On Human Nature

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I wasn't sure where to post this thread so if the mods have a preference, please feel free to move it.

For some odd reason - odd because I generally tend towards pacifism - I am fascinated by the events of WW2. I have no interest in other wars or military subjects but, perhaps because I was born a few years after the end of that war and my childhood was exposed to images, movies and stories of the war, I developed a lifelong interest.

There is a documentary made in the UK during the 1970s called "The World at War", narrated by Lord Olivier, which is probably the definitive documentary and will remain so. I have watched that whole, 26 episode, series several times over the years and am doing so again. This time, because I am just coming to the end of a huge history of the war written by Antony Beevor, simply called "The Second World War". 

So why bring up the subject here on this forum? Well, because nothing has shaken my confidence in human nature more than reading that book. The TV documentary covered the major events and we see pictures of suffering but the book goes into gory detail about the litany of cruelty and sheer evil that humans showed themselves capable of. This from the top down. No doubt that Hitler and Stalin were unspeakable monsters but many of the people they sent into battle performed that cruelty without compunction or remorse. 

We are probably all aware of the horrors of the holocaust but perhaps not so aware of the horrors inflicted on the civilian population by soldiers - particularly German, Japanese and Russian soldiers. Russian troops, supposedly liberating eastern European nations from Nazi oppression (which was, by all accounts, unimaginably terrible) proceeded to rape and slaughter the very people they were "liberating". As one Russian commentator recalled, any female from 8 to eighty was raped by a queue of lustful soldiers before being shot or stabbed.  I could go on - the book is full of similar accounts but that's not really my purpose.

Why do humans resort to such cruelty? If we are truly spiritual beings, what possible purpose could living such a life have? Are we evolving spiritually or even socially? If such a thing as karma exists, how many lifetimes to work through that karma?

I hold certain views which I've described here on this forum at length and I stand by them but I have to say that I have had to endure severe challenges to those views while reading these accounts. Yes, I believe in reincarnation and karma. I believe that karmic debts are incurred which can only be "paid" by positive, loving actions in subsequent lives (or even later in the same life). I also believe in free will and that means that we, as humans, are free to act as we please and there is no divine intervention, no Yahweh to extract retribution or sit in judgement. We are responsible for out actions and must, in the totality of human existence, either evolve away from those base behaviours or perish as a species. If humanity is some kind of spiritual experiment then we seem to be failing badly and will probably end up destroying ourselves.

I hark back to the Seth Material where such questions are addressed. The material suggested that the human ego is the thing that developed in an unintended manner (from a spiritual point of view), being something that was supposed to act as a filter to protect the limited conscious awareness of the physical human but instead became a behavioural driver. As I remember, the material predicted that this century would see the resolution of the dilemma: that humanity is at the point where we can either choose to evolve or become extinct. I wondered how a human being could face such extreme cruelty and I remember that Seth mentioned that we are born with a rough roadmap of the events we will have to face in a lifetime and somehow equipped to face those events. I guessed that meant spiritually equipped but perhaps somehow prepared to endure torment and hardship too? I know that I've met many people who have to endure things that would reduce me to a cowering wreck if I had to face a fraction of such hardship and pain. These people do seem to "have what it takes" somehow.

These are essentially personal observations and thoughts. I am not looking for agreement, I am merely expressing how I feel. Others are welcome to comment and share your own feelings.
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
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I'm sure if I sat and dwelled over this a bit more I'd have something more insightful to say, but right now it's basically just life's fucked. Humans might have a lot more going on for them, but we're brutal bastards at heart and capable of some real evil. We may think we're better but we're all capable of it, we'd commit some real evil on those people who did those things if we were in a position to punish them I reckon. 

From my reading, it's a position and things really brought by their environment, their situation, and it's a real contrast. Those soldiers did those evil things, but if one of their friends were to be shot there's a fair chance they'd sit down and cry about it the next day. They'd miss their families, love their mates like brothers, have so much good in them but still be so evil to everyone else.
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Yeah there are no easy answers I think...how does one give a pithy reply to Walter Benjamin, who died during an attempt to flee the Nazis/Vichy (exactly how is questionable)   ->

"A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress."

To attempt to find some potential for meaning...I think of these things in Hermeticist terms, that the Perennial Wisdom has to slowly blossom inside each human. As Jung suggested in post-WWII as he saw the beginnings of the long Cold War, only by looking inside at our capacity [for] incredible Evil can we hope to prevent atrocities in the future.

Also worth trying to remember that humans are incredibly complex, capable of good and evil all at once. There's a story of John Rabe, a Nazi general who ended up being considered a Living Buddha due to his actions in China akin to Schindler and his famous list.

And of course when nations lose their minds there are those who don't fall for the siren song, whether it's the internal German resistance to Nazism or those who protected the Tutsis against genocide in Rwanda.

Above all, some of them, a mere handful in any generation perhaps, loved -- they loved the animals about them, the song of the wind, the soft voices..... On the flat surfaces of cave walls the three dimensions of the outside world took animal shape and form.

Here -- not with the ax, not with the bow -- man fumbled at the door of his true kingdom. Here, hidden in times of trouble behind silent brows, against the man with the flint, waited St. Francis of the birds -- the lovers, the men who are still forced to walk warily among their kind.
-Loren Eisley, 'The Inner Galaxy'


See also this bit from neurologist Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning on how he survived the Nazi death camps ->

Quote:In front of me a man stumbled and those following him fell on top of him. The guard rushed over and used his whip on them all. Thus my thoughts were interrupted for a few minutes. But soon my soul found its way back from the prisoner’s existence to another world, and I resumed talk with my loved one: I asked her questions, and she answered; she questioned me in return, and I answered…

A thought crossed my mind: I didn’t even know if she were still alive. I knew only one thing — which I have learned well by now: Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance…

Had I known then that my wife was dead, I think that I would still have given myself, undisturbed by that knowledge, to the contemplation of her image, and that my mental conversation with her would have been just as vivid and just as satisfying. ‘Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death.'”
That last line is from Song of Solomon ->

"Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm
For love is as strong as death
as unyielding as the grave."
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2021-02-28, 12:41 AM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)
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Quote:But soon my soul found its way back from the prisoner’s existence to another world ...


This is the only way I can imagine some form of escape from the torment. To find a way to absent your mind from the here & now and to exist in "another world". One would envy the abilities of the many monks and meditators who can achieve that kind of removal of the soul from the physical world.

Otherwise, murder or suicide would be a welcome relief.
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
(This post was last modified: 2021-02-28, 01:52 AM by Kamarling.)
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(2021-02-28, 01:51 AM)Kamarling Wrote: This is the only way I can imagine some form of escape from the torment. To find a way to absent your mind from the here & now and to exist in "another world". One would envy the abilities of the many monks and meditators who can achieve that kind of removal of the soul from the physical world.

Otherwise, murder or suicide would be a welcome relief.

You might surprise yourself.

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
 -Camus


"Father, can a man be brave even when he is afraid?"
"My son, that is the only time a man can be brave."
-GRR Martin, Game of Thrones


edit: Regarding WWII and the events around it, though Auden came to see this poem as trash it's one of my favorites (just gonna post an excerpt b/c it's long as heck)-

September 1, 1939

...What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone...

...All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2021-02-28, 07:04 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)
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My tastes are a little less sophisticated but these lyrics spring to mind, especially bearing in mind what you said above ...



Quote:Also worth trying to remember that humans are incredibly complex, capable of good and evil all at once.



I rode a tank
Held a general's rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

...

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint

...

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, mm yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
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(2021-02-27, 10:49 PM)Kamarling Wrote: I wasn't sure where to post this thread so if the mods have a preference, please feel free to move it.

For some odd reason - odd because I generally tend towards pacifism - I am fascinated by the events of WW2. I have no interest in other wars or military subjects but, perhaps because I was born a few years after the end of that war and my childhood was exposed to images, movies and stories of the war, I developed a lifelong interest.

There is a documentary made in the UK during the 1970s called "The World at War", narrated by Lord Olivier, which is probably the definitive documentary and will remain so. I have watched that whole, 26 episode, series several times over the years and am doing so again. This time, because I am just coming to the end of a huge history of the war written by Antony Beevor, simply called "The Second World War". 

So why bring up the subject here on this forum? Well, because nothing has shaken my confidence in human nature more than reading that book. The TV documentary covered the major events and we see pictures of suffering but the book goes into gory detail about the litany of cruelty and sheer evil that humans showed themselves capable of. This from the top down. No doubt that Hitler and Stalin were unspeakable monsters but many of the people they sent into battle performed that cruelty without compunction or remorse. 

We are probably all aware of the horrors of the holocaust but perhaps not so aware of the horrors inflicted on the civilian population by soldiers - particularly German, Japanese and Russian soldiers. Russian troops, supposedly liberating eastern European nations from Nazi oppression (which was, by all accounts, unimaginably terrible) proceeded to rape and slaughter the very people they were "liberating". As one Russian commentator recalled, any female from 8 to eighty was raped by a queue of lustful soldiers before being shot or stabbed.  I could go on - the book is full of similar accounts but that's not really my purpose.

Why do humans resort to such cruelty? If we are truly spiritual beings, what possible purpose could living such a life have? Are we evolving spiritually or even socially? If such a thing as karma exists, how many lifetimes to work through that karma?

I hold certain views which I've described here on this forum at length and I stand by them but I have to say that I have had to endure severe challenges to those views while reading these accounts. Yes, I believe in reincarnation and karma. I believe that karmic debts are incurred which can only be "paid" by positive, loving actions in subsequent lives (or even later in the same life). I also believe in free will and that means that we, as humans, are free to act as we please and there is no divine intervention, no Yahweh to extract retribution or sit in judgement. We are responsible for out actions and must, in the totality of human existence, either evolve away from those base behaviours or perish as a species. If humanity is some kind of spiritual experiment then we seem to be failing badly and will probably end up destroying ourselves.

I hark back to the Seth Material where such questions are addressed. The material suggested that the human ego is the thing that developed in an unintended manner (from a spiritual point of view), being something that was supposed to act as a filter to protect the limited conscious awareness of the physical human but instead became a behavioural driver. As I remember, the material predicted that this century would see the resolution of the dilemma: that humanity is at the point where we can either choose to evolve or become extinct. I wondered how a human being could face such extreme cruelty and I remember that Seth mentioned that we are born with a rough roadmap of the events we will have to face in a lifetime and somehow equipped to face those events. I guessed that meant spiritually equipped but perhaps somehow prepared to endure torment and hardship too? I know that I've met many people who have to endure things that would reduce me to a cowering wreck if I had to face a fraction of such hardship and pain. These people do seem to "have what it takes" somehow.

These are essentially personal observations and thoughts. I am not looking for agreement, I am merely expressing how I feel. Others are welcome to comment and share your own feelings.

Take any human, deprive him of some basic necessities, keep him ignorant, repress his desires, subject him to daily cruelty, place him in a pack of other such depraved creatures, and he has very little chance of being anything other than a depraved creature.

It takes many generations for humanity to pull itself up to a respectable level of civilization and renaissance and only a few generations to sink back out of it.

The old problem of the progress trap: hard times create hard men, hard men create good times, good times create soft men, soft men create hard times.

The way out of it is to have the youth removed from a life of ease to be initiated with hard times to learn their lessons before being able to rejoin respectable society. This never fully works or lasts.

...maybe if we had a simulation to initiate the youth where the environment is harsh and difficult where lessons could be learned... or maybe that is what Earth is?
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(2021-03-05, 10:12 PM)Hurmanetar Wrote: Take any human, deprive him of some basic necessities, keep him ignorant, repress his desires, subject him to daily cruelty, place him in a pack of other such depraved creatures, and he has very little chance of being anything other than a depraved creature.

It takes many generations for humanity to pull itself up to a respectable level of civilization and renaissance and only a few generations to sink back out of it.

The old problem of the progress trap: hard times create hard men, hard men create good times, good times create soft men, soft men create hard times.

The way out of it is to have the youth removed from a life of ease to be initiated with hard times to learn their lessons before being able to rejoin respectable society. This never fully works or lasts.

...maybe if we had a simulation to initiate the youth where the environment is harsh and difficult where lessons could be learned... or maybe that is what Earth is?

I think the brittleness is not in the body, but rather in the psyche.

"People do horrible things when it all falls apart Slade.
 But it's always the same things.
 That's what makes our jobs easier."
  -Grant Morrison, The Flith

Not sure a harsh environment alone would account for [events like the Holocaust, Rwandan genocide, etc]. I suspect we need to bring back - but in a new way - the initiation rituals some cultures still possess. Not that this is something you can just spring on someone, this kind of "alternative medicine" isn't a like a pill but rather a reorientation in lifestyle.

Of course there'd have to be more than that, a means of living a fulfilling life in a disintegrating global order, but at least some kind of initiation would be a start.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2021-03-09, 09:43 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)
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Human Nature:


Quote:What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,
what is this quintessence of dust?  Hamlet
Quote:A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams.  Emerson
Quote:Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster... for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you. Nietzsche


This world is the middle kingdom, between heaven and hell, and here you can experience both.  Sadly many have not connected to the heavenly and fear they dwell in hell.
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