home | what's new | other sitescontact | about

 

 

Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


 

Clear Thinking

 


 

Editor's Note: This article is part of a series; see the 8 link-icons below - each is best reviewed within a wide corpus of knowledge. My research, for 50 years, attempts to get at what's real and true. Concerning priority of the topics, there's a song-lyric, "love changes everything" - so it is with the scientific evidence of the afterlife; its reality changes everything.

Afterlife Bible Hell God
Jesus Christ Clear Thinking Satan Summary

 

 

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Editor's Essay: Higher Creativity: Liberating The Unconscious For Breakthrough Insights

 

 

when the law and the facts do not support your case, then pound the table and vilify the opposing attorney

 

The following proverb, sometimes called “The Last Resort Rule,” was not taught in Civil Procedure class when I was in law school; however, some attorneys do report of professors who mentioned it.

There are different versions of the aphorism, but it goes something like this:

“If you have a case where the law is clearly on your side, but the facts and justice seem to be against you,” advised an old lawyer to a young attorney, “urge upon the jury the vast importance of sustaining the law."

"On the other hand," the old lawyer continued, "if the law is against you, or doubtful, and the facts show that your case is founded in justice, insist that justice be done though the heavens fall."

“But,” asked the young man, “how shall I manage a case where both the law and the facts are dead against me?”

“In that situation,” replied the old lawyer, “talk around it - and the worse it is, the harder you pound the table.”

Some variants of this sophistry conclude with, not just pounding the table but, attacking the opposing counsel, or yelling with outrage, or shouting at the jury.

It's all a cool calculation. In other words, when the law and the facts are not on your side – and if you lack any semblance of scruple -- you need to do something fast to divert attention from the poverty and lack of substance of your defense; you need to create a scene, manufacture some theatrical charade of moral outrage, produce your own little one-person “mob rule” incident in order to bully your way into a better tactical position – that is, if you want to have any chance of winning your case, and, again, if you lack any sense of moral rectitude and respect for the rule of law.

In recent times, we have witnessed a full-bodied display of “The Last Resort Rule” by political demagogues, unsupported by the law or the facts, in their efforts to overturn policies which countermand their totalitarian agenda. Look at the theatrical charade of moral outrage, see the hardly-disguised attempt to divert attention from the penury of their philosophical positions.

This article on “Clear Thinking” will help us better understand the disingenuities, the attempts to divert our attention from the law and the facts by “pounding tables” and “vilifying opposing attorneys.”

 

 

One of my instructors in college, Bob Morton, spoke of a book on common errors in logic: "How To Think Straight (1932)" by Robert Thouless.

How thrilled I was to learn of actual rules of thinking clearly. I sought out an ancient copy of the book.

 

How this article came to be

There is so much bad thinking in society. The greater part of what you hear is nonsense. While "clear thinking" is a massive topic, I knew I wanted to say something about this as it strikes directly at many of my article topics.

I wanted to get at the core problem. What is the real cause of all this mental cacophony - bordering on forms of insanity - that passes for thinking?

With this in mind, for several years, I've been collecting ideas that might serve as basis for an article. During most of that time, I'd envisioned the article discussing various mental errors, "games people play," slips in logic, and the like. All this has its place in the discussion.

However, only recently, almost 50 years after introduction to the topic, I began to see that faulty techniques and dishonest tricks of the mind do not approach the heart of the issue. One might memorize and avoid, or recognize in others, the three dozen errors of logic outlined by Thouless - and still be off-center.

 

content vs. structure

The slips of logic presented by Thouless represent "content" of the mind; but "content," the myriad forms and guises under which the Small Ego expresses itself, knows no end to its masks, which, as Elizabeth Barrett once said, must sometimes be held up with both hands.

The central issue of the problem will not focus on content but on structure.

I will speak to "structure" soon, however, because "content" is part of the problem, please consider a brief summary of "How To Think Straight," a listing of ten primary errors of thinking -- not just "errors," however, but slick-and-oiled propaganda tools by which sophists will attempt to deceive the unwary:

 

#1 The use of emotionally-charged words.

Is it a dog or a mutt? Was he fanatically pressing narrow agenda or staunchly defending lofty principle? Was the enemy ruthless and savage or heroic and courageous? Did our troops commit atrocities or wise severities?

It's not wrong to convey a sense of conviction via emotionally-toned words, but this is best done after objectively judging the merits of the case, rather than before, which can become a form of prejudicial thinking.

 

#2 Opportunistically redefining terms, claiming that “black” means “white."


A classic and simple example here is saying "all" when "some" is true: "All women are such-and-such"; "All men want this-or-that." Most "all A is B" statements cannot be true, as exceptions will abound. There is the temptation to fudge the truth with "all A is B" because "some" says so little while "all" strengthens one's position.

But there are so many cases of the untoward redefining of terms. It's a favorite tactic of totalitarians who must cloak their power-and-control designs in noble language. George Orwell in his 1984 warned us about this: freedom meant slavery, the Ministry of Truth was the Department of Propaganda, on and on.

We often see brazen attempts to redefine terms in politics. It's common now for the losing side of an election, nevertheless, to claim victory. They do this by redefining the meaning of "winning." In the refashioned version, "winning" now means "positioned for future gain" or "moral victory because we occupy the high ground," or some such. "Winning" is redefined to include whatever allows the disingenuous to save face.

Another word that's lost its traditional meaning is "values." It's a word that once meant all that's dear, warm, and fuzzy, a "mom and apple-pie" concept. But today it's been retooled by demagogues who would hide their malfeasance; for them, "values" is a code word for globalism, ugly socialism, the trojan horses of totalitarianism.

Redefining terms is employed when there's much to lose by an open and honest presentation of the facts. In my investigations related to the "Evolution article," I discovered dozens or scores of these sleight-of-hand infractions committed by materialistic biology. Here's one concerning the famous experiment by Stanley Miller. "Life Created In A Test-Tube!" blared the headlines. Really? - or did we conveniently redefine "life" to create an illusion that something important was happening when nothing going on? Is "life" a synthesis of amino acids? "Yes," they will insist, "amino acids represent such a short step to the production of proteins; which, given enough time, would surely be synthesized, as well." Never mind that proteins, even simple proteins, are so complex that chance-and-probability would require a duration of time equal to the lifespan of several universes. But this small detail is not mentioned in the furor. Instead, they redefined life in terms of amino acids, what they had, and then did a victory lap.

The unspoken premise of all this chicanery is, "you're stupid, you won't notice, we're the smartest people in the room and deserve to rule over you, we can buy and sell you like a horse in the marketplace."

 

#3 Proof by carefully-selected instances.

We build a case for or against a certain proposition by choosing examples which seem to support our contention, as we conveniently brush under the rug those which would defeat us.

We find examples of this every day in the fake-news industry. They will report part of what happened, or manufacture an alternate reality – some might call this “lying” -- and leave out, or edit out, comments or photos which minimize their propaganda purposes. It's all they do.

 

#4 Evading sound refutation of one's argument by use of dishonest claim.

Someone says, "People of such-and-such race are inferior to other races." This is easily defeated by pointing out notable, high-achieving examples. Answered by: "Those are just exceptions that prove the rule." Exceptions do not prove that the general statement is true, but that it is false.

But let's speak in plain language about the "use of dishonest claim." It's so bad today that people will say anything, even when there's evidence on video tape. But this doesn't matter. Today, more and more, the tactic is to make a big false claim, grab the headlines, throw your opponent off-guard, wear him down by having to defend a truckload of lies. We've never seen it as bad as it is right now in the US - makes the days of the Soviet Pravda ("Truth") look good.

 

#5 Diversion to another question, to a side issue, or by irrelevant objection.

How often we see this when politicians are asked questions. Often-times, they will not answer the question, but will divert attention to a non-essential or little-related issue. The tactic is to distract.

There are thousands of these distractions and irrelevant objections. A popular one today is made with a studied ennui and faux sophistication: “oh, that’s so yesterday” or “where’s that from, the sixties” or “we’ve heard that before.” However, truth does not go in and out of style like the latest empty fashion rage from Paris, and only the extremely shallow would suggest otherwise.

The issue is not “have we seen this before,” but - did you understand it before when you first heard it?

Michel Faraday, the great English chemist and physicist, who invented the world’s first electric motor in the 1830s, in response to his envious critics, said it well: “Do not refer to your toy-books and say that you’ve seen that before. Answer me rather, if I ask you, have you understood it before?”

 

#6 Fastening on trivial error in an opponent's argument, making much of it, and then, in this inconsequential victory, leaving it to be supposed that the rival has been defeated on the main question.

Again, an extremely common tactic of diversion and distraction. Look for it in almost every political debate; the shifting of subject matter away from the topic at hand.

 

 

  • Editor's note: In Mark Twain's day it was, "Lies, damn lies, and politics." And today, regarding #5 and #6 above, we are plagued by a storm of what is called "fake news." This deception-technique is useful for propagandists to divert attention from inconvenient truths by simply lying and promoting prevarication as fact.

 

 

#7 The employment of jokes, sarcasm, and cynicism to distract from, and to minimize, the impact of the real issues at hand.

This too is so common. Humor is good, we need more of it, but not when it becomes a place to distract us, to hide in, from the truth.

 

#8 Begging the question.

Also called "circular reasoning, "begging the question" occurs when a topic of debate is spoken of in terms suggesting that it's already been settled and verified.

For example, if one were to dispute the infallibility of the Bible, comments from an opponent such as "holy scripture" or "God's word" would be inadmissible as these phrases assume that which is being contested. See the Evolution article for examples of this breach of logic.

Here's another example from recent news. A headline, meant to deceive the unwary, blasts: "Such-and-such famous politician refuses to surrender certain documents, despite a court order to do so." We're led down a garden path to assume that it's right and just that the documents be surrendered. Never mind that such request, in itself, is illegal, an invasion of privacy, and part of a "witch hunt" to create an illusion of wrong-doing, and that the person in question has no legal duty, according to long-standing precedent, to surrender such documents. But you're not supposed to understand all this.

 

#9 Argument by imperfect analogy.

This error in reasoning was discussed in the article "Reincarnation On Trial."  

Analogies can be helpful in making clear a hard-to-understand point, but analogies, of and by themselves, do not constitute evidence and cannot be used to conclusively support another arena of discussion.

 

#10 The appeal to mere authority.

"Aristotle claims..."

"The Bible says..."

"Our chief-guru church leader or materialistic scientist preaches..."

"Everybody knows this is true..."

"Grandma and Grandpa believed this..."

The advice of competent experience should not be easily dismissed. When people have made themselves knowledgeable, with years and decades of careful study and investigation, we should take their counsel seriously. This would be an appeal to reasonable authority.

But there is a diseased form of this principle - a showcasing, a window-dressing, an appeal to counterfeit and mere authority. People who wear "empty uniforms," posturing an authority externally bestowed but not earned - not reflective of one's character, talents, and knowledge - have no real authority. These imposters are like the Wizard of Oz, fulminating behind a curtain, hiding in smoke and mirrors, but now exposed by Toto.

 

 

  • Albert Einstein: “Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

 

Unthinking deference to Aristotle set science back for 2000 years, until Galileo found the chutzpah to ask himself, "What if Aristotle was wrong?"

And maybe Grandma and Grandpa always did believe such-and such - but that doesn't mean they had any better chance of being right than you or anyone else on the street; and maybe Grandma and Grandpa, if they have their wits about them now on the other side, are hoping and praying that you will be the one to finally break out of the encrusted habits of old errors that have long dogged and hurt the family.

 

for a thousand years, what you call 'the dark ages,' only the faintest glimmer, here and there, of rational thought could be found

In the direct-voice-medium facilitated lectures by Spirit-Guide Abu, we find him lamenting a period of history during which superstition and fear-and-guilt based thinking reached an apex (paraphrased from Abu’s lecture):

For a thousand years, from the time of the fall of Rome to the beginnings of the Renaissance, humankind suffered under severe torment of superstitious thinking. We Spirit-Guides, during that time, would come to the Earth in search of willing hearts and minds through whom we might inform the general populace of the wonders and marvels of the afterlife. Essentially, we were wholly unsuccessful in our efforts. If we did happen to find a rare, open mind, and one with a measure of mediumistic ability via which agency we might communicate the truth of Summerland, such enlightened person ran the risk of being judged a “devil,” or a witch, to be burned at the stake by Church authorities; or, in sense, an even worse fate might befall, as that open mind, in receipt of glorious visions of the next world, might now be deified and considered a “saint,” a god! - and in this mad kangaroo-interpretation of events our efforts to spread the truth were dealt a severe blow. These one thousand years, which your history, not without reason, terms “The Dark Ages,” represent a low point in the evolvement of humankind, the long, sad journey upward from primitive mindset, due to the Machiavellian ways of the cultish Great Church, one of the supreme curses and sources of Evil in all the world.

Editor's note: During the Dark Ages the world backslid and lost much information, the scientific and philosophical advances of the ancient Greeks. But for this colossal intellectual set-back, I suspect, today we'd be colonizing other parts of the galaxy in a “Star Trek” universe of wondrous achievement.

Instead, the human spirit has been forced to endure the fear and guilt, the heavy hand, of Big Religion's stultifying influence.

 

 

the young girl who thought she had no right to question religious authority

Dr. Weatherhead tells the story of a religious girl who, bothered by certain doctrinal teachings, nevertheless, acquiesced to the fates of her life with a reluctant, "Who am I to question the church fathers, the great theologians of the past?”

READ MORE

 

 

I've presented 10 errors of debate in Robert Thouless's "How To Think Straight." Some of you might like to get his book and read all 34.

 

content vs. structure

It's helpful to become aware of Thouless's cataloging of the "dishonest tricks," as he calls them. We see them everywhere in society. It's virtually all we hear from many politicians, from Big Religion, from Facebook debates, from sales ads, on and on - but, especially, we find these "tricks" well at home in the privacy of our own minds, where they do the most harm.

What can be done? Thouless offers a philosophical assessment: essentially, "if we had enough public awareness, better education, we could all begin to think straight."

The problem, I believe, runs deeper than education, which is just more content. Some of the biggest violators of clear thinking are the most highly educated, and not even the captain of the Harvard debating team might be immune here. We must look at the mind's disability in terms of "structure" not just "content." (See the article below.)

 

#11 The Disingenuity of "We say that, too."

Allow me to add an “eleventh commandment” to the list offered by Thouless. It’s another dishonest debating tactic, a form of fake-news.

To help us understand, let's bring to mind a proverb, “The Three Stages of Truth,” attributed to Schopenhauer:

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

Implicit herein is the maxim, as Shakespeare wrote, “The truth will out.” Eventually, that which is real, honest, and good will become known to all. But, during the “self evident” phase, as the new truth becomes popularly accepted as the right course, “The Lying Teacher” sometimes shifts gears and will now shamelessly try to “lead the parade” concerning that which it once vilified and tried to stamp out!

"The Lying Teacher" will brashly suggest that it knew about this new truth all along; further, it will say, “We say that, too! We always said that! There’s nothing new here! We’ve been teaching this for a long time! In fact, if it weren’t for us, there’d be no new truth.”

the Fraticelli, slaughtered lambs of Big Religion

If we put our minds to it, we could come up with a great many examples of “We say that, too.” But, here’s a famous – and disgusting – example from history.

Francis of Assisi, that most gentle soul who loved animals and all of nature, renounced materialism in a dramatic way with his “vow of poverty.” After his death, his followers, the “Fraticelli,” seeking to perpetuate Francis’s disdain for mammon, were condemned as heretics – and burned at the stake! -- by the worldly and thuggish Ecclesia, already part of the international banking system. Later, the so-called “Church,” finding itself on the wrong side of history with the growing popularity of Francis’s humanistic legacy, suddenly adopted him as one of their beloved own, canonized him as a saint, and acted like Francis’s success couldn’t have happened without their blessing.

See historian Kenneth Clark's discussion of Francis and the RCC.

But here’s another example of "We say that, too," one as egregious, but less dramatic.

More and more scientists are accepting “Consciousness,” not matter, as the basis of reality. Materialism is under attack as never before, and its adherents feel quite threatened.

Recently, I reviewed a video produced by materialistic science having to do with the nature of reality. I was surprised by the open discussion of “Consciousness” as key component of reality. However, there was less here than meets the eye.

coming to terms

Reviewing the “fine print,” I discerned that their version of “Consciousness” was just an extension of materialism; for them, it’s a product of “upward causation,” composed of subtle matter.

It’s just a form of “We say that, too.” In effect, their purpose in suddenly accepting Consciousness as a respectable point of science discussion becomes, “We know all about Consciousness. We talk about it, too. There’s nothing new here, nothing about this that you can’t get from us!” -- this, from those who have long vilified any mention of the subject.

It’s a dishonest form of debate. When you see that the old tricks aren’t working anymore, then you try to “lead the parade” and say, “We knew it all the time. We say that, too” But look at the sleight-of-hand. They "accept” Consciousness – not to thoughtfully consider and to search for the truth – but to marginalize the term, to make it part of materialism, so as to control the debate from another angle. Consciousness is redefined in materialistic terms and made to be something it could never be.

It’s just “The Lying Teacher” on a field day.

 

 

bite-sized packets of information

Providing a certain sequence of thought, the following sub-article writings, it is suggested, are best reviewed in the order presented.

 

please click on each link-icon

The reason behind the reason for what most people believe.

Why only the virtuous find the truth.

Why it took me 15 years to finish my research on the book of Galatians

I invented the term "pathological harmonizing" to describe my thinking as a fundamentalist

How did the ancient Greeks, a religious people, manage, almost single-handedly, to create what we call philosophy? Why is it that the beginnings of so many important modern fields of enquiry find their roots in the ancient Hellenic culture?

In contract law, agreements are unenforceable if entered into with "lack of capacity." This speaks to an absence of a "meeting of the minds," an inability to cogently negotiate agreements. In the unenlightened state, almost everything a person does or thinks constitutes "lack of capacity" - those who live in the dark can't see anything.

Bruce Lee: "Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. Be water, my friend."

The 'utterly shameless' are not interested in clear thinking, in debating ideas, in determining 'the truth.' When encountering these base and vicious ones, you are wasting your time even talking to them. They just want to froth in their "madness maddened."

Immanuel Kant: raw sensory data, it's generally believed, shapes the mind - or does the mind shape the data? 

Content versus structure: a common example of mind-imposed conceptual structure, the half-empty glass.  

The most important information I would share on this subject: the essence of a first-rate mind.

 

the dishonest egoic mind, with its tricks and disdain for the truth, is but a temporary developmental stage in human evolvement

In various Word Gems articles, we’ve often spoken of the “true self” and the “false self.” Regarding this latter, a defining characteristic is the “monkey mind,” the incessant “chattering in the head,” which is just plain egocentric thinking. The egoic mind sees itself as the center of the universe, and all people and things coming into contact are evaluated in terms of labeling, comparing, sizing up, “better than,” “less than,” potential enhancement or threat.

Thinking, by the egoic mind, will issue as base alloy, just mattress stuffing, not much value to it. There’s no love for the truth in it, no desire to find it; all the ego cares about is elevating itself. The eleven violations of “clear thinking” (above) constitute a dysinformation campaign by which the unenlightened mind seeks to protect itself against all others. The incessantly chattering “monkey mind” demands this call to arms, inspired by an inner whispering-mantra, “I don’t have enough” because “I am not enough.”

Good luck to us in finding “clear thinking” if we’re driven by these demons.

why things are arranged this way

How did all this cerebral chaos come to be? Does not all this self-seeking, this self-serving thought, become the essence of Evil, all the suffering and pain that’s afflicted Humankind? Did God/the Universe/Cosmic Consciousness/Intelligent Design make a mistake in allowing this mayhem to infect the world and all of history?

We certainly might be tempted to judge it this way; many have. However, as we evaluate the situation from a wider perspective, another view presents itself.

Ancient Spirit Guides, thousands of years old, inform us that we came to this troubled planet not fully formed. Our minds and spirits, strictly speaking, we were not “individuated,” not whole and complete and separate persons, in our own right. The Guides say that we came here to become individuals – a true person; not necessarily, immediately, a “good” person; that’s step two, which might not even happen for many in this world. Summerland is a better place to enjoy that ratcheting up of virtue. Further, a way of healing has been provided to make us whole from our disastrous time on planet Earth.

just temporary scaffolding for a building under construction

And so, how does the “chattering monkey mind” fit in with this mega-view? The egoic mind, with its dishonest tricks and violations of “clear thinking,” is a temporary, developmental stage in human evolution. We’re not meant to live there and put down roots. Selfish, self-centered, self-oriented thinking won’t win us the “Miss Congeniality Award,” but it is good for one thing – it’ll turn us into individualized persons; maybe not a “good” person, not right away, but it will individuate us. All of that “me-thinking” is just dandy for creating a sense of individuality, and that’s what it’s good for. Scaffolding isn't meant to be pretty. It’s like making sausage: we might like the end product, but, as they say, don’t watch the process too closely, it might turn your stomach.

If the “monkey mind” is a temporary developmental stage in human evolution, what comes next? Well, a fish doesn’t know it’s in water, and those inundated by egoic thinking can’t imagine anything else. What we need to understand and come to see is that ordinary thinking is just part of human intelligence; a minority interest. All true creative thought, all higher-level thought, any thought of great worth and value, comes not from egoic thinking but from accessing the “true self” deep within, which is linked to Universal Consciousness.

This is Individuality’s true home, true residence, where our spirits will live for the next million years and beyond.

 

 

the education of a free man or woman 

ancient Greek pottery, “Phlyax Scene,” depicting a master (center, long tunic) and a slave (short tunic)

 

Many years ago Mortimer Adler helped me to understand the meaning of the common term “liberal education.” “Liberal” in this context has nothing to do with political leanings but, in its classical sense, speaks to “liberty.”

A liberal education is one befitting a free man or woman. Slaves in ancient times were treated as chattel, as things, belonging to a master. Instruction for a slave was limited to training, the acquisition of skills in relation to tasks to be performed for the benefit of a master.

However, the education of this latter, a free person, was very much different in kind. It was liberal in orientation, that is, pertaining to freedom, and centered upon clear thinking and developing the mind -- for its own sake, as an end in itself, and not as a means to something else or someone else’s private agenda. Most views of education down through the centuries have not been "liberal" in any meaningful sense but were crafted in service of a master, some Dear Leader - a government, a church, an ideology, a cult – with little regard for the individual. It's been this way for many thousands of years and not much has changed (also see Dr. Adler’s essay and my own “1-Minute essay”).

People often wonder about their purpose in life. There are “outer” purposes which vary from person to person; however, as our time on this planet is very fleeting, none of this matters overly much. It is the “inner” purpose which takes on cosmic significance, and this purpose will be the same for every individual – it is the call to “wake up,” to open our eyes to who we truly are; it is a beckoning to freedom, to an activation of the sacred “true self.” A great many articles on the Word Gems site address this universal summoning to action.

Without a mind calibrated and tuned to the sweet melody of freedom, we will fall prey to those who strut and prance and proclaim themselves to be our saviors. Look around you – almost every institution, every ideology, every belief-system of the world, if we have eyes to see, exists to make you its pawn; if you let them, if you have not yet discovered who you are.

 

 

 

 

"There is no use trying," said Alice; "one can't believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

                                                Lewis Carroll

 

 

Editor's last word:

Lewis Carroll is very sarcastic here. The Queen of Hearts, and her practiced belief in impossible things, represents society’s indoctrination of children, which, with a wink, we call education.

But there is no true education in “believing” anything, no true education in memorizing and repeating the "right answer," but only that which allows one to follow the evidence, faithfully and honestly, toward more refined, ordered, and closely-approximating perceptions of reality.

Helping children to stand on their own, to face unafraid the uncertainties of clear thinking, to courageously accept incomplete, tentative, or seemingly paradoxical answers...

... to eschew the security-blanket of dogmatism posing as knowledge, to embrace the “quietly alive, aware, and alert” mental life of a free man or woman, is what’s most important, by far. And so shall it ever be.