(Those who admire the way I think seem to enjoy my explanations of how it works. Those who find my thinking flawed might be interested in the origin of those flaws. In either case, as Rod Serling used to say, “submitted for your approval…”)
One of my greatest teachers warned of “awakening the kundalini backwards”. I’ve spoken on this before, but it has an interesting political and philosophical aspect worth unpacking (yeah, I like that word. Sue me).
The “Kundalini” is said to be the intrinsic human energy (similar to but more specific than “ki” or “chi”) which arises when certain conditions are met. Generally, this involves clearing away fears and blockages on different “chakra” levels, and can be interpreted as resolving issues related to survival, sex, power, emotions, and communication. It isn’t necessary to consider this something spiritual or esoteric–it is also a nice model of a fully functional human being. Of the path to using more of your human potential through balanced growth.
The full statement is: “you can awaken the kundalini from the root up, or the heart out, but never EVER from the head down.”
I interpret this as follows: as infants, we start with immediate experience of our environment, learn what causes us pleasure and pain, learn to manipulate and navigate the world, form emotional connections. The emotional connections mature from pure “give me what I want” to, at some point, a sense that the Other–generally Mommy and Daddy, initially, have their own feelings and needs. Often we do this for our friends BEFORE we do with Mom and Dad, leading to disillusionment when we discover Mom and Dad are ‘just” human. It is a sign of wisdom when you transition from seeing them as Gods to Humans early in life, with compassion and appreciation.
So…you can begin the process of growth by asking “what is true?” about the world, and learning directly, later forming ideas about what exists, and then comparing your observations and experiences with those of others–study. The mental level. But it is GROUNDED in your actual experience of life.
That’s one way to go. The other is “from the heart out”. This is to start with an emotional connection with the world, slowly expanding through self-expression and learning to navigate and control your environment. Coming from love. The first approach is often coming from fear, however. There is nothing wrong with coming from fear, as long as you learn to resolve it and see that the other half of the equation is love. And nothing wrong with coming from love, so long as you understand that there are genuinely things to fear. For instance: starting with the assumption that all human beings are connected, all groups basically equal, but having different experiences that trigger different behaviors.
What then does “from the top down” mean? It means to build a map of reality before you have actually experienced it, and think your concepts trump actual experience. It is said that the origin of frustration, and the thing that angers people most, is when reality doesn’t match their expectations. Boy oh boy, is that a risk for people like this!
This is not to criticize intelligence. Intelligence is problem-solving, and great. But WISDOM is knowing what problems to solve, and frankly one of the most important problems is “how do I get out of my intellectual box and experience life?”
Some of the absolute worst human errors seem to come from this tendency. Communism, for instance, strikes me as a system that works great if everyone knows each other and volunteers to play the game. But the amount of social engineering necessary to FORCE people into that box? Ghastly. It seems to totally ignore actual human psychology: the average human being simply won’t work as hard for strangers as they will for their own children.
How did such a mistake happen? I don’t know for sure, but when I studied Karl Marx and learned that from one perspective, his children seem to have suffered hugely while he was spending his days in London evolving a complex philosophy, that suggested that he and I had little in common on some basic levels. That from MY perspective, he was disconnected from basic human drives, trying to create a model of the world rather than actually engaging with it.
That he was more connected to his head than his heart. To his theories than the actual physical realities. And that led him to make a key mistake that, IMO, has led to a vast amount of misery.
He mistook his map for the territory. His ideals for reality. He tried to re-shape the world based on his beliefs about the way it SHOULD be, rather than asking what it was.
He awakened his kundalini backwards.
There is here a divergence of philosophies. There are those who believe they can “figure it out.” That their understanding of facts and data trumps the experience of the people who actually experience the life in question. That might be true if there is a vast difference in intellectual capacity…or might not be true even then, depending on what one considers “knowing.” A single bite of cake allows you to “know” the cake in a totally different way from absorbing an entire library of information about the history, chemistry, culture, process, or design of cakes.
There is no amount of information about salad I can give you that is as nourishing as actually eating the salad. Totally different domains of knowledge and understanding. Absent some huge difference in capacity, I find no practical reason for assuming that an intellectual understanding of something trumps actual experience. And even WITH that huge gap, only a specific selection of values I cannot support would prioritize data over actual being.
Philosophy is primary: “what is true?”. Politics secondary “how shall we proceed?” I dislike politics because I’ve seen it as a corruptive, where people prioritize winning over “what is true?” Hide information that your “opponent” needs to make their argument effectively. That’s not something you do if you are interested in truth. Only “winning” as your highest good explains that.
But there are arenas of my life where I am impacted by politics enough to involve myself. Race is one of them. And I remember years ago where someone who was strongly (STRONGLY) politicized tried to tell me that certain perceptions I had of black people were incorrect. This person knew maybe 5% of the number of black people I did, which meant that he had to consider himself FAR more intelligent than I for him to crunch so much less data but come to better conclusions. He has the right to that opinion, of course. But when he actually insisted that my experience was wrong, that I didn’t know what I knew, it was as if you live on a mountain, and someone in the valley insists that there is no mountain. They KNOW that there is no mountain.
If they know that they are incorrect, this is called “gaslighting.” But I think he was sincere. In which case he was simply deluded.
Much later, I ran across this same phenomenon related to BLM. When protesters marched or created disturbances, it would in my mind be reasonable for someone to believe they were behaving badly. (I don’t necessarily agree, but it is REASONABLE). It would be reasonable to say that they were even mistaken about the perceived stimulus.
But what I heard was something different: I saw highly politicized people on the Right claiming that it was mere political theater. Violence stems from anger, anger from fear. To say “there is really nothing to fear, they are deluded” is one thing. That can be discussed.
But when you say “they are faking it” you are simply saying they are all lying. And if I happen to AGREE that the protestors are correct that there is an issue…if my wife and her family agree, and my friends, and hundreds of thousands of people connected to me via social media are spontaneously agreeing before the media ever got ahold of it…
You can still argue that we are wrong, that there is no real reason to think there is an injustice. That is a conversation. That can be debated.
But if your position is that we don’t even FEEL there is a problem? That my perception that there is a BELIEF there is a problem is incorrect..?
Friend, you had better the hell know a LOT of black people to even BEGIN to get me to take you seriously. You’d better have a VAST storehouse of data. Lots of black friends, in-laws. Grew up in a black neighborhood. Now you can say: “based upon a huge amount of personal information from people who trusted me, long observation, plus study of surveys across a wide swath of economic and geographical territory, I have formed an opinion I believe informed: that this is political theater.”
Even if your opinion on this conflicts with my own, I’m going to be willing to listen to you. A woman who was raised by her father and brothers, has worked with men, and been married to one for thirty years has, in my mind, the right to argue with me about what men are like, even though she is not a man. But if she was raised by her mother and sisters, or nuns in a convent, and has barely ever met one? She can tell me what women think about men, but her opinion about what men are is likely to be more mythology than truth. And if she is politicized, or immature, or wounded? It will be a very self-serving mythology.
Same with race. You want to tell me what black people FEEL and THINK about something? And you’re white? Welll…if you aren’t surrounded by black people who love and trust you enough to share their real feelings, you might know something about the statistics gathered around their lives, but you don’t know much about how they FEEL about it. In other words, you can’t tell me that they don’t believe there is a threat. That they are not afraid.
You might have an informed opinion about whether the threat exists, yes. But not how they feel about it.
Not one that can compare to mine, if I am actually in a web of association, and that association matches my own experience.
I can understand why you would want me to consider your OPINIONS as important as my EXPERIENCE, but frankly, you are either deluded, or gaslighting. Or, you think that you are so much smarter or wiser or clearer than me that even with a bare fraction of my data, you are capable of drawing equivalent or superior conclusions. IMO…that’s delusion. I know some very very smart people, far smarter than I. Not one of them comes close to having THAT much brain-power.
Again, I might understand why you would want to believe that about yourself, but cannot imagine why you would expect me to agree.
Now…to Facebook, just for fun. I believe the statistics suggesting that Facebook friend groups tend to be more diverse than real-world friend groups. Makes logical sense, and matches experience: I can leaf through friend lists of people I know, when I know their web of association, and see that their FB lists are more diverse. Done this hundreds of times across lines of politics, gender, race, economics. Countless people have said the same thing about their experience of life. Logic, experience, and statistics all agree.
Are there going to be cases where this is not true? Sure.
But you know what? Every time I’ve had an argument about race, where the person’s perspective on the subjective experience of black people differs from mine, if I look at their friends list..almost nada. Nothing. The number of black friends is WAY below statistical probability.
If I point this out, they get testy. Well, that would be easy to understand, from the perspective of that original model: they have formed opinions based on data, not experience. With their heads, not their hearts or bodies. If that data is filtered through a political lens, it will be very slanted. They have constructed their house with warped planks. And are uncomfortable when they encounter the reality of experience.
That’s not necessarily “true” but it does explain the reaction, and have some predictive capacity.
Posited: if someone disagrees with me on the experience, perspectives and emotions of black people, that person will not know many black people.
Tests out in real life, tests out on Facebook. Not 100% true, but close enough for government work.
Let’s generalize: people who have an interest in something, but no data, will form opinions anyway. If the issues are emotionalized or politicized they will treat those opinions like truth, and fight to protect them.
Is this exclusive to “the Right”? Hell no. My teachers said nothing about “Conservatives tend to wake their kundalini from the top down.” In fact, I’d say that Conservatives tend to do this “from the root up” and Liberals “from the heart out.” Both work.
What kind of person takes the path I’m considering an error? Very intellectual people. People who learned early in life not to trust their emotions or even perceptions.
The sad thing is that they cannot hide in the safety of data, because that data was ALSO filtered through emotions and perceptions. They can run, but they cannot hide. In a world of infinite data, what you choose to look at and prioritize is influenced by your emotional filters and political beliefs. And the more painful and powerful those emotions are, the more likely you are to believe they aren’t there.
By the way, if it isn’t obvious, this exact same approach works for gender issues. Harder to do it with LGBT issues, but any issues where familarity with a group is important, and that group is identifiable by sight, it is damned useful and will save you days of pointless arguing with people who “know not that they know not.”
Could I be wrong? Of course! My error check is that if I’m correct, if my “reality map” is accurate, I’ll tend to reach my goals. Specifically, happy relationships, healthy body, successful career. Hey, if I get all three, precisely how can my perceptions be so wrong? And even if somehow they are…I win anyway.
So if you think you can “figure out the world” and your mental computations trump my actual experience, please be my guest. In a few years we’ll meet again, and I’ll ask how your relationships, physical health, and career are doing. If they are better results than I get, I’ll assume your approach was superior, and be eager to learn your path.
If not? Ehhhh…not so much. Goot luck with that, though.
Results matter. Anyone can talk a good game. Anyone can agree with themselves, or create an argument that sounds great.
Unpublished writers lecture bestselling authors on how to write.
Armchair martial artists know just what that fighter did wrong.
People who have been divorced seven times know the “truth” about men or women.
Really, they aren’t worth arguing with on the subject. Might be perfectly nice people, but why would I listen to a virgin talking about sex when there is a hot lady waiting for me in the next room? Enjoy your theories and data. I like life a LOT better.
(if this approach to thought appeals to you, you would probably enjoy the free “Seven Day Emotional Diet” available at www.fiveminutelifehacks.com)