I carrying them out. And it is simply not possible for the thinking-ability to do anything without expecting a result…