Beware of the Suffocators

It is smallness, narrowness, lack of spiritual development which makes a person exclusive, distant and different from others. He feels superior, greater and better than others; his friendly attitude seems to have been lost. In that way he cuts himself apart from others, and in this lies his tragedy. That person is never happy.

Hazrat Inayat Khan, in The Mysticism of Sound and Music


Years ago my mother got me a mug as a present. Who said this blog was boring. But it’s a decent size mug for drinking tea and it has a somewhat whimsical design on it featuring a closely-knit (see what I did there?) flock of sheep, just one of which is black. As is the way with this imagery, the black sheep is facing in the opposite direction to the rest of the flock. I like the mug, it’s a decent size, and I’ve been using it for my mandatory morning mug of tea for years, but that imagery always vaguely bugged me in some way I couldn’t put my finger on.

The mug’s imagery was of course ‘aimed at’ me. Is ‘aimed at’ the right turn of phrase, though? I’ve long wondered what happens when through ‘being yourself’ (whatever that means in practice), you find out that you don’t fit in anywhere. What then? That humans are social animals is inescapable – we all form tribes, and it does look as if we need them. Ostracision from your tribe is a very serious punishment. Some say it leads to a kind of death by wasting away. So we are simultaneously expected to be individual, to ‘be ourselves’, yet we are also somehow under a pervasive pressure to fit in, to be in a tribe, with other like-minded unique individuals.

But our individuality only exists in contrast to others, to otherness, and we all know from personal experience that now and again you encounter people that do stand out in some way, either good or bad, or just odd. As for myself, I’ve long never fitted in anywhere, but this has always gone with an ability to get on with pretty much anybody, whatever sort of person they are, and indeed I’ve long found it really enjoyable to be able to do this, despite a constant battle with fairly aggressive social anxiety. The older I get, the more muscularly I work with, ride or even subdue this anxiety. Sometimes I even use it as a kind of fuel. I even enjoy it. All this has ultimately led to the knowledge that although tribes are a key aspect of the human, it’s good to travel between them, good to meet all sorts of people and realise how well you can get on with people that if you judged them by, say, political allegiances or taste in comedy or music only, you’d regard as the enemy, the despicable Other, a source of hate. Through years of mundane work in mundane offices, I have also discovered at length that no human being is actually mundane, which in turn has helped me grow profoundly as a human – growth that would never have happened if I’d only consorted with ‘out there’ or ‘artistic’ (or indeed ‘spiritual’) people. We do need community, but you’re potentially missing out on deeper growth if you only hang around with your own.

But although growth happens anyway by just living, paradoxically it’s never a given. Some of the things that get in the way are barely even noticeable even though (or perhaps because) they’re quite commonplace, and one particular problem at large in the world today concerns a type of concept floating about out there that has a peculiar power to stifle deeper growth. These are the suffocators. Of themselves they are gossamer thin, but they are peculiarly stifling with regard to certain deeper aspects of life. If you aren’t aware of them and don’t therefore brush them away or just move out of their way, the suffocators will stop you from progressing as you need to – as you have to – along any path of growth. It’s good to know about suffocators, and if you have any interest in ‘what it’s all about’ it is particularly important to understand that you will encounter these sneaky operators along the way. They will effectively stop you deepening in your understanding in a major way, yet they seem so trivial on the surface, if you even notice them in the first place. Which is the problem.

Consider now a certain sort of person who fancies themselves as a bit of an intellectual. They are quite pleased with their ‘rationality’, and have spent years improving it, reading the ‘right’ books, exercising their mind in debate, while always choosing of course the ‘right’ sort of people to debate. Somewhere along the line, they have developed a particularly rationality-heavy aspect to their mind, and they have started running all ideas past and through that. They have identified with ‘rationality’ (of a particular sort, mind). They hum and hah and consider and examine and analyse. This person is on a quest, to be as interesting and well-read and original as possible, but because of this they have started to encounter certain kinds of ideas that have a distinctly different flavour to them, a taste of the numinous, a vibe about them that indicates they’ve come from somewhere deep, outside of the light of supposedly ‘pure’ rationality. Immediately their ‘rational’ ego springs into action, looking for flaws, faults and above all inconsistencies (as if inconsistencies aren’t an inherent aspect of life, all the way through). What then happens is having hummed and haa-ed and acted accordingly, they then either consider the matter sorted and in future treat all ‘that sort of thing’ with contempt – the usual response – or for some reason they feel they need to keep going, keep trying to deal with it with their rational intellect, keep feeling the need to prove the Strange thing wrong instead of just leaving it alone. But what never happens in any event is that the Beyond is explored. The rational ego stops it all, stops growth, stops discovery. Here then we see the work of a suffocator, making its host go on a strange sort of ‘path’ that consists entirely of walking on the spot. Such people often have a depression about them, or an anger, or a strange ‘coshed’ vibe, whereby their wishing for things to be better, for the world to be a good place, has taken some kind of violence and is now hurting and forcibly limited.

Suffocators work by flattering the ego. This is a big thing – for example, we currently have a vast, planetary on-line network called the internet that is to a large extent fuelled by ego flattery, and its ever-present partner ego tweaking, whereby various mostly negative emotional reactions are evinced by online (dis)content. If you want to learn about a subject properly, it’s best to read books, or even reputable online articles, but what is not a good way to learn about anything at all, ever, is by zeroing in on the ego tweaking trash that infests the internet. You wouldn’t go swimming in sewage-infested sea, yet you take that risk every time you decide to set sail on the internet. Even if you dip your metaphorical toes in at the edge, you still risk getting filth on those toes, straight from the untreated effluent pipes of other people’s minds. Ego tweaking is everywhere in human society and always has been, but the internet weaponises it in a novel way and to a degree that’s so extreme it challenges the mind’s ability to even conceptualise it, in a similar way that the mind can’t form any proper idea of large numbers even though it thinks it can. (To give an example of the latter, try doing that thing where you assume somebody earns £1 a second, then check how long it will take them to earn a million pounds, and then how long it will take them to earn a billion. That’s pretty counterintuitive in itself, but then consider on top of that that the greatest number most people can naturally ‘get’ in itself without thinking about it is… 7. One more than the highest number of dots on dice.)

Ego tweaking is a kind of titillating stimulation of outrage and/or superiority feels which relies on simplification, distortion and generalities to stoke those arrogances in a quick, easy way that lacks depth, context, ambiguity, subtlety, or indeed anything usually associated with life. McIdeation. It has long been known (at a research level) that social media interactions have a strong tendency to become polarised in a way that doesn’t happen in real life. The very lack of face-to-face interaction makes extreme aggression so easy, and the lack of adult maturity invites gangings-up on hapless individuals who didn’t quite phrase their faux-spontaneous comment in the exact right way so as to pass the parasocial approval of the online mob. Even in supposedly light-hearted Facebook groups at any moment the machetes can suddenly appear, the flames of righteous anger, the lynch mob with their meat cleavers of the mind, hacking away at a human, all fired up on high-octane self-righteousness, all jeering and mocking and ranting of their own superiority as they commit their butchery.

Thankfully, this has never happened to the author – I mention this because for some reason a certain type of online entity seems to think that anybody writing about this sort of stuff must have been personally affected by it – and that means they’re a really bad person deep down inside. They’re only posting about this because they were butt-hurt once and the more they try to deny it, the more it must be true!

And that, right there, is a certain kind of suffocator in action. More on this below. (As an aside, butt-hurt’s a really grown-up, non-adolescent turn of phrase, isn’t it? You can tell there’s an adult in the room when the word ‘butt-hurt’ appears.)

Another key aspect of this inherently pathological, screwed up online weirdness is what could be called gerundisation – a tendency for any concept or even single word to be viewed as infinite when viewed online. And in infinity there can be no nuance, as nuance involves the limited, the ambiguous. It’s become a truism that nuance tends to disappear in online discourse, but it’s good to keep this in mind at all times when interacting with others on the internet as it’s unbelievably easy to lose sight of this – it takes real practice to keep it in mind. As soon as you post online, be aware that your brakes have disappeared – there are no brakes on online discourse, and you must therefore drive with extreme care.

Gerundisation is high-octane ego fuel, as it feeds the ego’s tendency/need to feel unlimited, unfettered, universal. Naturally this is entirely against the reality of our limited human life, human insecurities, human need for love and attention. So to compensate for this vulnerability the ego fires up its supposed unlimitedness with various hard-edged aggressions that make it ever more impossible to back down.

But the egoic intellect will never accept one hugely painful insult – that the ultimate truths are to do with love, with gentleness. Perhaps this is so strangely devastating to the ego precisely because it invests so much energy into being hard in this world of combat and hunting, competition and outer display.

As for strength and its inherent gentleness, the Taoists got it right 2,500 years ago with their concept of the strongest trees being those that bend with the storm. The hardness of this world is not the whole story, not by a long way. Observation of nature shows this. To truly observe nature shows that it is inherently predatory, violent and cruel, often grossly ugly… and inherently full of friendship, playfulness, and of course vast stretches of beauty at all scales of perception.

And the worst wreckers of this deeper understanding are the There Is No Happy Ever After crew. Here is a very serious suffocator roaming the polluted oceans of the mind, waiting to wrap itself round a certain kind of conceited, very intellectually clever, proud buffoon who never really got the idea of encountering people as equals. Maybe they didn’t fit in at school, maybe they were bullied. Who cares. One task as a human is to not let this stuff poison you in adulthood – no excuses. We’re all in this together, we all have tough stuff to deal with. It’s called being human. The Facing Up To Hard Truths gang of suffocators have a very peculiar take on this, a take that subverts itself due to its lack of honest admission of the ‘hard’ truth that kindness is key.

By being honest, and gazing into and past the ‘look at me I’m so hard, I face up to unpalatable truths’ ego guff, we can actually see that something else is going on. It starts looking more and more as if something good and pure and gentle and beautiful has been dragged into and onto a planet which is none of those things. This is weird, but life is weird and we only forget this as we progressively get sleepier and duller, and angrier, through our repetitious immersion in human falsities. And having this insight leads to a deeper understanding that the facinguptohardtruthists will never gain, unless they learn some humility. The pompous asses who fancy themselves privy to The Hard True Secret of Life will one day need to drink deep the burning hot brew of the inconvenient, uncomfortable truth that everybody else already knows how hard life is, maybe not earlier on but definitely by the time they’ve buried their second parent. They may spend their lives immersed in junk celeb culture, they may go through life lacking in the your supposedly superior understanding, but they also live, as humans, and deal with every day’s challenges, as humans. And humans are deep. And if you’re one of those Hard Truthians, you may want to consider a certain truth about that, too, namely that people have all sorts of hidden aspects to them you don’t necessarily know about.

Of course The Special Black Sheep Brigade, in all their pomp and grimness are in truth no different to the herd, the ordinary sheep milling about on the earthly plains below, munching on their grass while the brave warriors of The SBSB fancy themselves chewing on the raw meat of Facing Reality. If only these puffed up specimens of the human race would deign to mingle with ‘normal’ people, they would soon discover that so many of the supposed underlings are far stronger and more powerful than the self-consciously ‘superior’ . I’ve personally encountered so many people who’ve grasped deep truths about life in ways I’ve lacked. Which makes the pound shop Nietzsche posturings of the facinguptothehardtruthists seem faintly ridiculous. And I wonder if there’s a certain avoidance going on, a kind of prissiness (like that of Nietzsche himself), that can’t face immersion in the grubby rough and tumble of plebeian life.

I’ve spent a bit of time on this particular type of person because they illustrate with painful clarity the result of letting a suffocator flatter the egoic intellect, especially when that intellect is muscularly well-developed. And this leads to the next point – suffocators may be these kind of passive plastic bags floating around the polluted ocean of human thought, but they can turn people who haven’t rid themselves of them into active suffocators, who then go about their business being almost comically up themselves and unpleasant and Brave and Having Extra Insight. But any time you dismiss an idea for being silly or woolly or sentimental, and act accordingly, whether on line or in real life, you are now an active suffocator, effective in the world.

The view of humanity when you see our lostness certainly is sad, but for true depth it must include compassion. And setting yourself apart from the rest of the herd while under the sway of bigging up your personal ‘difference’ is not the way to cultivate that truer deeper understanding. The truly outstanding humans have never formed hard-edged uber-egos, they’ve never formed an ugly sense of superiority, they’ve always been about bringing some kind of tender strength into this difficult world in a way that helps. And the deepest understanders, free of the suffocators, seek to help everyone.

We’re all black sheep – uniqueness and diversity depend on each other all the way down, all the way up. In the real world everything is a unique example of a wider idea – we’re all unique humans, for example. Some people do indeed stand out in terms of artistic creativity, sheer badness or sheer goodness, in terms of skills or lack thereof, but there is not and can not be any clean break between the concepts of uniqueness and similarity. Consider the paradox of artistic creativity, whereby true originality is only possible by referring to what has gone before, transmuting it somehow into something new. If a work of art was actually 100% ‘original’, it would be meaningless as it would have no context at all in which to mean anything. It would be just gibberish, mere noise. (If you don’t believe that, try to prove it wrong.) And this of course goes for the works of art known as people.

So, there are no normal people. Being alive is so remarkable that ‘normality’ can only ever be an impossible mirage. Imagine that. All those ITV-watching, sleb-obsessed thickos are just as valuable as you are. I’m sorry. All of us will eventually know at some level that life is tragic even if you in your nice clean cold castle of superiority can’t understand or accept this ghastly, ego-disconcerting fact.

Here’s another ‘hard’ truth about softness – it is not justifiable to reject any idea in principle purely on the grounds of its supposed sentimentality. This hugely offensive to the egoic intellect, but it is nonetheless a truth that the ego must bow down to before further progress can be made. Gentleness is vulnerable, so it’s going to extra double offend the ego when it truly sees that no further progress can be made without losing the warrior’s armour and opening to softness, kindness, vulnerability.

Suppose somebody says they hope to meet their beloved mother in the afterlife, or better still, their beloved pet. If you are the plaything of suffocators, you will immediately become sorrowful and sad and superior, and try to pass those suffocators on, as if you somehow ‘really’ have the last word in the matter, as if you somehow ‘know’. That sort of stuff is mere sentimentality you will say or imply, or if you’re further down the road of superiority, you can regard supposed ‘afterlife’ contact as the mind’s way of coping with the Cold Hard Truth, or even if you’re more superior again say yes, you made contact with ‘the other side’ somehow, but it was with one of the shells that scavenge the earth looking for darker emotional energies and disguise themselves as lost loved ones! There may even be (some) truth in this, who knows. But you in your arrogance are imposing a kind of double bind/catch-22 on the other person – any upset people show at your bleak worldview is just an embarrassing attempt to deny it, apparently. Expecting pulling a stunt like that on somebody to not then wind them up hugely is in itself quite arrogant. Ironically, inflicting double binds like that on suffering people because you think you’re clever will actually then stifle your ability to understand more deeply. The strange thing is that despite the power of the suffocator to stop growth, its only an intellectual con, operating outside the realm of life. The suffocators close the gate by means of a kind of logical trick, while life is deep and open-ended and continues on and past mere analytical intellect and the smug self-satisfaction of those who use tricks to try to make the deep stuff go away. Anybody who honestly faces the numinous, the mysterious, the deep, is now no longer in Kansas, and they are the people who have to explore carefully, and develop and use their discrimination as they make their way through the deep forest – which means they are the ones taking real risks as they explore what it means to be human, to be alive in this world. Which ironically makes them in that aspect at least, superior people to the Hard Truths lot. They’re certainly sailing through deeper potentially stormy waters, taking more risks, honestly trying to sound out life’s depths without prematurely settling.

To see suffocators in action – observe. Stand back in the face of emotional expression (yours and other people’s) and just disinterestedly watch. Without observation you will never gain this valuable insight, because you are ruled (up to a point at least) by the lifeless world of the so-called ‘rational’, to a far greater degree than you may have realised. But the rational never exists ‘in the wild’, as it were, without a display of emotion – it’s quite amazing how the default setting for so many supposedly ‘aware’ people is to ignore this and return to the supposedly ‘superior’ emotion-free world of the ‘rational’. Bit of lip service paid to the truth that emotions are key to human thought, then it’s straight back to egoic blathering on about rationality again, at enormous, ironically highly emotionally charged length. It’s the issue again with this strange human inability to be truly aware in the present, preferring to stay with static abstractions. But you can see suffocators at work every time somebody who prides themselves on their supposed ‘rationality’ starts performing their distinctly non-rational emotional blustering, huffing and puffing their contempt, scornfully laughing at a concept because it’s supposedly ‘sentimental’. Maybe it is – but often when looked at honestly, it isn’t. Shame more of the Hard Truths lot can’t summon up honesty about this awkward philosophical truth. I wonder why they can’t/don’t want to?

(This scorn and contempt is often quite gendered, too – so often this ‘sentimentality’ is and has been associated with women. Silly women with their weird non-rational way of being in the world, with their funny ways of knowing things that don’t make rational sense. Maybe it might’ve been better to have ditched that arrogance as civilisation developed – surely it would’ve reduced its cruelty and enhanced its depth.)

Suffocators work by means of a kind of strange loop/double bind that’s hard to pin down logically but which can be more easily shown didactically. As mentioned above, they can take the form ‘the reason you’re getting upset about something aimed at you is because you can’t face the horrible truth’, which implies that only people who have ‘faced up to’ the horrible truth are right (whatever ‘facing up to’ something means). But this is not true in principle. That ‘because’ is important – in the flow of real life, such a link doesn’t exist. The person reacting might be getting defensive because they’re feeling guilty, but it might be because they’re sick of arrogant know-nothings wrongly accusing them of being a debased human being, and they’re tired of being falsely taunted. Their rage might be coming from a dripping tap effect they’ve been dealing with since childhood, which may have created an inner tormenting voice in their psyche repeating ‘you’re just like those scum’ which has been there since childhood and which has now been prodded and poked into action for the millionth time by your posturings of superiority. The point is it is impossible to know, especially online, and this breaks the spell of the suffocator, as it breaks that false, double-binding link between reaction and accusation. It may well be possible to tell what’s going on in real life, of course, where you can intuitively sense and gain a measure of who you’re talking to – but the Facing Up To Hard Truths brigade tend to shun that and stick to the internet instead. It’s because they’re special, see – superior because they See Things As They Really Are. It’s best to avoid the awful unwashed crowds to keep yourself pure. And precisely because they See Things As They Really Are, they don’t need to bother with the great unwashed…

Suffocators turn logic into a sociological playground game of emotions. But ‘well if you’re getting upset about this, it must’ve touched a nerve’ is really just a kidulty version of ‘takes one to know one’. It’s not actually very grown up. Yet it’s a commonplace suffocator encountered on paths of growth, which seems to stymie the natural development of compassion, of love, of gentleness, pushing those energies into a kind of swelling of the ego where they become tainted. Ego always loves stealing the good stuff so it can parade about in it. But egoic intellect no more knows of the ways of love than a bunch of thieves who’ve stolen some robes from their local vicarage and are drunkenly tottering about in them for a laugh know of the esoteric mysteries hidden in exoteric religion.

Take the irony of the way they form their own online tribes, just like the ‘sheeple’ they so despise, and they create millions of hours of cruddy Youtube videos that they show to each other, all these ‘individual’ so-called ‘black sheep’ with their supposed ‘truths’ that the herds of ‘normal’ humanity can’t handle, which all strangely resemble each other despite the supposed ‘think for yourself’ ‘individuality’ on offer.

It’s not as if the arrogance of the Hard Truths brigade is foolproof. They are sometimes even arrogant about good, effective science. Which is when we then see physically super-fit super-people, who know the ‘truth’ and saw through the supposed ‘lies’, dying – yes, suffocating – in intensive care units, on their own, begging their family and friends to take a vaccine they were too proud to acknowledge as an effective treatment, knowing that for them it’s too late, and they now have to leave their family and friends behind as they go into the Great Unknown, on their own.

So we can see that suffocators can work in different ways. The humble ego (which is a thing and a good thing) acknowledges that in certain ways, despite all its issues science can and does discover a lot of good stuff and gets it profoundly right. Discernment is a powerful thing – perhaps a more powerful thing – without the interference of the suffocators, and now you are at the point where you can consider the further, deeper ideas beyond them. These ideas, these thoughts, are alive and profound and not to be butchered by the knives of the arrogant egoic intellect. And you get a deeper, truer understanding of science along the way, too – true clarity of mind enables that.

Part of learning through life is that it requires a certain openness in order to properly cultivate insight, to cultivate intuition, to gain in wisdom. Wisdom lies infuriatingly beyond the reach of the arrogant egoic intellect, yet that intellect can see that it’s clearly something important and good that the ego is unable to grab for itself. In real life, life outside the constipatedly gloomy citadels of the Superior Ego, we use aesthetic and/or intuitive judgments to ascertain what is true. These judgments include the rational but not to the exclusion of deeper intuitions. Rational ego doesn’t like this – it regards it as most unfortunate, like having to go to the toilet or fart. For example, if somebody (usually online) decides that a deeper truth is actually sentimental, they will so often go through a process of performing sneering, chuckling, getting angry and/or scornful. Or of course if dealing with a grieving and/or traumatised person, keeping their supposed ‘real’ insight into the bleakness of reality to themselves as a mark of respect – we hope, at least. But there is no pure rationality anywhere in the world. This is such a challenge to the ego with its puffed-up ideas of ‘pure’ rationality that it turns away from the whole issue. But those non-rational aspects of ourselves include who we really are – and the ego in its various ‘Hard’ posturings has actually no idea how to relate to these mammalian, warm, complex, ambiguous, social vibings of our being as we sail along the stream of life. And worse still – the ego still has to remain tangled up in this animal ambiguity anyway because it’s inescapable. It’s not as if it can ever successfully keep it at bay. But the ego tries to do so anyway, and fails, and becomes monstrously distorted in the process.

This strange and marvellous realisation that the rational is only ever expressed emotionally… it’s how we’ve only ever lived the entirety of our lives, our rationality always intimately intertwined with and suffused by the emotional, but we keep forgetting this, over and over again, and so does everybody else, and we’ve all been doing that the whole time we’ve had self-awareness. And indeed it’s this very forgetting that we’re trained into that leads to problems further down the road of growth. The suffocators are so thin, but they can cut off your growth as surely as a flimsy plastic bag floating in the sea can suffocate a turtle.

But what ultimately is gentle and can never be hard? Love. Tough love may be needed on the way, in the way that serious illnesses demand powerful medicines that can have strong side-effects, but in the end Love always is gentle and this gentleness is an inherent aspect of its supreme power. (Are you getting triggered ideas right now about hippies, about the badness of the world, about how tough everything ‘really’ is?)

Here is (yet) another huge offence to the Sad Ego – there is no such thing as a purely impersonal love. What would that even mean in practice anyway? A universal love has to include the personal due to its universality, and this apparently profound distinction between personal and impersonal love is therefore ultimately irrelevant. ‘Personal’ love includes our individuality, our uniquely personal limited biological manifestation and everything else about us – it includes our individual tao. Love is not an object but draws everything together, and what exactly is Love without a community of difference to unify? Christianity has this with its doctrine of the trinity, whereby the Ultimate is both one and a community. Compare with the idea mentioned above that unity and diversity go all the way up and down. I mention this here because a certain kind of ‘seeker on the path’ likes to misuse ideas of impersonal love to subtly big themselves up, superior ego-style.

This is where we come to the most serious suffocator. This is the one that comes into play when discussing the tragedy of human life. The Serious Ego loves to say that ‘there is no happy ever after’ as it makes it look (and no doubt feel) noble and realistic. Any philosophy that engages with the hardness of the world – the predation, the war, the death – is extremely vulnerable to being grabbed by the ‘facing up to hard truths’ ego which then, of course, suffocates any idea of escape, or that help may be available, or any idea that actually despite the supposed sentimentality of the idea, maybe there is a ‘happy ever after’ after all. Note however how the phrase ‘happy ever after’ subtly shifts goalposts, framing the idea of an ‘after’life in such a way that immediately belittles it. But who said exactly that any ‘after’life could or should be characterised as ‘happy ever after’ as such? Note how the phrase subtly but tellingly makes it sound like a fairy story. But we all know that life is not a fairy story, so why use that particular phrase in the first place? Only kids and fundamentalists believe in fairy tale stuff – most people don’t. And again, we’re back to ‘most people’ – not some kind of elite with ‘special’ insights into life. (And of course there’s the whole myth/fairy story crossover anyway, which the Hard Truths brigade have nothing good or true or useful to say about.)

But there’s something sad to consider about what’s behind the cynicism of the suffocators – being like that is a (superficially) great way to deal with the more brutal pain that life always serves up sooner or later. It is easy to mock the over-serious, but in the end they have to deal with the same crushing agonies of loss as everybody else. It just isn’t good that their way of dealing with it often involves inflicting pain on others (especially online where there are no brakes), and in any event if these people were truly facing up to truths, then they have to face up to what lies behind the gates closed off by the suffocators. Even if to be fair, those truths can initially seem a little spooky.

(There is a twist in the tale. Thanks to the ‘facing up to harsh reality’ brigades, it’s become very difficult to discuss the possibility that death is not after all the end. But maybe there is after all a good reason for this, because in the wrong hands this knowledge can be dangerous – if you know for sure death isn’t the end, it can lead to the realisation that you can do anything and ultimately get away with it as long as you’re willing to pay the price. Most of us won’t be affected by this, but there are people on dark occult paths that, somewhat incredibly, are willing to act accordingly. Best leave them get on with it. The suffocators here actually perform a useful function, by putting across the idea that the whole idea of this even being a thing “therefore” shows that there can’t be an ‘after’life and thus protecting people from inflicting huge damage on themselves and others. There is also the issue that this worldview can lead to a kind of ‘nothing truly matters’ nihilism – but the whole point of this drama we’re caught up in is that it really matters at the time. This makes it properly a drama, and you tinker with this at your peril. Maybe the suffocators were originally in their proper home, clustered around these insights but then some of them broke free and are now floating about willy nilly… which is more speculative than I’d normally consider including on this blog so I’ll leave it there.)

As for meeting pets, or anybody else, in the ‘after’life, there is a whole kind of culture of so-called ‘mediums’ talking about ‘bringing through’ much-missed loved ones and anybody with a reasonably well-developed discrimination should regard this as suspect. But if you avoid the suffocators that move in when you consider this issue, and instead keep going… then you may encounter new, deeper things to ponder, such as the idea that Mind, or Mind0, is involved in animal life, and animals don’t have that ‘thing’, that mark or blemish or extra aspect of their consciousness that humans have, and are thus innocent and just doing their thing, whether it’s predation or kindness, and are in the present moment whatever happens in their lives, and thus when Mind withdraws from this world it withdraws having grown something True and of Love. The loving being of all animals involves their physicality but in the end becomes atemporal. (This is alluded to here.) But humans have this extra ‘something’ that means we create – and need and try to live by – ethics and morals, and we find ourselves deep in a world of predation and impermanence. Think of the world as a place where loving beings come to be tweaked and attacked in order to produce negative energy. Animals get to leave when they die, but humans get trapped so easily because of the wrong way we raise each other, which causes us to become deeply mired in this world and then have grave difficulty extricating ourselves from it. (People under the sway of suffocators like to sneer at the kitsch Western understanding of reincarnation, but there are good reasons for the Buddhist and Hindu view is reincarnation is to be escaped and certainly not viewed as somehow fascinating or even a good thing.) Now consider the idea that “all shall be well” as the famous phrase of Julian of Norwich has it, and understand that, for example, it is Catholic doctrine that the body will be restored, i.e. worldly physicality will somehow be redeemed and rescued from earthly time, or consider that in Judaism there is the concept of tikkun. Consider the idea that the most important part of the rite of mass is where we are asked to eat Jesus’s flesh and drink his blood as this symbolises that even meat-eating – in this case even knowingly eating the flesh and drinking the blood of someone you regard as the holiest-ever human to walk this earth, a depraved thing to do and worse than anything any wild animal could ever have done – will be redeemed one day, and thus all predation from the highest to the lowest levels will be redeemed. Consider also the power of symbolism, and that the ontological status of symbolism cannot be properly understood by the ego and is far deeper than the ego can ever understand.

And now meta-consider, as it were, step back and consider the profound ideas outlined in the above paragraph, and take good note of how you would never even have encountered them if you’d let the suffocators have their way. This is meta-consideration – you don’t have to buy into any of these ideas, they’re just shown to you here as existing out there somewhere – but the point is the suffocators will stop you from properly engaging with them in the first place. Before you even properly encounter these ideas, the suffocators will present you with superficially attractive ideas of silly-mindedness on the part of others and superiority of understanding on your part, and in so doing con you into thinking you already somehow know in advance it’s all nonsense – as if your limited egoic intellect would know what to do with any of it. You still of course run the risk right now, as you’re reading this, of the knee-jerk reaction of denial that the suffocators produce in their victims, but you don’t have to accept that. You can still dismiss this stuff as mere speculation, but if you want to escape the suffocators you have to drop the idea, or meta-idea, that it’s all in principle untrue. Don’t get all a priori about things that are beyond your ken. There are absolute oceans of rubbish out there outside of the rational, but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to not properly bother exploring to see if some of it is sound. As Theodore Sturgeon put it, ‘90% of everything is crap’. But he didn’t say 99.9999% is – you’ve got a 10% that’s worth seeking out and using properly developed intuition can help you find it a lot more quickly than just relying on the egoic intellect. Once again, it comes down to cultivating and using discrimination – a talent we all have, and can all develop over time.

In the book quoted at the start of this article, Hazyat Inayat Khan writes about the concept of unlearning. To quote again from The Mysticism of Sound and Music:

‘How can one unlearn? You would say that the character of the mind is such that what one learns is engraved on it, and how then can one unlearn it? Unlearning is completing knowledge. To see a person and say ‘That person is wicked’ – that is learning. To see further, and recognize something good in that person – that is called unlearning. When you see the goodness in someone whom you have called wicked, you have unlearned. You have unravelled that knot. … First you learn by seeing with one eye; then you learn to see with two eyes. That makes sight complete.’

So to learn is essential, and this is stressed by HIK, who states that our learning ‘is of great use’ as it ‘gives us the power of discrimination and of discerning differences’ (which these days is only the case as long as learning is not stifled by suffocators). To grow fully, we must then unlearn. Perhaps here is a suggestion of a way to deal with suffocators, which can also be thought of as knots, and thus learn properly, with proper discrimination, and also unlearn properly. Again, HIK: ‘You do not look first at the sky when you are standing on the earth. First look at the earth, and see what it offers you to learn and to observe, but at the same time do not think that your life’s purpose is fulfilled by looking only at the earth. The fulfilment of life’s purpose is in looking at the sky’. We have a big problem now with suffocators seeking to keep people only ever looking at the earth. But if we’re aware of that, we can get to learn of the earth properly, and then the sky properly also. In ‘Gravity and Grace’ Simone Weil states ‘There is only one fault, only one: our inability to feed upon light’. But we can make our way back, and connect with the light, as long as we don’t let our ego take over and try to direct our journey.

Always remember that the dinosaurs died out and the mammals took over. Warm-blooded mammalian furriness wins. Regardless of any evil possible in this dark world, you can refuse to let yourself become hardened, you can find your way in a way that helps others. Remember the Taoist concept of true strength as being able to bend in the wind. Arrogance can’t bend. Discrimination is important, and you keep your rational ego as it’s a crucial helpmeet on the journey, but keep it in context, in service of your deeper self, and never make the mistake of thinking that because individual character traits can be ‘better’ or ‘worse’, then that means that hierarchy is like a ladder – it isn’t, it can only ever be like a sphere…