How can we free ourselves from mental suffering? How can we unlock what the poet William Blake referred to as "the mind-forged manacles" - those unhelpful, unfounded and inflexible habits of thought which keep us from reaching our true creative potential?
This book provides practical advice on how to achieve this.
But it also offers an imaginative holistic theoretical framework for an understanding of the nature of the universe, the psychological history of the human race and the meaning of life.
The aim of this book is to set you free. But free from what? Free from neurosis. Free from the feeling that you have to obey authority. Free from emotional intimidation. Free from addiction. Free from inhibition.
The key to happiness, mental health and being the most that we can be is absolute and unconditional self-acceptance. The paradox is that many of our problems are caused by trying to improve ourselves, censor our thinking, make up for past misdeeds and struggling with our negative feelings whether of depression or aggression.
But if we consider ourselves in our entirety in this very moment, we know these things :
1. Anything we have done is in the past and cannot be changed, thus it is pointless to do anything else but accept it. No regrets or guilt.
2. While our actions can harm others, our thoughts and emotions, in and of themselves, never can. So we should accept them and allow them to be and go where they will. While emotions sometimes drive actions, those who completely accept their emotions and allow themselves to feel them fully, have more choice over how they act in the light of them.
Self-criticism never made anyone a better person. Anyone who does a “good deed” under pressure from their conscience or to gain the approval of others takes out the frustration involved in some other way. The basis for loving behaviour towards others is the ability to love ourselves. And loving ourselves unconditionally, means loving ourselves exactly as we are at this moment.
This might seem to be complacency, but in fact the natural activity of the individual is healthy growth, and what holds us back from it is fighting with those things we can’t change and the free thought and emotional experience which is the very substance of that growth.
Divide and conquer - that is a key philosophy in military campaigns. And the same applies to the individual. An individual at war with themselves is easily dominated or controlled by others. If we want to become a free individual the way to do so is through individuation, allowing the divided parts of our nature to integrate into a unified whole.
We may feel that there is within us a battle between the desire to do things we feel are right and the desire to do things we feel are wrong. The battle of good and evil.
But what are good and evil?
Good is that which contributes to the health of the individual or the society or wider ecological system of which they are a part.
So what do we mean by evil? We could say that evil is anything which adversely effects the health of the individual or the system. But the term “evil” is a very strong one. Selfishness has a negative impact on the health of the system by interfering with the free flow of material, information or energy. But we wouldn’t consider minor acts of selfishness, like eating more than our share of a piece of cake, to be evil. Evil is a term we use to describe those acts which cause significant suffering or otherwise do major harm. The essence of evil is the imposition of the will. If we take something from somebody against their will - their life, their property, their dignity, their humanity - this is clearly evil. But also it is an act of evil to try to control another’s behaviour through fear or guilt or other forms of deliberate manipulation. The fact that such behaviour has a dire impact on the health of the individual and the social system can be demonstrated when we consider that the worst forms of socially-sanctioned cruelty we know of - the Holocaust, the witch burnings, the Spanish Inquisition, the stoning to death of women by the Taliban - have been the work of societies in which the repression and control of the individual through fear and/or guilt were the norm.