Consciousness and the unconscious

There is no morality beyond what people imagine is right or wrong or Ought to be. People with these imaginings evolve through natural selection, from being a social species, and we may observe different people with different ideas about what Ought to be, and what they value, and from that construct a morality to achieve the best result for that society.

Shakespeare thought that arguable: he has Hamlet say There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

I used to think my morality is for me– that is, when I have a thought about what is the right thing to do I should do it myself, not impose it on others. I don’t know their difficulties or blind spots. Now I think others’ morality is for anyone but themselves, something they can agree on to judge a victim together, to feel good about themselves.

If we construct a morality to enforce our will, this depends on not knowing what we are doing. If we imagine ourselves to be moral people, we could not bear to be aware of using morality as a weapon.

This not knowing why we do what we do applies to lots of things. An example from the NYT:

We think we are sharing news stories in order to do one thing, like transfer knowledge, but much of the time aren’t really trying to do that at all — whatever we may consciously think.

Someone asked whether Mr Trump believes what he says. That ignores why people say things- to enforce dominance or show submission, to build community, to evoke feeling- Mr Trump’s insight is that truth does not matter in doing these things. His opponents might care but his supporters don’t.

As an evolved being, it matters whether I can reproduce, and whether I am conscious of what I am doing depends on whether that increases the likelihood of reproduction over fooling myself. I am not sure it does.

So morality may be an illusion. How could it not be, when pretty much everybody crashes through the world hurting other people and hurting themselves – cheating, lying, sneaking, betraying, laying about them with the broad sword?

And so, consciousness, in which morality plays such a part- mine more or less OK, others’ a mess of viciousness and hypocrisy- must be illusory too. And morality goes beyond conscious impressions into analysis. Under the self-forgiveness I find self-blame.

We have to live with the best we can do, and with disagreement. Often I know what I am doing but not beforehand that I will choose it. I can be in two minds, knowing I ought to get up and shower, and deducing that I don’t want to only from the fact that I don’t, because consciously I imagine that I want to. From this I deduce that unconscious motivation is in control, and conscious motivation- what before thinking about it I would tell myself or others that I wanted- is often illusion.

Or the mechanism linking desire to action is in some way broken, that I want to do something but that does not mean I do it. Then “I” could still be perfectly good, and do bad things haplessly.

So it is necessary to sit in contemplation of what one imagines one wants. Setting words aside I imagine a possible or remembered act and consider what I feel about it. Or I consider what I have actually done in particular situations, rather than what my self-image tells me I ought to (want to) do. Was my past act triumph, failure or simply what emerged from me in the circumstances at the time?

Imagining I could do better may be false reassurance, imagined safety from similar mistakes.

There is a human being, that acts and desires, sees and fails to see, but it is so much more than consciousness.

I am the Monkey-mind

It seems to me that I am conscious and rational, and that I make decisions. The illusion is so perfect, it is hard to see how anyone ever sees through it. You want to believe, and can rationalise almost any evidence against, after the fact.

So, I became aware of the emotional being underneath this conscious self, and still thought I could make the decisions. I just have to cajole it a bit. I am, after all, the adult. Rather than telling it what to do, so that it goes in a huff, I would persuade it, show it why, and it would come round.

It’s like riding an elephant, except I don’t know if I am the Mahout, fully in control most of the time except when the elephant gets Really Annoyed and stops responding to the reins, or just riding along. Like a child in Mummy’s car, with a toy steering-wheel, imagining I was driving the car.

Or the elephant is God. Sometimes it deigns to explain things to me, and sometimes it just expects me to work things out, and does nothing about it when I fail, because I will work it out eventually. Forty years later I begin to work it out, and it welcomes me; because it could not give me any clues, just will me to succeed. It was doing its best to look after me.

I am still planning and scheming. It will do what I want, I know it will, there must be some magic reins or steering wheel that actually work, I have the brains and the intelligence and the silver tongue and the command of language and the persuasiveness and the sane ideas of what it ought to want so that I can get it to DO MY WILLLLL

Possibly, it is in control and gets me to think something through occasionally. That could be my purpose. Here am I “thinking”, all the time, much of it just rehashed stuff from before and irrelevant stuff about all those bits of the world I know about but will never see or affect, or imagining future heavens or hells which have not the slightest chance of coming to be or connection to reality, and then it wants some Slow Thinking done, and it gets me to do it. Or that is all subconscious too, and the words in my mind are just the echoes of it.

I am the monkey-mind! I am as much use as a pet monkey?

Which part, conscious or subconscious, is the Writer? I like to hope it is both of us.

Being Human II

There is a phenomenon which moves through forces generated within itself, which continually takes in and expels matter. When that matter becomes part of “it”, or whether the 2-3 kg of symbiotic bacteria living on or inside it is part of “it”, is a question making it even more difficult to state what “it” is. Similarly it continually takes in ideas and sense-impressions, which it processes. Increasingly, “I” do not feel that the word “I” relates to any particular part of this phenomenon. It is greater than I know. Specifically, it is greater than anything I could identify as my conscious self, and I don’t know what consciousness is.

Just as my brain will form patterns from what I see, which leads to optical illusions, so possibly consciousness is an illusion, a set of sensations or processes within the phenomenon imagined to be one continuous discrete phenomenon. But memories pop into consciousness from somewhere, “the unconscious”, or words can elude me- “It’s on the tip of my tongue”- so the conscious self is continually affected by the unconscious.

I know there is no homunculus living inside my skull and looking out- I know this because I am aware of where my toes are, right now (in “toe separators” so that I can apply “superGel” candy pink colour, actually. The things we do for beauty.) “I” am the whole phenomenon, unconscious and conscious. I know that the conscious part is not the decision making part: where subjects were told to move one of their hands, and to choose which one to move, brain scanning equipment showed a choice made within the brain before the subject was aware of it. So my conscious may be of benefit to the phenomenon to explain its decisions, to rationalise rather than to decide.

I can tell you without consciousness of lying what I would do in a particular situation, then find myself in that situation and do something else entirely. So, consciousness may have the effect and benefit for me of fooling others. I would say that if I were sexually assaulted I would resist, but for the fact that when I was sexually assaulted in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, in the late 1990s I did not. I don’t know what I would do. I hope I would resist.

I know I am not “rational”, if by that you mean doing what is clearly in my interests, rationally calculated. I have desires which are irrational, and depending on how important it is to me to appear rational I am conflicted. I have desires which conflict in any case. “I hope I would resist” shows conflicting, unknown desires.

Sometimes I am aware of what I am feeling, and sometimes I am not. Sometimes feeling overwhelms me, and it seems like if I try to suppress it the unconscious part of me will not be ignored, and makes me cry or shout to make me conscious of it; or I can simply feel it without external sign. Sometimes there is external sign without me being conscious of the feeling.

I can remember the process when it was younger, when most of the atoms and cells of which it is made up, and most of its ideas, were different, and in some way it seems to make sense to call that earlier process “me”. Perhaps this is simply because the culture suggests we do.

I feel “leadings” in the Quaker manner. I feel “moved”. It seems to me these things emerge from my unconscious rather than from some supernatural power; but in my experiences religious practices such as the Quaker meeting have value.

Desire, action, achievement

I discover what I want, when I observe what I do. That is, the desires I actually act upon are opaque to me until I look back and see what I have done, where I have gone.

For example, either two and a half years ago I went from almost complete inadequacy, applying for a few jobs, doing voluntary work badly, to utter complete inadequacy, moping round the house all the time; or, alternatively, I withdrew from the World in order to have time and space for my psycho-spiritual healing. I would rather believe the latter, and it makes some sort of sense. I have healed, having greater acceptance and less pain.

There was certainly no conscious intention behind it. It felt like a failure, being unable to go on any more. Yet I could say that my whole organism, unconscious as well as conscious, has benefited, and perhaps moved towards what she knew would benefit her. On one view, I have Failed, on the other I have Acted, for my own good. Which would you rather believe?

I would rather believe the truth: but belief in failure makes me despair; and belief in my action is at least arguable.

I shared on facebook the mystic cryptic phrase I learn what I want when I see what I do and Lena misinterpreted it, thinking I wrote about what I chose to learn, rather than learning as a matter of observing what was in front of me. Derek got it: his Psychosexual Somatics Therapy course was very much about shadow motivations.

I used to think that I thought things through, made a rational decision, then carried it out. However what I did for that rational decision often had no real motivation behind it, and I did not follow through. Rather, I achieve worthwhile goals; but I start pursuing them before I realise, consciously, what the goal is. This thought comes from Serra considering a particular incident. I wanted that, but did not consciously understand it immediately.

It was a shadow desire, to heal, not one I could consciously admit. Consciously, I imagined I needed to get a job, and could do it. I want to allow my desires to be conscious, like my emotions become. It is hard for me to kick against the goads, hard for me to have conscious and unconscious at war, mutually despising.

It is strange, taking pride in what shamed me so deeply: the old pain of that shame washes over me, and as I delight in the pride, joy weeps.

Cranach, Judith and Holofernes II

What I believe

John Martin, The Last Judgment detail- Gabriel and the WhoreHaving been challenged that what I believe is rubbish, I should say what I do. Two Christian beliefs particularly offend atheists as ridiculous and groundless: that there is a God who acts in the world, and that after our death something of us survives in Heaven or Hell.

Afterlife first. Jesus quoted, there will be neither marrying nor giving in marriage. So any afterlife would be very different from what we know now. There is an old line, recently quoted in Doctor Who, that speculating about it is like unborn babies speculating about what the World is like. How could we know? Official Catholic doctrine is that there is a bodily resurrection: even our “mortal body” will come to life again. Our lowly bodies will be like Christ’s glorious body- so no illness, possibly no tiredness after effort. Would there be anything I could not lift?

Much of my conscious thought is irrational and repetitive. Right now, Witch Hunt by Rush runs in my mind as an ear worm. When I cycle, at one moment I notice my surroundings, especially if a car calls my attention or my effort, or an ear worm, or a worry. It is not at all like writing. Unconscious perception becomes conscious where necessary. A lot of it relates to other human beings. A lot of it relates to needs, hunger, thirst, tiredness- if all that was taken from me life would be boring, yet Heaven can’t be boring either. The being in an afterlife would be so different from me that even if it retained some of my memory and experience, even some of my characteristics, it would not be me.

I am happy to say I don’t know, don’t anticipate resurrection, and am focused on life here. Hell does not exist, though, except in human imagination- the North Korean prison camp, the serial killer- again, here on Earth.

Arguably, Jesus was focused on life here, too. Repeatedly in Jewish texts between 600 BCE and 135 CE the Story of Israel is told. God chose God’s people, rescued them from Egypt and led them to the Promised Land after forty years in the Wilderness to do 420 miles. They made a covenant, that the people would obey God, but the people never did. God used Babylon and Persia as God’s instruments, and Israel was in exile. The release from exile had not happened, but God’s anointed King would come, and all the World would worship the One True God in Jerusalem. Spurious Messiahs arose, up to Simon bar-Kochba, to lead the Jews to miraculous conquest.

Jesus used Death as a metaphor most clearly in the lines “Let the dead bury their own dead” and “My son was dead, and is alive again”. Jesus sought to bring people into the Kingdom through example and in Love. No, the Jews would never conquer the world militarily, but the idea of Jahweh might- God is Love, worshipped now by 2.18 billion Christians. The Kingdom of Heaven is Now, in the hearts minds and acts of all of us seeking to create it here on Earth.


Insofar as I know anything of myself, I know I want to belong.

The usual procedure to join Quakers is this. The applicant writes to the area meeting, which appoints two visitors to report on the application. Then the AM considers the application, and decides on it. Some meetings are experimenting with other ways, which the rule book says are equally valid, but when we considered a meeting for clearness instead, my AM decided to do the thing we have always done. For the first time, I was one of the visitors.

I thought of my own membership application. I was granted membership in February 2002, just before I decided I had to transition, as soon as possible. I was feeling frightened and alone at the time, and it seemed to me so strongly yesterday that being granted membership, being accepted within this group, gave me the confidence I needed to decide finally to go for transition, at a time I felt so frightened and alone.

I want to belong. I want a social group where I fit. Quakers is perfect for that, having the practice of worship without the belief in dogma: respect for others and belief in equality. I can be me.

This desire has been unconscious in me, moving my conscious acts. Now, it feels a very high priority, I want to know what it means; before I would have taken it for granted.

I don’t feel I do. Belong, I mean. The questions, what do people want of me, what do they expect, how can I give it, is X upset or angry with me- are so important. That may be my greatest source of fear, and the perceived non-acceptance my greatest source of anger.

So here’s this conscious bit of me, patiently working things out. I want to feel I am doing something useful. I want not to feel fear or anger. I want to belong. Underneath it seems there are conflicting desires and emotions.

I want to work this all out.

Whether that “I” is the conscious bit, or the whole of me, or some peculiarly dominant part of the unconscious, I want to work this all out. So, paradoxically, I am not at the Quaker this morning (18th) while I work it out. Or I am testing the boundaries: will I be accepted even if I do not go to the meetings? Will someone contact me for a chat? That would be nice. Yes, I want to test the boundaries, the tension between Being Me- feminine, intuitive- and fitting into some social group. I had thought I could not possibly Belong and Be Me, so I tried to make a rational/intellectual man of myself. Then that became impossible, my desire to express myself was too great: I will not suppress myself in order to conform, I liberate my intuitive self-

and I want to belong.

This is the human dilemma, being yourself and fitting in, which we explore as toddlers and teens and which has restricted me to Contemplation rather than action since April last year.


If I am to trust my instincts, the Collective Unconscious, and my unconscious self,
so that as my body picks the muscles necessary for a task,
so also my Highest Self crafts my responses in a situation,
then I must respond out of Love and not Fear, Love which includes Trust.
Love for that Highest Self. Love for others as myself.
Perfect Love driveth out all fear.

Cos I’m terrified. I really am. All that checking, all that obsessive
checking, past, present and future, all that rumination of the Monkey mind
constantly stressed, reliving the stress, looking for reasons to fear,
collecting them, hoarding them, examining them, picking over them-
Old Fear, current Fear-

The answer is God, that is, Love.
And- this is not nice, this is not sweet

I want to scream,
I Hate you All
Fuck off, and Die

and still be accepted.
So I have to do the accepting.
I still have to do the accepting.

Or, how about this?
I want to be free to- scream “fuck off and die”, whatever
if I need to, if I choose to, and not be seeking acceptance.
To choose whatever and accept any bad consequences for the benefit I gain.
That is what I imagine I might gain from self-acceptance.

This is the mechanism. I feel anger or fear caused by an external stimulus.
I then feel anger and fear that I have that feeling. I am afraid of my own feeling.
Then, because the feelings are so unbearable, I shut down my awareness of them.
I need to accept all these painful feelings,
accept my own emotional being and my reactions to reality.
Then my feelings will work for me. Then my self-protection will protect me.
Seeing this, and working on it, is worth the time I spend on it.

How might I look when I have done this work? I don’t know.
My speculation on that, insofar as it is inaccurate, is a barrier to the work.
I need to accept and trust the result.

I love Danielle LaPorte’s “Inspiration driven questions”:

The fear-driven questions of human interaction…

What will they think of me? I better do what will make me look good.
What do they expect of me? I better give them what they want, when they want it.
What can I get from them? I better be clever to get what I want.

Liberation-driven questions:

Is this moving me forward?
Do I feel more like myself?
Does this feel expansive or contracting?
How can I be generous here?

Memories, dreams, reflections

I wanted to arrive in the blonde wig, as it is prettier, so I changed into it in the Tube. (This was the night before U’s party.) I noticed no-one staring, and what if anyone had? People mind their own business on the Tube. I felt powerful, as if anything could happen. On to the HAI gathering. Here, we caress each others’ faces and hands, as well as hug a lot and make soft eye contact. Previously, I have taken off the wig, in order to feel the touch, better; now I keep the wig on, to be seen as female.

Insomniac after the party, I go to the bookshelves, and find Beginner’s Guide to Jungian Psychology by Robin Robertson. Aha, a synchronicity! I have borrowed it. A book from 1992 is perhaps not the best guide, as understanding moves on, but it will do for now: it clearly explains the complexity of the thought.

I wanted a Spiritual understanding of life, so that Spiritual healing might be more than mere placebo, and perhaps the Collective Unconscious will do it for me. Here, I find a Spiritual quote:

At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the season. There is nothing in the Tower that has not grown into its own form over the decades, nothing with which I am not linked. Here everything has its history and mine; here is space for the spaceless kingdom of the world’s and the psyche’s hinterland.

However, that is not the intent of the book: instead, it anchors Jung’s thought within scientific materialism:

There is good reason for supposing that the archetypes are the unconscious images of the instincts themselves, in other words, that they are patterns of instinctual behaviours… The hypothesis of the collective unconscious is, therefore, no more daring than to assume that there are instincts… The question is simply this: are there or are there not unconscious universal forms of this kind? If they exist, then there is a region of the psyche which one can call the collective unconscious.

As I have read elsewhere, the brain may be seen as a core shared with reptiles, where the most basic instincts reside; a higher area shared with mammals, and a highest area shared with other primates. Reptiles show signs of primitive dreaming; mammals dream.

The Archetypes, centres of those accretions of thoughts and memories which form Complexes, are shared because they are instinctual ways of behaving hard-wired into the brain. Just as kittens play-fight together, learning the chase and honing their skills, so people respond instinctively to a wide variety of situations. Dreaming helps us to consider such situations beforehand, as with the wet dreams preceding sexual activity, and to adjust our responses to the particular situation. We have more complex instincts than reptiles, and a better way of adapting our responses, but the origin can be seen in the reptiles. And then, as well as our dreams, we have conscious analysis to help us adapt further. But we are not that consciousness alone, but the underlying instincts and responses. We are hard-wired to learn language, for example.

This does not refute a Spiritual reality behind matter, or the flow of Qi, but it provides a materialist basis for some apparently Spiritual experience. Using my intuition to empathise with another, I do not need a psychic link: I can simply access those instincts we share.

The brain, according to this book, is more powerful than I had imagined. Memories are held throughout it rather than being recorded in a particular area. Perhaps all sense-impressions are recorded permanently: our recognition of images is “essentially perfect” (p32).

The author leaves room for a spiritual explanation, quoting Rupert Sheldrake’s theories. And he supports the possibility of spiritual work:

Once we record and interact with our dreams, a bridge begins to form between consciousness and the unconscious. With more rapid access between them, growth and change accelerates. Once we become aware of them, our dreams react to our awareness.

A pity I do not generally recall my dreams. I have not finished the book, and will return to this. Paradoxically, a materialist underpinning of spirituality enables me to respect and trust it more: all except refreshing my Qi from the energy of the Universe by particular hand movements. But then, if I want to do those hand movements, and they make me feel better, why ever not?


On this search for self-acceptance, I have still sought who I am innately. This is a hangover from the long quest to find if I were “really” transsexual, and if so, what should I do about it.

But then, ten years ago, I was 35, and now I am 45. Young people equate happiness with excitement, old people equate happiness with contentment, in the middle I equate it with both. I was actually noticing signs of ageing then, it seems I have more to notice now, they may or may not be more noticeable. I notice more changes in the world around me, and remember more how it was different at another time.

And in 2001 I started taking testosterone suppressants, and oestradiol. That changes me. I cried three times in 1996, sometimes I cry daily for a week or more.

The religious path is one of growth and change.

If I am really intuitive, feelings-based, rather than rational, why should that be life-long?

Underneath it all, the Unconscious influences so much of what I do, and my thinking on motivation is so often a post-hoc rationalisation, as accurate as a hurried journalist, not understanding and missing the point.

I am an organism within a permeable skin, always changing, taking in and excreting. How could I, really, get a handle on any of what I am? How could I have self-acceptance, if that depended on any sort of understanding, anything I could categorise or name or define?

I- just- am.