CHAPTER 19 - Beware of the Belief Trap

Author: Tom Campbell. Link to original: http://bit.ly/y4Mfk3 (English).
Tags: Campbell, всеобщая теория Submitted by pollynevergirl 21.05.2012. Public material.
Part of "My Big TOE" book by Tom Campbell. We're translating it with author's permission. In this chapter Tom Campbell tells his story of working with Robert Monroe.

Translations of this material:

into Russian: Глава 19. Остерегайтесь ловушек убеждений. 69% translated in draft. Almost done, let's finish it!
Submitted for translation by pollynevergirl 21.05.2012

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Most of us are awash with beliefs of all sorts. We are steeped in the common sense and prevailing wisdom of our culture, traditions, communities, profession, family, and friends. Because belief is very personal for each of us, I will approach this discussion of belief and knowledge from many different directions. Hopefully, at least one of these approaches will connect with your unique experience, intellect, and inner-self.

When encountering something complex and unfamiliar, repetition is usually required before we feel comfortable with it. Likewise, reiteration is often needed to punch through deeply held and ingrained ways of thinking and being. Most of us have deeply held and ingrained ways of thinking and being whether we are intellectually aware of them or not. What is deeply ingrained in us is nearly impossible for us to notice – it becomes part of the invisible inner core of our being. It is a fact that subtle belief systems circumscribe our personal reality. It is also a fact that most of our beliefs lie beyond the easy reach of our intellects. Outside our awareness, they literally define, and thus also limit, what we allow ourselves to perceive and interpret as reality.

I am sure that you can process Big Picture information intellectually without difficulty, however, because your core beliefs are profoundly ingrained, it is far more difficult for you to successfully integrate that information into deeper levels of understanding. Because you find certain material to be intellectually easy to understand or conceptually obvious and repetitious, does not necessarily indicate that the significance of that material has actually sunk in to deeper levels of knowing.

What passes for intellectual understanding is often shallow and incomplete because we have no means to accurately assess the extent of our ignorance. The logical result of an awareness of our ignorance relative to some very important issue is an uncomfortable anxiety – the anxiety of not knowing what you desperately need to know. We generally feel compelled to produce an apparently solid assessment of the problem regardless of how much we know or do not know. In order to ensure that our assessment appears solid enough to significantly reduce the fear-based anxiety brought on by our ignorance, we make assumptions about the degree, quality, and completeness of our knowledge that invariably lead us to interpret “shallow and incomplete” as “sufficient and conclusive.” The resultant intellectual judgment, regardless how ill conceived, will always produce a conclusion that appears (to its creator) to be reasonably certain as well as obviously correct. Presto-change-o! The discomforting anxiety disappears as pseudo-knowledge is manufactured by the ego to deny ignorance its due.

Do you see how the fear of not knowing thus assuages itself by creating a believable self-satisfying story that provides an alternative to acknowledging and accepting ignorance? That the story may be false is invisible to its author because it is based upon assumptions and beliefs designed to meet the author’s pressing needs for reassurance and security. Have you ever wondered how other people can come to the strangest conclusions about all manner of things?

From religious fanatics to your sometimes exasperating manager or significant other, it works the same way. Be careful that your intellect does not trick you into believing comfortable and seductive conclusions that are primarily designed to reduce your anxiety, reassure your ego, and maintain your current self-satisfying worldview.

Whenever you feel reasonably certain that you are obviously correct even though you have no real data to back it up, you should at least consider the possibility that you may be stuck in a belief trap of your own creation. Only open-minded skepticism will allow you to assess that possibility.

Big Truth must be understood deeply to be effectively applied. Wisdom resides more in the heart and soul than in the intellect. Your intellect can only take you so far in your exploration of Big Truth; it can direct your search but cannot cause you to learn anything of deeper significance. On the other hand, your intellect can cause you to squander every opportunity to know Big Truth.

To focus our discussion of belief traps, let me give you a more precise and clear understanding of what I mean when I use the words “belief” and “knowledge.” Beliefs may be cultural, religious, scientific, or personal. Belief is generated and necessitated by ignorance. If you know for sure, belief is not required. In that case, you have real knowledge. Knowledge is derived from knowing what is true. If your apparent knowledge is false, you only believe that you know. In this situation, belief is masquerading as knowledge. Belief posing as knowledge is pseudo-knowledge, not real knowledge.

• Because many are now wondering how you can tell pseudo-knowledge from knowledge, I think a short aside is in order. Throughout this trilogy, you will find discussions of how to discriminate between the wise and the foolish, between the real and the apparent, between falsehood and truth, between knowledge and pseudo-knowledge (belief). We will approach this issue from several directions over the course of Sections 2 through 6.

This is a pudding thing and a science thing. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” implies that truth and knowledge can be evaluated by the objective results of their application. Science is the primary tool and process that enables you to avoid belief traps while assessing objective results.

Typically, it boils down to the fact that you need personal experience (knowledge must be applied) and measurable results (you must taste the pudding) to become a discriminating connoisseur of reality. If you are not careful, you can be deluded about the results, as well as the experience. That is why you must be a good scientist in your explorations. Being a good scientist requires only that you have the right approach and attitude – no degree or formal scientific training is required. You must wait until you have collected enough high quality evidential data before converting potential possibilities into actualities or knowledge. These potential possibilities, with their associated probability of being true, must always be reassessed and recalculated as new data come in. Apparent knowledge remains potential and tentative – truth is absolute.

Your list of potential possibilities will, for a very long time, if not always, be a much, much, longer list than your list of absolute truths. If you are careful to remain simultaneously open-minded and skeptical, you will be unlikely to inadvertently make a major investment in false knowledge. On the other hand, you might pursue a hypothesis or potential possibility to a dead end – or to the conclusion that your hypothesis is wrong. That is how good science works. There is no way to guarantee that your hypotheses will be proved correct. Proving a hypothesis wrong also produces useful information.

Always remain skeptical and open-minded so that you won’t wander too far down too many blind alleys. It is those who abandon the open-minded skepticism of the scientist, in pursuit of easy and quick answers, who end up leaping into belief traps.

Basing their decisions and interpretations of events on belief and pseudo-knowledge, they lose their way -- inevitably investing their time and energy moving in non-optimal and unproductive directions. The truth is not delicate; it will stand up to vigorous testing.

However, you must be careful that your tests are valid. This is not as easy as it first appears. The inherent difficulty scientists have in validating concepts and results reflects a standard problem of science. By definition, it is always difficult for you to design tests to evaluate something that you do not understand. Exploring NPMR is in many ways the same as exploring PMR. Research in NPMR requires, more often than not, a long, slow, sometimes frustrating and tedious process to find tentative new knowledge. There, as with serious research anywhere, dogged perseverance, careful analysis and steady effort yields results better and more surely than any other method.

If you repeat your questions about how to separate knowledge from pseudo-knowledge while at the same time pretending that you are talking about the knowledge of PMR instead of the knowledge of NPMR, most of the same obvious answers will apply. Science is science, in both PMR and NPMR. Scientific methodology has the same difficulties and attributes in both “places.” The primary difference is that in NPMR (as viewed from PMR), science is a personal or subjective activity with objective results.

This contrasts with PMR (as viewed from PMR), where science is a directly shareable objective activity that likewise produces objective results. For the record, NPMR science, as viewed from NPMR, is also a directly shareable objective activity that produces objective results.

This discussion will be continued in much greater detail, and from several different perspectives, at other places within the My Big TOE trilogy. In this aside, I simply want to point out there is no magic formula or shortcut for finding and assessing truth. Believing what I say, or what anyone else says about NPMR or the nature of reality is tantamount to jumping to conclusions without doing the science or investigative work oneself.

Belief is not a shortcut that will actually take you to a significant destination. Believing what others say is a risky business. You must discover truth and knowledge for yourself or it will not be your truth or your knowledge. Your truth and knowledge lives deeply and vibrantly within your being while someone else’s truth and knowledge can penetrate no deeper than your intellect.

Listening to others may greatly improve the efficiency of your journey, or send you off to wander aimlessly. In either case, you must make the trip and experience, assess, and validate the reality you find.

I do not wish to imply that you must accomplish everything by yourself. Including others on your journey to a greater understanding is generally a good idea. Interacting with others, if wisely chosen, can help you develop a broader perspective and provide much needed encouragement as well as guidance and direction. But others cannot learn and grow for you – you must do that for yourself. Wisdom, maturity, and the capacity to love are all personal attributes that dwell within the core of your being.

Some may be wondering how you go about collecting, evaluating, validating, and applying data in thought-space or how you can experience the reality of NPMR. These are good questions. I am talking about the subjective experiential data you gather while you carefully explore the realm of interactive consciousness within inner space. I am also talking about clear, objective, evidential results. At the boundary, where NPMR activities influence and modify PMR activities and vice versa, evidential data can be collected easily.

At this boundary, being aware in NPMR is somewhat like participating in a narrowly focused mental activity (somewhat like a totally absorbing interactive daydream) that has a strong causal (evidential) connection with PMR and a dynamic existence that is independent of you and your conscious or unconscious mental processes. Your mind must be calm, clear, and steady without unruly chatter or noise or you cannot differentiate between what your mind creates and what exists independently of your mind. That is why finding (and learning to exist and operate within) the calm unperturbed center of your consciousness is always the first step.

To a clear, low-noise, operative consciousness, collecting data in NPMR will be like moving through an unusually clear daydream. An exploring consciousness should initially busy itself doing experiments and looking for evidence of NPMR activity creating effects in PMR (and vice versa). One day, after enough hard evidence is gathered through personal experience, it will become clear that NPMR is both independent of you and causally connected to PMR. Realizing that fact will be your first, biggest, and most amazing discovery!

I still clearly recall my feelings of incredulous amazement when Dennis and I first began sharing identical simultaneous experiences while exploring NPMR (see Chapter 10 of this book). After consistently verifying the accuracy of remote viewing experiments and experiencing firsthand the efficacy of dramatically affecting the health of a physical body with a focused mind, my reality was forced to broaden. As the paranormal becomes normal, one has no rational or logical option other than to seek a bigger picture that contains the whole of one’s carefully evaluated evidential experience.

You can always assume that other people are lying or confused but when your own experience, consistently and on demand, carries you to a logically and scientifically inescapable conclusion, the truth of that experience will demand a larger and deeper understanding of the reality within which you exist. Simply labeling the paranormal as something experienced by the delusional, the diabolical, the weird, and the wacky will no longer provide an easy way out of dealing with the existence of a reality that flies in the face of your deepest beliefs and assumptions.

When the experience is yours, and the processes used to gain and evaluate that experience have been careful and scientific, you must deal with the objective facts of what you have discovered – denying them is to cling to ignorance and limitation out of habit, insecurity, and fear. To deny such experience is to give up difficult knowledge for the comfort of a mindless dogma.

Allowing ignorance and fear to define the possibilities eliminates opportunities for growth and squanders potential. That this is true is obvious when applied to others whose ignorance and disadvantage we understand, and nearly impossible to see in ourselves.

After the collection of evidential data (NPMR-PMR psi effects) becomes routine, one generally moves on to determine the culture, laws, and physics of NPMR by careful experimentation and observation of cause and effect. Imagine that you are an alien scientist from another dimension teleported to Earth to learn what the Earth and its life-forms are like: exploring NPMR is like that, but without the limitation of a needy physical body. •

••Let’s take a short break to define the word “psi.” Psi is a familiar term among parapsychologists and others who are engaged in studying and exploring the capabilities of mind. Psi events generally refer to unusual artifacts of consciousness, specifically to paranormal events associated with mental abilities or altered states of consciousness. Psi is often used as a synonym for Parapsychological – thus the term “psi phenomena” refers to measurable physical phenomena that are produced by some characteristic or ability of mind that is presently beyond traditional scientific explanation. For example, telepathic communication, precognition, and remote viewing are a few commonly experienced and researched psi events. The terms “psi energy” and “psi forces” are often used to imply some unknown theoretical causal mechanism that is assumed to lie behind psi phenomena. ••

• Because I exhort you at every turn to collect your own experience data, I suppose that I should tell you how to go about accomplishing that task. To this end, in Chapter 23 of this book, we will discuss techniques that you can use to reduce the mental noise, gain mastery and control of your mental energy, and begin exploring NPMR and the inner-space of consciousness.

However, before we get to that, it is imperative that you first discover how your beliefs limit your reality and learn to appreciate the difference between your knowledge and pseudo-knowledge. Otherwise your attempt to explore NPMR could end up exploring nothing more than your own ego.

Exploring your own ego might be a productive first step if it leads to a better understanding, and thus dissolution, of the fear and belief systems that limit your natural potential, but it is not at all the same as exploring NPMR – a reality that exists independently of your belief systems and personal mind.

There is a natural and necessary order to any developmental growth. Skipping steps almost always leads to frustration and blocks, not to rapid advancement. You must first deal successfully with your fear and limiting belief systems before you can productively explore NPMR. Conquering all fear is not required – far from it – but some minimum threshold of competence in managing your consciousness is a prerequisite.

The required basic competence is usually developed through meditation, courage, and an energetic dedication to the discovery of truth. The underlying principles and mechanics of meditation are discussed in Chapter 23 of this book.

Though there are many ways to meditate successfully, fear can only be overcome by courage and determination.

I do not have a special weird science that can help you cut corners and find truth in giant leaps of intuition. Discovery and science are all about making steady progress by taking one small tentative step after another, all the while “tasting the pudding,” checking the evidence, and producing objective measurable results. There are, as far as I know, no “worm holes” that let one tunnel through to enlightenment, or sign posts clearly defining the best route for each individual to take. The choice of path and the effort applied must be the result of your own volition.

Think deeply about how the material in this chapter applies to you – though it may get intellectually repetitive, this discussion of belief, fear, and knowledge represents a crucial step that must be assimilated at a level much deeper than the intellect. It is as difficult to over-emphasize the subject of fear, knowledge, and belief, as it is easy to speed through it intellectually without digging in too deeply. The concepts themselves are deceivingly simple and thus, repetition quickly becomes tedious. However, their implications for each and every individual are extremely difficult to grasp fully.

What fears lurk deeply hidden that push me this way, and pull me that way, like a small boat on an angry ocean? What beliefs limit my reality? What can I do about them? These are difficult and complex personal questions that many egos are all too eager to sidestep.

Typically, those who most need to answer these questions are also most likely to zip by without taking much notice. As these folks skim over the surface, they may find this chapter to be as tedious and annoying as a parental lecture. On the other hand, those who have little difficulty in this area will eagerly review the issues once again because they understand the importance, are not discomforted by the process, and do not fear the results. They too may notice the intended repetition, but will use it to improve their mastery rather than suffer through it. •

Everyone understands the terms “cultural belief” and “religious belief", but some may be wondering what is meant by scientific belief and personal belief. Scientific belief is the belief that the larger reality and all truth must be solely defined by, and limited to, objective, repeatable-on-demand, consistent, PMR hard-science measurements. This is the narrow view of the scientific method cast as an exclusive PMR-only dogma. Though this belief holds true and is wonderfully productive for a certain subset of reality, it does not hold in a bigger picture that contains consciousness – much as classical mechanics fails in a bigger picture that contains very high velocities (which requires relativistic mechanics) and very small sizes (which requires quantum mechanics).

Personal belief encompasses all those things you believe about yourself and other people, places, or things – your apparent reality extrapolated beyond your certain knowledge. Personal beliefs, if not correct, are often distorted by hope, fear, guilt, need, desire, misinformation, and misunderstanding. Personal beliefs contain many personalized versions of your cultural beliefs as well. Many are derived from the beliefs of your parents, peers, and associates.

Cultural beliefs represent those beliefs that you assume true because everybody around you assumes they are true. Racism, for example, is an expression of a cultural belief. A Belief in a universal objective physical causality is a cultural belief as well as a scientific belief. Beliefs that telepathy, mental or faith healing, psychokinesis, or precognition are all totally impossible are also culturally derived.

Religious belief, on the other hand, is a belief in the creed, dogma, and articles of faith of some organized religion. Scientific belief is like religious belief. It is a belief in the creed (PMR causality rules all), dogma (only PMR exists), and articles of faith (the subjective contains no fact, only opinion) of “objective” Western science.

This discussion about belief traps is relevant to all belief – religious, scientific, personal, cultural, political, economic, and any other category you might conjure up. These categories of belief do not have distinct boundaries and, in many instances, overlap greatly. Some people associate belief primarily with religion and are unaware of the pervasive and significant role that belief plays outside the typical religious context. Neither I nor My Big TOE is particularly picking or religious belief. It is the characteristics and properties of belief itself, rather than any particular type of belief, that are being scrutinized in this chapter.

Sorting knowledge from belief is the function of science – both objective and subjective science. Knowing the difference between knowledge and belief relevant to any particular piece of subjective information is called wisdom. Knowing the difference between knowledge and belief relevant to any particular piece of objective information is to know the facts.

Many feel compelled to either believe or disbelieve all information they come in contact with and quickly pass a judgment on everything accordingly. Such a process leaves little room and little time for actual knowledge and shows no particular interest in truth. For these individuals, pseudo-knowledge is good enough, especially if it also happens to reduce anxiety and be widely accepted.

This approach to information is unfortunate and produces a tendency to jump to conclusions based upon erroneous feel-good assumptions.

The result of understanding, appreciating, and accepting the limits of your knowledge is that you neither believe nor disbelieve much of the information that initially lies beyond your knowledge. Judgment should be suspended until sufficient data are collected. That method of approaching information is called open-minded. The quality (rigor) of the conditions and processes that define “sufficient” is dependent upon how scientific your exploration is. Good science produces actual knowledge whereas bad science produces only pseudo-knowledge.

Knowledge, ignorance, truth, falsehood, good science, bad science, wisdom, foolishness, fact, fiction, open-mindedness, and closed-mindedness almost always exist simultaneously in differing proportions as they pertain to developing (as in creating this trilogy) or evaluating (what you think of this trilogy) any piece or set of information. Rarely are knowledge and science perfect and pure. It is more a matter of degree and proportion. Perhaps all public thoughts, ideas and published papers need to be clearly marked by the Federal Knowledge and Belief Administration: “This concept contains 80% knowledge, 20% belief.” An amusing thought with frightening overtones. Obviously, the only valid assessment is yours and you must make it as correctly as possible – the quality of your mind and being hangs in the balance.

You should not depend on experts, professionals, or anyone else to distinguish knowledge from belief for you – even if you trust them more than you trust yourself and are willing to believe what they say. Conversely, you can only discriminate between belief and knowledge for yourself, not for others. Think about it: How do you discriminate actual truth tellers from those who only believe they are telling the truth? Hint: Comparing their beliefs to your own is not the answer.

You should take responsibility for separating belief from knowledge for yourself (and only for yourself) because you will reap the rewards of being correct or suffer the consequences of being wrong. Herd instincts – going along with others who are themselves simply going along with others – are counterproductive. There is no safety in numbers with regard to discovering Big Truth.

Failing with the majority provides no consolation because all successes or failures are personal. No one can drag you along to success by thinking or experiencing for you. On the other hand, you may allow others to retard your progress by not thinking for yourself.

It is true that to trust and assume the truth is often necessary at a mundane level and can be a useful shortcut in a world of ideas where we are time and experience limited. Nevertheless, you must be careful not to inadvertently absorb limitations on your mind’s ability to expand or modify what you initially trust to be the truth. Be forever watchful for, and open to, new data. Do not block out or creatively reinterpret information that conflicts with your beliefs or what you desire or need the truth to be. Good science starts with honesty, and honesty is most easily applied in an ego-free and fear-free environment.

Belief is created when one who lacks scientifically evaluated knowledge puts faith in the premise that things actually are as he or she supposes them to be. Dogma is a fixed set of beliefs that must be accepted on faith in order to join the ranks of the believers who share that particular dogma. Dogma can be cultural, religious, scientific, or personal; it is an integral part of any category of belief. Knowledge that appears to be scientifically or objectively evaluated (to a given individual) may actually be incorrect. This is because we are not omniscient (our knowledge and data are limited), and because we each create our personal reality (objective and subjective) by interpreting our experience.

Belief and knowledge can be either false (incorrect) or true (correct). Both (in either state of correctness) can strongly motivate action. If you are presented with new information, new ideas, or new concepts that you think may possibly have merit, it is far better to maintain open-minded skepticism while collecting your data on the subject (even if it takes a lifetime) than to jump to conclusions based on some previously held belief or by adding a new belief. Hold on to all the possibilities, old and new, until you have produced the knowledge that correctly evaluates the issues by means of direct experience. The important thing is: You need to get out there and collect the data. Laziness or fear of incompetence on this issue produces high-risk results and dramatically reduces the possibility of significant gain or progress.

The proof of correctness of any piece of knowledge lies only in the results its application produces. That is true of any knowledge (objective or subjective) offered up from any source about anything – including any astute cerebral gems that you may find in this Big TOE trilogy. If knowledge cannot be applied, or its application produces no practical results, that knowledge is, by definition, useless and irrelevant.

Before drawing your sword of truth and hacking away at pseudo-knowledge, let me remind you of something. If you cannot productively apply a particular piece of knowledge or a new concept, then that knowledge or concept may be pseudo-knowledge or you may be ignorant and basing your evaluation of that knowledge or concept upon belief or pseudo-knowledge. For advice on how to deal with this logical dilemma, re-read the aside at the beginning of this chapter.

Results can be objective, subjective, complex, obvious, abstract, or concrete but they must be real actual results – they must eventually produce objectively measurable effects or changes by interacting with something that is real. Knowledge is only as significant as its effects. The proof of the pudding is in the eating – you will hear more about how to apply this results-oriented truth-testing concept in Sections 3 and 5. For now, it is enough to understand that “tasting the pudding” refers to testing the value of your experience, truth, or knowledge by evaluating the objective measurable results it produces. If what you consider to be truth cannot honestly produce objective measurable results, then remove it from the truth bin and put it back into the interesting possibilities bin. Continue collecting pertinent data and always maintain high scientific standards when evaluating results.

If the results are not clear and obvious to yourself and others, you are either shooting blanks or playing with a toy gun. You should always keep in mind that results need to be measurable and meaningful. Here, “meaningful” includes advancing your personal development, increasing the quality of your evolving consciousness, and improving the correctness and depth of your understanding.

Most of us are thoroughly dominated by beliefs, most of which lie outside of our intellectual awareness. How should we go about reexamining our beliefs? The proof of correctness of any belief lies in first removing the ignorance that necessitated the belief in the first place and replacing it with knowledge or open-minded skepticism. Whenever sufficient knowledge has been accumulated to support logical scientific conclusions, apply that knowledge and observe the result.

If the ignorance that defines the belief and upon which the necessity for the belief is based cannot be replaced by testable (or, using our pudding metaphor, tasteable) knowledge, then the belief simply remains a belief and its falseness and correctness remain unproven. No intelligent comment can be made either way and you should remain skeptical as well as open-minded until enough data are collected to provide testable knowledge.

Beyond the edge of your knowledge and the outer boundary of your 3D PMR understanding lies your personal unknown. Some of the potential knowledge that remains unknown to you may appear to be beyond the theoretical reach of your knowing (mystical), and some may appear to be only a lack of information. In either case, you can leave the unknown alone, ignore it and accept it as the forever unknown, or you can probe it and explore it with the intent of eventually converting at least some of it into knowledge. Most people do a little bit of both, typically choosing a small part of the comfortable unknown to explore using objectivity and belief as tools and ignoring the rest. They pick the low hanging fruit and convince themselves that anything that isn’t relatively easy to reach isn’t worth the effort or the social risk.

Using subjective experience tightly coupled with objective results is not often explored because it is more difficult and because it is an individual rather than group experience. Those who cannot take a step without the reassurance of others are frightened away. These individuals erroneously believe that what remains naturally mystical to them is forever beyond their reach.

The companion belief is that what remains naturally mystical to them is forever beyond anyone’s reach. This soothing belief is manufactured to absolve themselves of the responsibility of mustering the courage and making the commitment to do the hard work required to turn the unknown into knowledge. Because of its absolving nature, this belief is held most passionately and is a great closer of minds.

Another serious error is to intellectually and emotionally deal with that naturally existing (what lies beyond your knowing) mysticism by assuming a dogmatic set of beliefs. Dogma and belief are straitjackets on the mind, blindfolds to the awareness, limitations on the thoughts you are capable of thinking and the understanding you can obtain. Dogma creates a small, usually incomplete and distorted perspective that cannot be expanded beyond the confines of the belief.

Let us look at disbelief for a moment. Disbelief typically represents a negative reaction to a competitive belief. Whether you believe something is true, or believe it is not true, you are using belief to smooth the discomfort of ignorance. Whether believing or disbelieving, the ignorance is shared. It is only the jumped to conclusions that are different. Most vocal non-believers and closed-minded skeptics are as wrapped up in their beliefs as those they ridicule or disagree with.

The main difference is that they are more apt to deny that their beliefs are beliefs.

The more you are committed to your belief, the more that belief appears to be knowledge and represents absolute truth. Pseudo-knowledge can be passionately held if it meets a powerful need or stems from a powerful fear. The relationship linking need, the discomfort of ignorance and fear, and the faux salve of ego is established in Section 3.

The statement, “I know that what you believe is untrue” most often represents a disagreement created by beliefs and pseudo-knowledge, not a statement of truth. How can you tell which is which? Here is how most people tell. If someone else is saying those words (“I know that what you believe is untrue”) to us, they obviously are suffering from delusionary pseudo-knowledge. On the other hand, if we are saying those words to someone else, it is again they who are obviously confusing pseudo-knowledge with knowledge. This is an easy rule to remember: If others agree with you, they possess real knowledge but if they disagree with you, they are afflicted with delusion and pseudo-knowledge.

If you want to stay in the mainstream and play it safe in the center of the well-beaten path, applying the above rule is the standard technique for discriminating real knowledge from pseudo-knowledge. What rule could be more simple or satisfying to apply? Other people are always the idiots!

The fact is, disagreement on Big Picture concepts is most often the result of a conflict of beliefs regardless of who is talking, pretending to listen, agreeing, or disagreeing. If you are to avoid jumping to conclusions in the absence of knowledge, you must maintain the state of open-minded skepticism – there is no other reasonable or logical alternative. Anything else is a trap.

By now, you may be wondering if there is such a thing as good belief. I can best answer that question with another question. Is there such a thing as good ignorance – is there any situation where ignorance is better, more valuable, than knowledge? If there is, then wherever and whenever ignorance is best, that is where you will find a good belief. In the short-term and in the little picture you might find some advantages to ignorance in a few special cases. Ignorance is perhaps not so bad if the problem is of little significance and of minimal importance, or one you can do nothing about. If you are trying to trick, use, or manipulate others to your advantage, their ignorance is always very helpful.

In the long run and in the Big Picture, if you are not trying to manipulate others and your ego is small, ignorance has little to no value. If the issues are significant, the stakes high, or the outcome important to you, then ignorance and belief will leave you vulnerable and looking like an ostrich with its head in the sand. In substantive matters of long-term significance, there is no good belief.

The main use and function of belief or pseudo-knowledge is to deny the existence of ignorance, sugarcoat fear, and to manipulate others. Knowledge, on the other hand, provides you with the opportunity to optimize your given potential in any situation. A head in the sand may make you feel better in the near term, but it prevents you from going anywhere actually helpful or productive, and it lets your you-know-what stick out unprotected.

If what you happen to believe is Big Truth, you will be saved by the good luck of being born into the correct culture. A correct culture would necessarily, by definition, be composed almost entirely of impeccably wise individuals of stellar quality. Does that description resemble the culture in which you are immersed?

Because the quality of your being expresses the correctness of your understanding, it is easy to determine if you and the members of your culture or sub-culture (including those who share your religion, profession, association, gang, or neighborhood) are enlightened. Simply taste the pudding – look at the people around you. Look at the average people in your culture and look at yourself. If you primarily see goodness, wisdom, wholeness, and love everywhere, then your belief system needs no further adjustments and you are spared growing the quality of your consciousness in order to appear grown.

If that is, by some unfortunate circumstance, not your situation, or if you are more interested in actually being grown than in appearing to be grown, then temporarily suspend any limiting beliefs (that is to say all beliefs) at least long enough to ponder a few big thoughts. If you succeed, you will have greatly raised the probability that you will figure out how to improve the quality of your being.

Don’t worry; these unusual concepts cannot stretch your mind beyond its elastic limit. Your mind has an almost unlimited capacity to take in, as well as shut out, new information and new relationships between pieces of information.

Some individuals believe that their belief systems are perfect – that their only problem is an imperfect implementation of those beliefs. No way! You are who you are. You absolutely reflect your actual beliefs completely and accurately. The quality of your being necessarily reflects the quality, the correctness, of your beliefs and understanding. Perhaps you don’t know what your actual beliefs are (the real ones, not the intellectual ones you talk about). That is normal enough.

Cultural, religious, scientific and personal beliefs can be extremely subtle and are often invisible to the individuals and to the members of the group that share them.

Religious, personal, and cultural truths are typically so ingrained and so obvious that they appear to define reality itself and thus are never called into question. Therein lies a major limitation of belief – when you believe that you have the right answers, there is no need to continue to seek truth or ask questions.

# People who continually question the obvious truth are annoying to those of us who know the answers. If we could only find an effective technique for reeducating the problem people who don’t understand the real truth as we do, the planet would be a much better and safer place for everyone and everything. Gentle and kind terminations of the blatantly uneducable would clearly be justified and would go a long way toward making our world a better place for our children and future generations. We could ensure a continuing bright future for all by finally and effectively neutralizing the most undesirable and negative elements that are the root cause of all the trouble. God is counting on us to manifest his will. We will be the heroes of all future generations! Are you with me comrade?

If you found this book laying on top the john in a public restroom or abandoned in an empty subway seat and opened it to this page, the previous paragraph was meant to be sarcastic. I have attempted to use a little generic religio-politico-historical humor to make a deadly serious point about the siren song sung to one’s ego and fears (the bait), and the uncompromising iron jaws (peer pressure) of the belief trap – and the debilitating affect it can have on the common sense of someone else.

If ego (I must be right, my needs, opinions and beliefs define the truth), fear (of the unknown, being wrong, disapproval, imperfection, failure, God, or of the unholy enemy), and peer pressure (this is the way everybody else thinks, therefore it must be right, or at least safe) have influence or veto power over what thoughts you can honestly and seriously entertain, then you are caught in one or more belief traps – even if you don’t want to terminate those degenerates who are screwing it up for the rest of us.

On the other hand, if one actually thinks it is a good idea to terminate the unredeemable degenerates among us, then such an individual is not only caught in a belief trap, but is potentially dangerous as well. Violent or forceful interdiction as a solution to a problem almost always produces the opposite of the effect intended; it usually makes the original problem much worse while greatly reducing the credibility of the forceful individual’s viewpoint. •

Unfortunately, the wisdom and intended meaning of the ancient sages necessarily seem

obscure from the viewpoint of those who share neither their culture nor their experience.

Additionally, such wisdom and meaning are easily lost and twisted by the belief systems that others quickly establish around these individuals in order to express their ideas at the lowest and widest level of understanding. Furthermore, the self-serving concept of “holier than thou” often dilutes the significance of such knowledge further as a movement or ideology forms to codify and extend what is essentially an individual quality of understanding and being to a more marketable group-certification.

No group, regardless of how small or large, can possibly create and bestow experience-based understanding, integrity, and personal growth (the basis of wisdom) upon an individual. The individual must accomplish that. However, there are some things that groups and organizations can create and bestow – power, influence, wealth, and prestige come immediately to mind. These attributes, delegated primarily to the group’s leadership, are created by recruiting and maintaining large numbers of members or supporters. The group’s members find mutual support, approval, status, political power, and security.

The power of numbers is so compelling that groups spring up and are organized around every conceivable interest or idea that can support a viable membership. Large groups, movements, and organizations – from science to religion to professional societies to politics – often end up being about ego, power, money, prestige, and influence, regardless of what their original intentions were. Guilt, fear, intimidation, tradition, security, acceptance, identity, shared values, socialization, and acculturation become the tools of choice to grow, maintain, and strengthen the organization and its power.

In contrast, it is the personal science, philosophy, and quality of the individual that must supply the fire at the creative core of human existence. Only the individual can bring content, direction, quality, and value to the power of numbers. Though My Big TOE is about science, philosophy, and the general organization and mechanics of reality, it is simultaneously about you – the individual. You are a vitally important element of the Big Picture because your individual consciousness plays a key role at the core of reality.