Exploring The Human Hell

Teodoro Criscione
31 min readJan 15, 2024

Notes of an empirical investigation

Last review: 24 February 2024.

Source

DISCLAIMER. The aim of this post is guiding the reader through an examination of Self. If you start feeling an unpleasant dizziness, distress, and/or sense of guilty, please stop reading it. Forcing yourself could make things more complicated. Take care.

Premise.

What you are about to read is a mix of personal studies, apprenticeship with my spiritual teacher, and lessons from personal experiences. While writing this post, I fell into the trap of drawing a sharp and clear line between “good” and “bad”, “heaven” and “hell”. As a reminder for me and you, I need to state that human condition is a walk on the edge of that razor, and that every step lead as much above as below. Every footprint is an expression of the wisdom of the Bagua.

Why did I write this? I have been asking to myself some very simple questions. Is there a way to make this planet a Heaven for everyone? Where is written that in this world only some are entitled to live in Heaven at the cost of those who live in Hell? And those who pretend living in Heaven, are they truly living in Heaven, or are they making a Hell out of their lives hoping for a Heaven to come?

See, those who have made a Hell out of themselves are always aspiring to go to Heaven (…) Do you have any proof that you’re not already in Heaven and messing things up?Sadhguru

This post is mostly about narratives that humans use in the relation with their Self, and therefore, with Others. The way I treat myself is reflected in the way I treat Others. The narrative I use to describe (inner and outer) reality is the door. The attention to such narrative is the key.

[13] Intrate per angustam portam, quia lata porta et spatiosa via, quae ducit ad perditionem, et multi sunt, qui intrant per eam; [14] quam angusta porta et arta via, quae ducit ad vitam, et pauci sunt, qui inveniunt eam! — Mt 7:13–14

[13] “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. [14] But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. — Matthew 7:13–14

Introduction.

Structure and function. In this post, I will use very frequently the concepts of structure and function. These are two aspects for which every life being (or system of life beings) can be described. From one side, there is the physical and chemical structure. On the other side, the functions that the element (or the system of elements) is carrying out in relation to one or more contexts interplaying with the inner reality. These two aspects are complementary to each other at each point in time in a cyclical way. The structure changes functionalities by adapting to a continuously evolving environment. A successfully expressed function of the structure will contribute to the evolution of the structure itself. Therefore, structure and function of each life being are part of this dynamical process — which is called life. This movement, from structure to its functional expressions and then back to its structural evolution, is the wave (or cycle) of life. This is the very meaning of yin (structure, feminine principle) and yang (function, masculine principle).

The emotional life is interconnected with the physical and chemical structure of the body. Emotions are emerging complex phenomena from conscious and unconscious perceptions of life which affect the chemistry and chemical processes in the whole human body. This happens constantly and mostly in an unconscious way. However, following this emotional states, human mind tries to give a coherent and logical interpretation to it according to some of its functionalities. The chosen function will be expressed in a cognitive-behavioural pattern, and eventually into a sequence of actions. The outcome of this action and its consequences will produce a learning phase which is essential for the evolution of the whole structure. This learning phase closes the cycle.

Brain waves and levels of consciousness. With enough training, humans can observe that their perception of reality varies over time. In fact, the level of salience varies among and within subjects. In a few seconds or in a day, humans could observe themselves judging with a different depth and length. In fact, the same event can be judged in many different perspectives. The depth of these perspectives is the space horizon of their origin and consequences. The length is the time horizon of their origin and consequences. This happens naturally when moving from a state of agitation to a state of pre-sleep, for example. However, certain meditative practices train the ability to expand such attention to the present moment (i.e., presence, expansion of salience, sentience), and therefore, expanding self-consciousness and self-awareness (also called flow state).

Quality and quantity of sleep, water intake, diet, body movements, empathic connections and even physical aspects of the context in a given moment affect perception of (inner and outer) reality, and therefore, its judgment. With the word judgment I mean the narrative and the self-talk attached to a real event. However, judgment is not the outcome of only a logical process, but the emancipation of an emotional state leading to the application of yin-wisdom, transcendence, yang-wisdom, and eventually to ecstasy — from the Latin, staying outside of Self. A judgment requires knowledge, patience, will, and self-conduct.

A definition.

There are no bad people, there are people that under specific circumstances act in a dysfunctional way. Dysfunctionality is a behaviour led by fear. A functional action is an action which is optimised to find the best possible outcome according to the existing states of the inner and outer, known and unknown objective reality. Here comes the key issue: functionality is a matter of individual space and time perception. A dysfunctional act has a cost higher than its benefit, both in the short and long run. However, this cost can be partially outsourced and/or delayed. By doing so, the subject is convinced to act for their own benefit, but it is actually temporary incapable of calculating short, medium, and/or long term consequences of their own action. This incapability is due to the narrative (or frame) of reality adopted.

The mathematical structure of this pitfall has been largely described in network game theory. Especially, when considering the concept of myopic and farsighted players. That is, when agents have a different length and depth of perception of other players in the network.

Farsightedness means that players take into account the chains of reactions that might follow after their own initial deviation. (Source)

One of the argument of this writing is that the difference between evil and good may not be a clear cut, but a grey scale. In fact, the scale is given by different degree of depth and length in perception, understanding, and therefore, planning and acting. From an extremely myopic behaviour to an extremely farsighted one.

The law of karma (…) states that all actions have consequences which will affect the doer of the action at some future time. (Source)

It could be argued that modern economics (especially, finance) is the science of evil: postulating and advocating for a world of self-centered, selfish, egotist, compulsive, and insensitive myopic rational players. Note also that postulating myopic rationality implies a behaviour led by a left-brain dominance, which is inherently limiting and deviating human potential. Modelling k-farsighted players with a holistic, stochastic, and complex perception of reality would be a more realistic move — if ever possible and useful.

The strategic planning (i.e., imagining a sequence of actions which would potentially allow to reach a goal) is considered to be led by the prefrontal cortex. In cooperation with the parietal and temporal cortex, it elaborates mostly inputs data from the limbic system and insular cortex — in charge of sentience. The prefrontal cortex is actively leading in advanced shamanic practices with a transcendental aim and during deep sleep when the EEG (electroencephalograph) of the brain shows Delta Waves (0.5–4 Hz). On the contrary, a less dense (therefore, less used) prefrontal cortex is associated with psychopathy and other antisocial traits. The neurodevelopment of the brain is a fundamental process which needs to be better understood — genetic, cultural, informal and formal educational factors interplay with each other. Nevertheless, the most important thing to point out is that the main function that prefrontal cortex is to lead a movement of emancipation and elaboration. That is, moving from abstract to the concrete (emancipation), and vice-versa, from the concrete to abstract (elaboration). In this twofold process of information management, the prefrontal cortex is in fact coordinating most of the brain activities. When the brain waves increase from beta to gamma waves, consciousness (and therefore, brain activity) is scattered all over the places in the attempt to react from a life threat — real or perceived.

Revised Drive Theory.

Why do humans do what they do? The drive theory tells that a drive is an instinctual need, an excitatory state produced by a homeostatic disturbance.

Generative drive is about transcendence, literally “climbing above” the known reality by embracing it and exploring the unknown. Creative drive is about enriching the existence, literally “bringing something into being” from the unknown to the known reality. When operating in a given state of consciousness, generative and creative drives are responsible for the evolving movement of the structure and changing its functions. A creative drive reflects a movement from an emotional pleasant state of enjoyment to a rational state of understanding. A generative drive reflects a movement from the understanding through concrete experience to the learning how to growth and enhance that initial state of enjoyment.

Generative and creative drives also move the individual through different states of consciousness. Generative drives let the individual consciousness to move upward towards abstraction (emancipatory process), while creative drives move individual consciousness towards realisation (elaborative process). In fact, generative and creative drives are complementary processes. They describe what moves human beings from an initial state of inertia to a state of growth which will eventually modify that initial state through a learning process.

The origin of such drives in anchored to survival in this dimension of visible matter humans call reality. In fact, a primordial version of them are the aggressive and pleasure drives of the animal instinct. Aggressive and pleasure drives are necessary for survival when anchored to sensorial perception of reality. For example, if I smell an unpleasant smell coming from a hamburger stored in the fridge after 8 days, then human senses react to it. The logical mind could intervene by pushing those boundaries and focusing only on a ideal future pleasure — e.g., ‹‹yes, but think of how pleasant will be to feel full without the stress of going out to do groceries››. The result could be intoxication. Another example is the misuse of aggressivity out-of-context. Either not being enough aggressive when the circumstances may require to do so (e.g., a theft or an aggression) or being too aggressive (e.g., overreacting to an ideal threat). Concluding, when the aggressive and pleasure drives are anchored to the sensorial experience of reality, they become the foundations of creative and generative drives. On the other hand, when they are anchored on logical idealisations of reality they disconnect the Self from the reality itself in the attempt to preserve an idealised past comfort — but ultimately creating even more suffering.

Generative and creative drives are about connection, within and without. That is how human beings express love for something and/or someone. The opposite of connection is addiction, that is what aggressive and pleasure drives could create if mentally guided. Addiction to something and/or someone requires power, rule, and control. While generative and creative drives are expression of Love, aggressive and pleasure drives are expression of Power.

However, I want to avoid a dichotomy on this. First, each drive lies on a range from low to high. The functionality is due to the circumstances of the choice. For example, an aggressive drive may be necessary if a real life threat is present in the moment. Second, those drives interact with each other and mix in any given choice. In fact, pleasure and aggressive drives are the foundations of generative and creative drives. Third, a clarification of the intent may help identify the dominant drive of each choice. For example, making a distinction between a necessity, a need, a desire, and a greed; checking if they originated from a fantasy and/or imagination. Fourth, peer and group interactions, culture and environmental factors may require different drives for living. This aspect will be clarified in the next paragraphs.

Generative & Creative drives. Generative and creative drives belong to the divine level of human consciousness. ‹‹I am what I love›› and in fact in most of religions and spiritual schools, there is a huge amount of emphasis on the importance of Love for individual and collective spiritual growth. In one of my past blog posts, I tried to outline a systemic theory of love. However, Love (as humans usually know it) is a small part of the whole (Love) story. At first, everything starts with an attractive impulse which is at the origin of a pleasure drive. The attractive impulse emancipates into generative and then creative drives. The pathway of Love evolves into an unconditional state of Grace. Here below, I report what in the gospel is called the Greatest Commandment, or the Commandment of Love. The key message here is clearly to make the right (or just) choice (i.e., Jesus Christ — from the Sanskrit kri, choice) by acting with love, a genuine love for own Self, future Self, and therefore, for Others — all possible translations of the Latin proximum. To do this, it is therefore necessary to consider the consequences of each action.

The most important aspect of generative and creative drives is that the feedback humans get from following them is life charge. This means that the more life is guided by them, the more humans feel alive and (unconditionally) joyful. The more humans express their deep nature, the more this increases their vitality, efficiency, and well-being. The more humans follow those drives, the more mentally and physically healthy they feel. Do what you love and love what you do. Do not do what you feel unjust.

‹‹Mandatum novum do vobis, ut diligatis invicem; sicut dilexi vos, ut et vos diligatis invicem. In hoc cognoscent omnes quia mei discipuli estis: si dilectionem habueritis ad invicem.›› (Io. 13, 34–35)

‹‹Diliges Dominum Deum tuum in toto corde tuo et in tota anima tua et in tota mente tua: hoc est magnum et primum mandatum. Secundum autem simile est huic: Diliges proximum tuum sicut teipsum. In his duobus mandatis universa Lex pendet et Prophetae.›› (Mt 22, 37–40)

‹‹Diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo et ex tota anima tua et ex omnibus viribus tuis et ex omni mente tua et proximum tuum sicut teipsum›› (Lc 12, 27)

‹‹”Unus est, et non est alius praeter eum; et diligere eum ex toto corde et ex toto intellectu et ex toto fortitudine” et : “Diligere proximum tamquam seipsum” maius est omnibus holocautomatibus et sacrificiis.›› (Mc 12, 32–33)

Pleasure & Aggressive drives. Pleasure and aggressive drives belong to the animal (or instinctual) level of human consciousness, the survival mode. They both aim at finding and defending a comfort-zone. The pleasure drive is the elaboration of an attractive impulse, while the aggressive drive is the elaboration of a repulsive impulse. Pleasure drive is about finding and confirming the comfort. Aggressive drive is about conquering, adapting, and defending it. They are both complementary and sequentially connected to each other. A behaviour led by those drives is sustained by fear and it is expressed either in an impulsive and/or compulsive way. Compulsivity is a sign of inversion of polarity (see next paragraph). In this context, a compulsive behaviour is a set of action carried out in a repetitive, automatic (not consciously present), and dysfunctional way. Pleasure and aggressive drives are inherently anti-social and antagonist to any cognitive development — i.e., human evolution. For this reason, the evolutionary tension is amplifying these drives transforming them into to generative and creative drives.

This survival level of consciousness is the one with a deepest connection to reality. For example, the use of sugar, salt, and fat in processed food make the food more appealing to human taste. This is because humans had to develop receptors for those three elements which have been scarce in a primitive natural state. Another example is the sexual arousal biological women have towards dark personalities. For thousands of years, being on the side of the most dangerous, manipulative, and violent human being around was a winning survival strategy.

The survival level of consciousness is based on autonomic arousals. From gut feelings, chills, to insights and intuitions. This level of consciousness instantaneously and unconsciously moves the attention towards known and unknown realities. In front of a cheeseburger, I start drooling. In front of danger, I start panicking.

Unless there is no inversion of polarity (see below). Thinking is not really involved in this survival mode. For this reason, reconnecting to this level of consciousness is important to achieve resonance and empathy with others, but also expand the perception of reality. However, when survival becomes the only priority in life, aggression and pleasure drives may lead to an inversion of polarities — e.g., finding pleasure in aggression and/or aggressivity in pleasure.

Since the Axial age, humans have been living in a monetary-militarist socio-economic system where access to (a sufficient quality and quantity of) basic resources (water, food, sleep, and accommodation) is limited by law and this influences them to stay into an artificial survival mode most of the time. This the most uncomfortable truth that no one wants to hear. Even the most progressivist movements are giving up on this. In a world where selling oneself is the only way to survive, the spread of psychopathic narcissism is unavoidable. Dishonesty and egotism become survival skills. Instead of having anti-social traits being corrected by society, they are rewarded and reinforced generation after generation (see Dark Personality Traits & Capital Vices). Psychopathic narcissistic leaders, teachers, philosophers, and friends become the objects of this idolatry. They become the new Gods, Goddesses, priest and priestess of this evolving cult — called Capitalism.

Capitalism is heavily based in the collection of usury, which was condemned for centuries by the Church based in numerous scriptures. Christian opposition to the emergence of such an interest-based system largely delayed capitalist development and capitalism did not gather popular support until John Calvin endorsed capitalist practice from a religious perspective.[57]

For example, the switch from Marxist feminism to trans-feminism brings with it this untold defeat by the dominant socio-economic system. The key issue is that this type of society rewards and reinforces personality traits (or better, cognitive-behavioural patterns) that are dysfunctional. Moreover, it rewards any form of body dissatisfaction to increase the market of fast-fashion, plastic surgery, and similar. When a system of privileges needs to be accepted by the majority of those who otherwise can overthrown it, then it is necessary to let them be part of the game by promising some of the benefits. That’s the origin of modern financial capitalism: need money to make money.

[44] Omnes etiam qui credebant, erant pariter, et habebant omnia communia. [45] Possessiones et substantias vendebant, et dividebant illa omnibus, prout cuique opus erat. [46] Quotidie quoque perdurantes unanimiter in templo, et frangentes circa domos panem, sumebant cibum cum exsultatione et simplicitate cordis. — Act, 2:44–46

[32] Multitudinis autem credentium erat cor et anima una nec quisquam eorum quae possidebant aliquid suum esse dicebat sed erant illis omnia communia. [33] Et virtute magna reddebant apostoli testimonium resurrectionis Iesu Christi Domini et gratia magna erat in omnibus illis. [34] Neque enim quisquam egens erat inter illos quotquot enim possessores agrorum aut domorum erant vendentes adferebant pretia eorum quae vendebant. [35] Et ponebant ante pedes apostolorum dividebantur autem singulis prout cuique opus erat. — Act, 4:32–35

[29] discipuli autem prout quis habebat proposuerunt singuli eorum in ministerium mittere habitantibus in Iudaea fratribus — Act, 11:29

[33] vendite quae possidetis et date elemosynam facite vobis sacculos qui non veterescunt thesaurum non deficientem in caelis quo fur non adpropiat neque tinea corrumpit — Lc, 12:33

[24] nemo potest duobus dominis servire aut enim unum odio habebit et alterum diliget aut unum sustinebit et alterum contemnet non potestis Deo servire et mamonae — Mt, 6:24

[8] habentes autem alimenta et quibus tegamur his contenti sumus [9]nam qui volunt divites fieri incidunt in temptationem et laqueum et desideria multa inutilia et nociva quae mergunt homines in interitum et perditionem [10] radix enim omnium malorum est cupiditas quam quidam appetentes erraverunt a fide et inseruerunt se doloribus multis — Tim, 6:8–10

Inversion of Polarity.

In this section, I will try to explore the so-called inversion of polarity. Generative and creative drives may lose connection with reality and start focusing on unrealistic fantasies or plots. In this scenario, pleasure and aggressive drives shape the human behaviour, and therefore, the manifested personality. Pleasure and aggressive drives will move the individual through involutionary levels of consciousness. In fact, the inversion of polarity is a multidimensional process. For this reason, I will explore this by differentiating into several paragraphs. The general picture is given by the following characteristics: lack of generative and creative drives; limited empathic abilities; limited will to understand and learn anything new; and therefore, limited will to forgive.

At the origin of this inversion, there is probably the idea of separability between body, mind, soul, and spirit. This idea was largely boosted by institutionalised religions which ended up speculating on it — e.g., just do what I say and your soul will be saved for eternity. The idea that soul will die out with the body is still too scary for most of humans to be fully accepted. A realistic way to look at it is the metaphor of the transient glass of water. Birth is the act of filling a glass with water from the ocean. However, strangely enough, the glass itself is created in this act of taking the water from the ocean. This physical manifestation of the glass in this earthly dimension of matter is the body. The water inside the glass is the soul. The ocean and the act itself are the Spirit. However, the glass cannot really be separated from the water. Once I put back the water in the ocean, the glass will disappear. That is death. Is the soul still existing? Yes and no. For sure, not in an individual sense. Can the soul reincarnate? Yes and no. Again, not in an individual sense.

This concept is important to understand to avoid an egoic and misleading interpretation of reality. Things will be more clear in the next paragraphs. The paragraphs are named using the term “over”. I want to point out that this preposition highlight the dominance of something over something else. This means that in a normal state both aspect are equally present and dynamically balanced.

Reaction over Response. Any spiritual and esoteric school teaches practices aiming at creating an Observer — also called the Center, the Witness, the Guardian Angel, the Protective Jinn, the Open Hearth, the Soul, the Source, etc. The number of techniques is virtually infinite, but the aim is only one: training a human ability to achieve a space of consciousness which allow to observing oneself and its (inner and outer) reality from a larger perspective. The Observer is a space of consciousness which can help figuring out the big picture of each moment. According to my own research, there are mainly two types of practices necessary to train the Observer, both of them are nowadays scientifically grounded.

  1. Self-Presence. This is about training a regular complete check-in as many times as possible throughout the day. It starts with a body-check sustained by a physiological sigh. The physiological sigh (also known as yogic or tantric breath) requires a straight position of the back which ultimately helps you identifying tensions. While keeping this intent, the next step is to describe as much as possible the emotional and feeling states lived in that moment. It is important not to use narratives (i.e., judgments and/or self-definitions, etc.) in this description, but just acknowledge what is felt (check emotional granularity, here and here). This exercise requires a deep self-connection and understanding of own needs: sleep, sunlight, physical movement, nutrition & hydration, social connections, and functional breathing.
  2. Self-Remembering. This is about training a regular description of Self. This practice is about describing the chain of events happening in own life. Training this ability may require both life and dream journaling, active imagination, and other similar practices. A good starting point is to describe oneself in space and time from a third person perspective throughout the day.

There are thousands of ways to train these two faculties. Some people meditate 8 hours a day, some people pray, some others put themselves in extreme situations — e.g., hiking half-naked in the snow at the night. However, the goal is the same: master stress through difficulties — from Latin, differentis facultatis, (develop) a different capability. Stress is simply a mismatch between the internal state and the external demands. It requires a well-trained Observer to manage it.

Exploitation over Exploration. When humans are tuned only to their aggressive and pleasure drive in a survival mode, the exploitation of Others and extraction of Nature become the only possible life purpose. Reality becomes a race against everyone and everything. Every single person becomes either an ally or an enemy. Everything needs to serve the life purpose, which in this case is to survive despite everyone else. However, the concept of survival here becomes totally disconnected from reality. There are billionaires that thinks they needs to fight to survive. That is because every need became a greed. One may ask what is then missing from this picture? Exploration. Exploration is about flowing with life, being open to its new adventures and experiences. This is about being in a constant state of learning by cultivating the abundance of life which comes from a deep sense of trust.

A common misunderstanding excludes the connection between fear, laziness, and habits with exploitation. Nowadays, some humans are induced to think that exploitation is a synonym of efficiency, but it may be actually quite turn out to be the opposite. In fact, if I think that the world is full of threats (fear) I may choose to go around fully equipped with guns. Is that efficient? No, unless I am not in a battlefield. If I think that every effort is pointless, then I prefer to second my laziness. Is that efficient? If I think that every new thing is challenging my wellbeing, then I reinforce my habits and addictions. In simple words, exploitation becomes about reinforcing an addictive comfort-zone.

Power over Love. Another way to look at this is the victory of Power over Love. I do things because I cannot do otherwise / I have to (i.e., obligation), not because I love doing them. While Love looks for co-multiplication, Power looks for compensation. While Love is pro-social, Power is inherently anti-social. Power takes things personally, while Love can step out and see the big picture. Power tries to control reality, while Love tries to learn how to flow with it.

Where Love withdraws, Power triumphs. Power is hungry, while Love is contented. Power hides, while Love unveils.

Power does a great job in mimicking Love. In fact, sometimes even sexual arousal can be achieved through aggressivity. Even though they can be often intertwined to each other, these two forces are moved by different drives and purposes. Power seeks for control over things that are inherently out-of-control (e.g., future prediction, death, etc.). Love seeks joyful evolution through the exploration of the unknown, embracing the change and learning something new.

Conferring one’s potential to something external means affirming that the cause of what one feels is external. The bestowal of potential is the origin of Power. In fact, by stating this I have given to this (visible or invisible) external element the power to control “feeling” and therefore “thinking”. Whether this is a person or an event, its Power increases the more one believes in the power to influence one’s life.

Character over Actor. One aspect of this inversion of polarity is the dominance of the character over actor. The character is one of the manifested aspects of a personality, one of the possible functions of the actor. It is that aspect that is playing several roles in different social contexts (or social relationships) to get a recognised social position. The actor is the inner director of all these roles and keeps the helm holding and expanding a sense of identity following Love (and therefore, life charge). While the character looks for social recognition and appreciation, the actor looks for self-fulfillment and joy — which are unconditional to the social context.

The character allows a human to play efficiently the social game of life, the actor allows to have a big picture of it by choosing, changing, and learning from the game. And eventually, selecting those which are more functional and aligned with my deepest nature or trying modifying them. In this sense, it could be immediately noticed how these are in fact the two major complementary functions of the brain, the left-brain (character) and the right-brain (actor).

Nevertheless, when the sense of identity is fragile, the call for Love (and self-love) is weak, one of the played roles (character) takes over the whole personality. The character efficiently play only one or a few of social games. Like a very well-trained AI it does not have a deep connection with reality — if not for solving one single specific and automatic task. The consequences of this are devastating. First, the character will keep working based only on prejudices and preconceptions — like any machine learning script would do. Second, the increasing lack of Love will substitute generative and creative drives with pleasure and aggressive drives. The survival level of consciousness will be stuck in a survival mode, so that every need becomes a greed. Like a drug addict, a workaholic, a narcissist seeking attention and power, or a people-pleaser seeking approval, the machine gets trained and reinforced year after year.

Falsity over Reality (Alibi). Every time I lie, I distort my reality and other people’s reality. Any type of distortion of reality (or detachment from reality) changes its structure (e.g., chemical processes) but by weakening its functionalities — and therefore, its ability to act. A lie is like poisoned water that I drink first and then I force other people to drink. Since humans are deeply interconnected (i.e., six degree of separation) every lie is poisoning the whole humanity with different degrees of intensity. The concept of alibi is even more pernicious — from Latin, elsewhere. It is about the intent of negating my ability to face reality.

Other over Self (Comparison). Any type of comparison which leads to identification can be harmful. If I compare my present Self to an alien ideal, I am measuring reality with a fantasy. This is also reflected in a complaining self-pity narrative: “too much”, “too little”, “too good”, “too bad”, “always”, “every time”, “never”, etc. The adopted narrative is aiming at defining reality according to a fantasy — from Latin, to limit, state an end. This would inevitably compromises the functionalities of a structure which would try to get adapted into something unrealistic. For example, this happens when I compare the present Self to others or idols.

Future over Present. When future planning enthusiasm wins over the generative drive in the present moment, humans are mortgaging their present for an imaginary future outcome. Even though, they have a limited knowledge of reality and disdain their present. The enthusiasm should not be attached to the outcome, but to the present journey which would maybe allow to reach that desired outcome. Otherwise, humans expose themselves to traumas. Where trauma is simply defined here as a failure of cognitive structure to cope with reality.

Fantasy over Imagination. This is another important distinction to make to understand the inversion of polarity.

Fantasy is an external focus on mood-altering scenarios and false realities that I use to gain relief from the prodding discomfort of emotional and spiritual desires, longings, and hope.

Imagination is an internal focus on the desires of the heart that lead to full living. It is a courageous willingness to make the visions of the heart’s desires the highest goal. Imagination includes the knowledge that I may have pain in obtaining such desires, but ultimately my desires are more powerful than my pain. (…)

The first option keeps me where I am. The second option takes me on a journey into my heart. It’s the hardest yet most courageous choice I can make. [ Source ]

Fantasy is a process led by conscious thinking. Imagination is a process led by feeling here and now (i.e., sentience), which allows unconscious images to emerge naturally.

That said I unto you, to free you from the delusion that we are able to think about the pleroma. (…) Ye must not forget that the pleroma hath no qualities. We create them through thinking. (…) Not your thinking, but your being, is distinctiveness. Therefore not after difference, as ye think it, must ye strive; but after your own being. (Sermo 1, C.G. Jung, 1919).

Superstitions are fantastic beliefs (or illusions) accepted as truth — from Latin, staying above (reality). They are beliefs not anchored to reality.

The Law of Mirror (or Correspondence).

I go into the kitchen, my flatmate moved the table from one place to another. I feel annoyed. I start wondering why I feel annoyed: do I feel annoyed because they didn’t tell I (subjective cause — e.g., neglection, betrayal), or I feel annoyed because it is objectively blocking the access to my own shelf (objective cause)? The Law of the Mirror states that my internal state is projected outside. In other words, I was feeling annoyed (or unstable / susceptible) before even entering the kitchen. Once inside the kitchen, I externalise (or project) my inner state on that little detail. If there is an objective cause behind, then I can communicate without anger, frustration, or resentment. No “annoying feeling” is involved. But the key here is to understand how the state of consciousness and the narrative change the interpretation of reality itself.

Another way to explain the law of mirror is stating the following: the way I treat myself will reflect the way I treat others; the way I treat others will trigger a response that will confirm the way I treat myself. The narrative I am using to describe myself and the rest of the world will be reflected in my (conscious and unconscious) behaviour. My behaviour will influence also people around me. People around me usually will respond to such behaviour in a way that will confirm the narrative.

The story of the annoyed rabbit is another metaphor for this law. The rabbit in its hole was annoyed by the sound of animals stepping on the above ground and birds singing in the sky. Eventually, he decided to dig expanding the bottom of its house. So a few hundreds meters down, he decided to stop and rebuild its new house there. Nevertheless, after a few days the rabbit realised that there was still some noise coming from life all around the house. Hence, it decided to keep digging and digging.

The way back to the surface was farther and farther, but the noises did not stop chasing him. Year after year, it was expanding its hole until it finally reached the rock bottom and it couldn’t dig anymore. Finally happy about the achievement, it suddenly starts hearing a cricket. Unsuccessfully looking for it around the house, he was furious. Without sleeping and resting for the anger, it decided to move backwards towards the exit. Nevertheless, it got lost in its own labyrinth and finally starved to death.

This is extremely important in order to understand what I am gonna write next: the way I treat myself will be reflected in the way I treat others; therefore, the outer reality is mirroring the inner reality. All the processes I am going to describe next are happening within oneself. These processes reflects the attitudes kept in the inner world which therefore ultimately could manifest outside in the outer reality.

Dichotomy.

A dichotomous view of the world opposes to reality by negating oneself. Negation brings a monotonic conduct which leads to stagnation. Stagnation is reinforced by renouncing to live reality which leads to negligence. Negligence precludes reality by making the person inconclusive which ultimately reinforces the initial dichotomic view by rejecting reality itself. The feelings associated with this process could be:

  • Dichotomy — abandonment, betrayal, desperation;
  • Negation — blame, despise, incapability;
  • Stagnation — anguish, concern, errering;
  • Negligence — panic, apprehension, cowardice;
  • Inconcludence — sense of guilty, sense of duty, miserability;

According to my teacher, there are 10 leading manifesting tendencies of cognitive -behavioural patterns in which humans may react to an unsolved traumatic experience. However, for the sake of summary I re-interpreted and reduced them into two. These two main life pathways are also loosely connected to Jungian archetypes, The Saviour (or also Hero) and The Punisher (or also Villain). They represent two main different narratives adopted to bear a daily suffering from an unsolved trauma. As any other aspect of life, what looks separate is actually one unique process, a unique escape from pain. Both ways are in reality very much intertwined to each other and periodically switching their dominance in the same personality.

The way of the Saviour recognises that pain as an unfair but exceptional reality. The source of pain is logically processed. The suffering is yet alive and tempered by promising oneself that “no one else should suffer the same”. This is what my teacher calls the Victim-Martyr complex. The analytical and logical functioning is dominating the individual psyche. In fact, the source of pain is fragmented with extreme accuracy into small little details which are put together in order to create a coherent big picture of it. A fragile big picture that recursively and inevitably breaks down in the attempt to fully encompass reality — i.e., mental control. The Victim-Martyr complex is also the most common to be found in countries with a Christian ethos. The hypocritical moralist behaviour blamed by Friedrich Nietzsche was probably referring to this. The reaction to my own pain becomes the motivational source of self-hate manifested into an ultimate self-sacrifice on the altar of society: the world needs to see how wrong it was to punish me.

The way of the Punisher recognises the pain as part of a normal unfair reality. The source of pain is logically unprocessed. The suffering is yet alive and tempered by promising to oneself that “the world should suffer what I suffered”. This is what my teacher calls the Avenger-Persecutor complex. The emotional and compulsive functioning is dominating the individual psyche. In fact, the source of pain is emotionally active and outbursting on every little small trigger that the person inevitably will find on their way. The world is full of threats, a place unbearable to live in. Unless, it doesn’t fall under their emotional control — they inherently claim. This can be also expressed for example by putting down others around them and instilling a sense of inferiority. The reaction to my own pain becomes the motivational source of an ultimate sacrifice of Others: the world needs to suffer what I suffered. What characterises this way is the hate, the despise, the intolerance, the impatience (i.e., inability to understand own emotions and feelings) towards the generality of humankind.

In fact, both modalities develop into destructive spirals, inner-destructive (The Saviour) and outer-destructive (The Punisher). There is no space for generative and creative drives (aka self-love, learn, and growth), and therefore, there is no space for forgiveness. The Saviour could grant forgiveness only as a byproduct of Other’s submission. Even in this case, forgiveness becomes an instrument of power — not of love. Forgiveness is not perceived as a learning path for individual growth but as an act confirming a superior authority of the forgiving— e.g., I forgive you because I am legitimate (or I have the power) to do so.

What do they have in common? They belong to a similar matrix which my teacher uses to describe the expression of an unsolved traumatic experience. First, they are connected by the same feeling of being inconclusive with oneself which is fed by a sense of guilty, supported by a sense of duty, and/or expressed in a miserable narrative. Second, there is an absolute dichotomic view which is also reflected in the use of prejudices and preconceptions to condemn oneself — i.e., from the etymology, judge with harm. Third, choices are taken out of duty and obligation instead of free will. Fourth, every new opportunity is perceived as an obstacle or even a threat. Fifth, there is an extreme dependency towards others’ judgment which leads to a constant need for validation and appreciation. And finally, this internal narrative of self-victimisation calls out an implicit and explicit need for revenge. All the previous paragraphs describing inversion of polarity apply in both cases.

In both of them, the internal narrative is composed of 5 aspects. The very first pulse is to redirect suffering from trauma by feeding a mental narrative. Instead of asking “what I can learn from this/how I do not want to be”, I ask “why this happened”. This leads first to greed, which is a constant lack of self-fulfilment — i.e. it is never enough, “I could have done better”. A greedy narrative justifies a renunciation to (or giving up on) reality — i.e., renouncing to new opportunities, new challenges, etc. In fact, this attitude creates and reinforces pre-conceptions — i.e., reality does not need to be lived since past experiences can only repeat themselves, over and over again.

The actions expressed will be preclusive to reality — i.e., from etymology, to close before. This means that the action will be indeed a reaction, a compulsive way of acting. A repulsion towards reality leads to the reinforcement of (dichotomic and absolute) axioms. This means that reality does need to be explored but can be modeled making artificial hypotheses and absolute categorizations. This leads to an intentional opposition to reality which leads to evil. However, evil in this context is translated from the Italian malvagità, which etymologically means “not being at ease”. The monotony of this state will confirm the greeds.

In other words, this is a state very far from where I do feel in grace. In fact, I cannot see the beauty of opportunities around me (beatitude), I cannot find peace in myself, and therefore, I cannot learn through glory (i.e., feeling connected with reality).

Dark Personality Traits & Capital Vices.

In this paragraph, I will try to map dark personality traits with the deadly sins (or capital vices) by applying the framework exposed before and some of my teacher’s theoretical notions. It is important to remember the inversion of polarity in aggressive and pleasure drives as a result of unresolved trauma (see above). Therefore, the behaviour is generally impulsive and compulsive — e.g., too less thought and too much thought. The regeneration is endangered.

The origin of mental illness is not the suppression of pleasure and aggressive drives, but trauma. The traumatic experience is a cognitive failure reinforced through time — “this should not happen”. This failure is the insufficiency of the cognitive structure provided by society up to that point in time. When life is teaching you lessons you are not rationally ready to learn. The trauma is avoidance of any understanding of reality which would eventually welcome that event as part of it (acceptance) — “this also happens in life and therefore I need to learn dealing with it and its consequences”. Where “dealing” is not triggering a compensative behaviour (projecting the problem outside) —i.e., the saviour and/or the punisher. Instead it is about learning within myself, “how I do not want be”.

Devil — from Greek “dia-” (through) and “-bolos, bolein” (to throw), to separate or to break into two pieces. Misgiving.

  • Machiavellianism. Avaritia (greed). Feeling incapable of satisfaction and gratification towards oneself, opportunistic, exploitative, and/or competitive behaviour. Excess of aggressivity expressed through excess of pleasure-seeking.
  • Sadism. Luxuria (lust). Feeling incapable of fulfilling pleasure and (unconditional) joy, need for excess. Excess of pleasure drive expressed through excess of aggressivity.

Demons — from Greek “δαίμων” (daimon, gen. daimonos): “lesser god, guiding spirit, tutelary deity”, but also coming from daiomai with the meaning of to divide or to lacerate. Addictions, habits, automatisms, cognitive biases and heuristics.

  • Victimhood . Acedia (sloth). Ill-will, impotence, frustration, resignation, apathy. Excess of pleasure drive expressed through a defective aggressivity.
  • Psychopathy. Invidia (envy). Obsessive greed (never enough), bitterness, merciless, pitiless, rumination. Excess of aggressivity expressed through defective pleasure drive.

Satan — From the Hebrew term śāṭān (Hebrew: שָׂטָן) a generic noun meaning “accuser” or “adversary”, and is derived from a verb meaning primarily “to obstruct, oppose”. Enemy of Self, opposition to reality. Perversion.

  • Dishonesty. Gula (gluttony). Lie to Self and others, manipulative (also people-pleasing). Excess of pleasure drive expressed with a defective aggressivity.
  • Neuroticism. Ira (wrath). Impatience, intolerance, resentment, anger, revengeful, polemic. Excess of aggressivity expressed with a defective pleasure drive.

Lucifer — From the Greek Septuagint ὁ ἑωσφόρος ὁ πρωὶ, as “morning star”, “day star”, or “shining one” indicating the planet Venus. Perdition.

  • Narcissism. Superbia (pride, hubris). Megalomania, egotism, arrogance, oppression, condemnation. Excess of both drives.

The origin of conflicts.

Every conflict is an identity conflict, for the simple fact that any defined subjective identity is a temporary illusion. Identity is the attempt to unify and harmonise an evolving and functionally fragmented structure. Ignoring this fact manifests into a polarity inversion (see above) — i.e., I am what I think I am. The inversion of polarity leads to destructive conflicts. As explained before, when a survival mode leads the human consciousness and dark personality traits are justified, a destructive conflict becomes a natural consequence following the law of mirror. In this survival mode, humans prefer to be polemic instead of critical — from Greek, polemos as war, judging with the intent of destroying.

Every conflict that leads to war (lose-lose stage) is a compounded sequence of mistakes from both sides (aka destructive conflict). At that stage, no one is innocent anymore. Nonetheless, both sides will cherry-pick different events and starting points in the story to prove the other party they are wrong — ontologically, wrong.

In modern times, almost no one engages in a conflict only for lack of natural resources. Even if someone does, they need to sort out the list of possible candidates by expressing preferences. This operation ranks who is entitled to have access, control, and possession on those resources, and who is not in different degrees. The final step requires inferences on how much would it cost to engage in a fight with all the candidates — and this will surely changes the ranking of potential contenders.

This is an example of how subjectivism and objectivism both play a role in justifying and making wars. The need to choose enemies to validate and affirm an identity and the need to infer costs of fighting that enemy are two stages of the same process. Both extremes reflect a lack of inner peace — and therefore, a need for war.

I need to acknowledge the immensely valuable contribution that my spiritual teacher and his philosophy (dp Filosofia Applicata) had on my writing.

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Teodoro Criscione

Ph.D. student in Network and Data Science (Central European University). Junior Researcher at Freiburg Institute For Basic Income Studies (Freiburg University).