Science of the SpiritS


Aimless, Mechanical, and Under the Power of External Influences: The Rewards of Doing "Something"

© Unknown
People don't really care what they're doing - just as long as they are doing something. That's one of the findings summarized in a new review article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

When psychologists think about why people do what they do, they tend to look for specific goals, attitudes, and motivations. But they may be missing something more general - people like to be doing something. These broader goals, to be active or inactive, may have a big impact on how they spend their time.

Comment: "People don't really care what they're doing - just as long as they are doing something"...No wonder our world is in such a dire state.

The main obstacle to progress, according to Gurdjieff, was the mechanical nature of contemporary man, and his inability to carry anything through. From In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching by P. D. Ouspensky:
Everything happens. All that befalls a man, all that is done by him, all that comes from him - all this happens...

"Man is a machine. All his deeds, actions, words, thoughts, feelings, convictions, opinions, and habits are the results of external influences, external impressions. Out of himself a man cannot produce a single thought, a single action. Everything he says, does, thinks, feels - all this happens. Man cannot discover anything, invent anything. It all happens...

Everything happens - popular movements, wars, revolutions, changes of government, all this happens. And it happens in exactly the same way as everything happens in the life of individual man. Man is born, lives, dies, builds houses, writes books, not as he wants to, but as it happens. Everything happens. Man does not love, hate, desire - all this happens...
There is another kind of mechanization which is much more dangerous: being a machine oneself. Have you ever thought about the fact that all peoples themselves are machines?"

"Yes," I said, "from the strictly scientific point of view all people are machines governed by external influences. But the question is, can the scientific point of view be wholly accepted?"

"Scientific or not scientific is all the same to me," said G. "I want you to understand what I am saying. Look, all those people you see," he pointed along the street, "are simply machines - nothing more."

"I think I understand what you mean," I said. "And I have often thought how little there is in the world that can stand against this form of mechanization and choose its own path."

"This is just where you make your greatest mistake," said G. "You think there is something that chooses its own path, something that can stand against mechanization; you think that not everything is equally mechanical."

"Why, of course not!" I said. "Art, poetry, thought, are phenomena of quite a different order."

"Of exactly the same order," said G. "These activities are just as mechanical as everything else. Men are machines and nothing but mechanical actions can be expected of machines."

"Very well," I said. "But are there no people who are not machines?"

"It may be that there are," said G., "only not those people you see. And you do not know them. That is what I want you to understand."...

"People are so unlike one another," I said. "I do not think it would be possible to bring them all under the same heading. There are savages, there are mechanized people, there are intellectual people, there are geniuses."

"Quite right," said G., "people are very unlike one another, but the real difference between people you do not know and cannot see. The difference of which you speak simply does not exist. This must be understood. All the people you see, all the people you know, all the people you may get to know, are machines, actual machines working solely under the power of external influences, as you yourself said. Machines they are born and machines they die. How do savages and intellectuals come into this? Even now, at this very moment, while we are talking, several millions of machines are trying to annihilate one another. What is the difference between them? Where are the savages and where are the intellectuals? They are all alike . . .

"But there is a possibility of ceasing to be a machine."

Better Earth

Flashback Rogue Waves: The Global Food Crisis, Starvation, Spirulina and the Safe Places of those who Face Suffering

Dr Mark Sircus
Most of us who have seen the Poseidon Adventure movie have seen what a rogue wave can do. Most seamen know of this rare hazard of the deep sea. What are unknown are simultaneous rouge waves - - not much can be done against one, image several hitting your ship of life at the same time. Events are beginning to move faster - - the waves are building, in fact they are towering waves that the blind do not see because they don't want to.

In countries where people live on less than $1 a day, a day's serving of rice or beans now costs more than the average daily wage.

Today we can no longer separate and divide one subject area from another. Concurrent events are destroying our normal tendency to put subject areas into nice orderly compartments -- giving more support to quantum mechanics and other mystical areas of thought, which insist that everything is connected. Charles Perrow of Yale University says "Interconnectedness in the global production system has now reached the point where a breakdown anywhere increasingly means a breakdown everywhere". This is especially true of the world's financial systems, where the coupling is very tight. "Now we have a debt crisis with the biggest player, the U.S. The consequences could be enormous."

We are going to get a crash course in these dynamics as we not only watch but participate in the food crisis, which is running smack into the oil, financial, ecological, climate and water crises. "The most worrisome thing about the vulnerability of the U.S. economy circa 2008," Kevin Phillips writes, "is the extent of official understatement and misstatement -- the preference for minimizing how many problems there are and how interconnected they are."

The heart feels itself to be part of the whole.


Antidepressants or Meditation for Depression Relapse?

© Unknown
Mindfulness meditation found to be as effective as antidepressant medication in prevention of depression relapse.

A new study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy - using meditation - provides equivalent protection against depressive relapse as traditional antidepressant medication.

The study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry compared the effectiveness of pharmacotherapy with mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) by studying people who were initially treated with an antidepressant and then, either stopped taking the medication in order to receive MBCT, or continued taking medication for 18 months.

Comment: To discover the many benefits of meditation for yourself, visit the Éiriú Eolas breathing and meditation programme HERE.


Meditation Better Than Morphine?

Meditation illustration
New research illustrates how meditation reduces pain.

Meditation produces powerful pain-relieving effects in the brain, according to new research published in the April 6 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.

"This is the first study to show that only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation," said Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., lead author of the study and post-doctoral research fellow at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Comment: To discover the many benefits of meditation for yourself, visit the Éiriú Eolas breathing and meditation programme HERE.

Heart - Black

Best of the Web: The Darkest Secret

Mairilyn Van derbur
© People Magazine
Former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur Bravely Shares Her Difficult Past. Behind the Facade of a 'Perfect' Family, Her Father Committed An Unspeakable Crime: Incest.

"My father was a handsome, intelligent man," recalls Marilyn Van Derbur. "He served as president of the Denver Area Boy Scout Council and helped establish Denver's Cleo Wallace Village for Handicapped Children. But there was another - secret - side to him. From the time I was 5 until I was 18 and moved away to college, my father sexually violated me."

Even in an age when public confessions are commonplace, Marilyn Van Derbur's has the power to shock. The crime is repulsive almost beyond words; the people involved, as in a Greek tragedy, are larger than life. Francis S. Van Derbur, the father, was a millionaire socialite and a pillar of the Denver community; Marilyn, the youngest of his four daughters, was a golden-haired beauty, a straight-A student and an AAU swimming champ. In 1957, when she was 20, her predecessor, Marian Ann McKnight, would crown her Miss America in Atlantic City.

"We had all the trappings of a perfect family, " Marilyn says now. "Wealth, social status, a handsome father and lovely mother." So perfect was the illusion, in fact, that Marilyn completely repressed any knowledge of sexual violation by her father until she was 24, when D.D. Harvey, former youth minister at her Presbyterian church in Denver, broke down her guard. She shared her painful secret with her husband-to-be, attorney Larry Atler, now 56, and with her eldest sister, Gwen, 59, who revealed that she too had been victimized. (Sisters Nancy, 55, and Valerie, 57, have not commented.) Still, Marilyn's experience continued to haunt her, causing her emotionally rooted bouts of lethargy, physical paralysis and finally an anxiety so crushing that in 1984 her career as a motivational speaker came to a complete halt.

Since then, with the help of a number of therapists, she has found the courage to talk with her mother, Gwendolyn, about the incest and, more recently, with the world. On May 8, after two years of working with Denver's Kempe National Center for Prevention and Treatment for Child Abuse and Neglect, Marilyn told an audience of 35 the grimly inspiring story of what she calls "the greatest accomplishment of my life - surviving incest." Her address was frequently interrupted by applause. At her luxurious Denver ranch-style house, she talked to correspondent Vickie Bane about her struggle to survive.

Comment: Yet Gwendolyn Van Derbur allowed her daughters' lives to be ruined to keep her illusions of her "Adonis" and her marriage intact. That for years and years her husband was sexually abusing her daughters under the same roof and her being completely unaware of it says a lot about her wish to not see reality and the deep levels of denial into which she threw herself.


Higher levels of social activity decrease the risk of cognitive decline

© Unknown
If you want to keep your brain healthy, it turns out that visiting friends, attending parties, and even going to church might be just as good for you as crossword puzzles.

According to research conducted at Rush University Medical Center, frequent social activity may help to prevent or delay cognitive decline in old age. The study has just been posted online in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.

The researchers were especially careful in their analysis to try to rule out the possibility that cognitive decline precedes, or causes, social isolation, and not the reverse.

"It's logical to think that when someone's cognitive abilities break down, they are less likely to go out and meet friends, enjoy a camping trip, or participate in community clubs. If memory and thinking capabilities fail, socializing becomes difficult," said lead researcher Bryan James, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the epidemiology of aging and dementia in the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center. "But our findings suggest that social inactivity itself leads to cognitive impairments."

The study included 1,138 older adults with a mean age of 80 who are participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, an ongoing longitudinal study of common chronic conditions of aging. They each underwent yearly evaluations that included a medical history and neuropsychological tests.


Risk of accelerated aging seen in PTSD patients with childhood trauma

stress depression
Adults with post-traumatic stress disorder and a history of childhood trauma had significantly shorter telomere length than those with PTSD but without childhood trauma, in a study by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco.

Telomeres are DNA-protein complexes that cap the ends of chromosomes and protect them from damage and mutations. Short telomere length is associated with an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as early death.

For the study, published in the online Articles in Press section of Biological Psychiatry, the authors collected DNA samples from 43 adults with PTSD and 47 matched participants without PTSD. Initial analysis showed that on average, the subjects with PTSD had shorter telomere length than those without.

"This was striking to us, because the subjects were relatively young, with an average age of 30, and in good physical health," said lead author Aoife O'Donovan, PhD, a researcher in psychiatry at SFVAMC and UCSF. "Telomere length was significantly shorter than we might expect in such a group."

The authors then looked at incidence of severe childhood trauma, including neglect, family violence, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. They found that, among the subjects with PTSD, the more childhood trauma a subject had experienced, the higher the risk of shorter telomere length. "People who had multiple categories of childhood traumas had the shortest telomere length," said O'Donovan.

Comment: PTSD has been shown to be treatable with such modalities as meditation. The Éiriú Eolas program has been shown to be highly effective in relieving the symptoms of PTSD. Find it here.


"Everything passes", a natural balance of good and evil: Psychologists warn that therapies based on positive emotions may not work for Asians

© Unknown
Thinking happy thoughts, focusing on the good and downplaying the bad is believed to accelerate recovery from depression, bolster resilience during a crisis and improve overall mental health. But a new study by University of Washington psychologists reveals that pursuing happiness may not be beneficial across all cultures.

In a survey of college students, Asian respondents showed no relationship between positive emotions and levels of stress and depression. For European-American participants, however, the more stress and depression they felt, the fewer positive emotions they reported.

The study indicates that psychotherapies emphasizing positive emotions, which can relieve stress and depression in white populations, may not work for Asians, who make up 60 percent of the world population.

The findings have implications for helping the Japanese recover from natural disasters and subsequent nuclear crisis in March, and for Chinese coping with post-traumatic stress following the 2008 Sichuan province earthquake.

"If we are to relieve some of the trauma from the tsunami and earthquakes, we have to be careful of imparting Western therapies," said Janxin Leu, UW assistant professor of psychology. "I worry that if a therapy which relies on positive emotions and thinking is used with Asian patients, it will not be effective and may even make patients feel worse."


The Discontentment of Comparison: Happiest Places Have Highest Suicide Rates Says New Research

© Unknown
The happiest countries and happiest U.S. states tend to have the highest suicide rates, according to research from the UK's University of Warwick, Hamilton College in New York and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

The new research paper titled "Dark Contrasts: The Paradox of High Rates of Suicide in Happy Places" has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. It uses U.S. and international data, which included first-time comparisons of a newly available random sample of 1.3 million Americans, and another on suicide decisions among an independent random sample of approximately 1 million Americans.

The research confirmed a little known and seemingly puzzling fact: many happy countries have unusually high rates of suicide. This observation has been made from time to time about individual nations, especially in the case of Denmark. This new research found that a range of nations - including: Canada, the United States, Iceland, Ireland and Switzerland, display relatively high happiness levels and yet also have high suicide rates. Nevertheless the researchers note that, because of variation in cultures and suicide-reporting conventions, such cross-country scatter plots are only suggestive. To confirm the relationship between levels of happiness and rates of suicide within a geographical area, the researchers turned to two very large data sets covering a single country, the United States.

The scientific advantage of comparing happiness and suicide rates across U.S. states is that cultural background, national institutions, language and religion are relatively constant across a single country. While still not absolutely perfect, as the States are not identical, comparing the different areas of the country gave a much more homogeneous population to examine rather than a global sample of nations.

Eye 2

Beware the Workplace Psychopath

© UnknownWorkplace bullying victim ... Brodie Panlock.
The Victorian government announced plans this week to introduce a jail term of up to 10 years for workplace bullying. But until it becomes law - and probably afterwards, too - terror at the hands of the workplace psychopath will continue for many victims. Apparently, they can't be stopped. Or cured.

John Clarke is the author of Working with Monsters, which provides readers with information on how to protect themselves. I asked him whether workplace psychopaths are aware they're psychopathic.

"They wouldn't recognise themselves as a psychopath but the behaviour is always conscious and intentional," he says. "Some of the ones I've spoken to don't really see why it's such a big issue because they see it more as a strategy they need to use to survive. It's survival of the fittest."