Mechanisms of Escape: The Occult and Nazism

“The more the drive toward life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive toward destruction; the more life is realized, the less is the strength of destructiveness. Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life.”[1] Society has created the conditions that frustrate the capacity for real individuality. The alienation that one feels unless they adhere to society leaves a person feeling obliged to conform and yet as their own freedom is suppressed become impregnated with agitation that grows into a type of pathology or destructiveness toward both their own humanity by being automaton or to others. Our will is always driven by the question or problem of human existence, to try and find the solution that will enable us to feel happiness. When we do not have the answers, we become insecure at the disassociation or that separateness we feel with ourselves, our past and our future because there is no concrete relatedness or meaning available. We recognise the futility and while feeling profoundly small and insignificant also realise the responsibility we have to create meaning for ourselves. It is at that point that we come to a decision. Do we completely annihilate the self through conformity or create false significance by enlarging our sense of worth by destroying the happiness of others? Or do we embrace our freedom by taking responsibility for our own happiness and thus instead destroy our place in society?

A number of years ago now, I experienced personal afflictions that left me feeling very vulnerable and without any answers as to how I could improve my situation. I found myself desperately wanting to change my environment but did not have the answers for how that could be achieved. In order to alleviate those distressing feelings, I tried to attach myself to something concrete to help save me from realising the abyss of an unlived life. It was as though my life was a painting that initially had symmetry until splatters of paint made it messy, all the mixture of colours blurred and blackened the outcome of what was the purpose of my existence. I had a choice; cover the messy canvas with an artificial layer by forming an attachment to something that will save me from having to take responsibility for creating meaning myself, or destroy the old canvas of my life and start all over again.

But what is this artificial ‘layer’ that covers the canvas? “The frightened individual seeks for somebody or something to tie his self to; he cannot bear to be his own individual self any longer, and he tries frantically to get rid of it and to feel security again by the elimination of this burden: the self.”[2] It is absorbing oneself into another, allowing something other than your own consciousness and rationality to think on your behalf whether it is people, dogma or at the pathological end occultism or new ageism. According to a paper by B. Rosenthal, the occult is a symptom of social and cultural stress. “The occult revival of late 19th and early 20th century Russia was a response to the fading credibility of the Russian Orthodox Church, the spiritual/psychological inadequacy of intelligentsia ideologies, the destabilizing effects of rapid industrialization, and continued political upheaval.”[3] There were many clandestine groups that existed in ancient Europe that were revived in the late 19th century as an answer to social stress as they contained symbols of unity and of special importance that membership enabled meaning. The esoteric or spiritual language established purpose and why the ‘secrets’ can only be revealed to special members to supplement authority and authenticity.

Madame Blavatsky started the Theosophical Society in the United States blending esoteric and the occult with Hindu mysticism and she strongly influenced the revival of occultism all across Europe, including Thule Gesselschaft that was instrumental in the development of the Nazi regime. Aryanism developed as an ideology off the backbone of Theosophy, where Blavatsky claimed that we ultimately evolved from “The Root Races” or ethereal beings from the island of Atlantis, referred to as the Chaya Race. Plato wrote of the lost city of Atlantis in Timaeus and Critias that was later taken by Ignatius Donnelly as an actual historical reality when he reignited the idea that there are descendants of a more advanced or sophisticated culture, all this furthered by Blavatsky in her book of pure nonsense The Secret Doctrine.[4] Despite the actuality of her garbage being eclipsed by the apologists that follow her teachings, the ‘universal brotherhood’ implies that we are single race of beings ‘rooted’ or attached to one another back in time.

But, not all.

The six root-races are the Astral, Hyperborean, Lemurian, Atlantean, Aryan, and the Coming Race, that complete the evolutionary tree. According to Blavatsky, there are sub-human “Semitic” people who are degenerate and ultimately responsible for miscegenation.  She claimed that these were off-shoots that were degenerating the roots of these so-called perfect beings. Despite the current denial that root-races refer to actual race as defined in contemporary intellectual circles, Blavatsky wrote: “The Aryan races, for instance, now varying from dark brown, almost black, red-brown-yellow, down to the whitest creamy colour, are yet all of one and the same stock – the Fifth Root-Race – and spring from one single progenitor.” This gave rise to the idea of purifying or evolving back to the Aryan race with blonde hair and blue eyes progenitors. This relationship between Nazism and Blavatsky is obvious with the Swastika – an ancient Hindu symbol that implies wellbeing or peacefulness – that was used counter-clockwise by the Nazi Germans who imagined a correlation or shared history with the Indian culture as per Blavatsky’ theory. “The Aryan race was born and developed in the far north, though after the sinking of the continent of Atlantis its tribes emigrated further south into Asia.”[5] The Fylfot or Thor’s Hammer is a similar example of Odinic symbolism in Norse and Germanic mythology adopted by the Thule Society, where the Nazi ideology emerged and they had close contacts with the Theosophical society that appropriated the ideas of Blavatsky.

Somotaform disorders is an example of how a person experiencing anxiety is capable of causing actual physical changes. These states communicate psychological distress as though a person understands there to be a problem but does not have the language or words to express this inner life, resulting in physical symptoms that symbolise this distress. The depths of our capacity to believe in unreal or imagined ideas are so powerful that it verifies insanity to be a preferable option over reason or rationality. Just like Somotaform disorders, Aryanism became a real concept that this collective pathology became the tool to justify the murder of so many innocent people as a way to reverse the miscegenation and racial impurity. If occultism is born following the destabilisation effects from the social and political upheaval of the time, it is clear that the social distress following World War One where Germany was pressured with exorbitant repatriation payments vis-a-vis the treaty of Versailles, combined with generations of European anti-Semitism with falsely attributed suspicions of world domination from the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and particularly with Martin Luther’s legacy of anti-Jewish literature, and a mixture of Theosophical, Rosicrucian and Roman history combined became the ingredients that enabled the Nazis to create such an ideology. By imagining the Other in the Jew, they generated the mobilisation required to envision pan-Germanic nationalism, enabling validity and ultimately meaning by enlarging the ego that – through the destruction of others – helped overcome the smallness and insignificance they felt. As said by Schopenhauer: “But every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud adopts, as a last resource, pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and glad to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”[6]

Occultism or even fundamentalism – where people revert back to old religious traditions and practices since the past is viewed to be a time of ‘happiness’ – is fuelled during periods of social destabilisation, used to explain the problem of human existence by engaging in possibilities for a stable future. Twenty-first century capitalism has fashioned contemporary society to feel more and more alienated from one another that germinates the anxiety and thus the need to form superficial bonds where people become object-related. People attach themselves to the culture and operate en masse but this can only be achieved when everyone believes that they are independent in their decision making, that they are unique and different despite doing exactly what everyone else is doing. The pathology has changed and but still rooted in the same false or imagined idea of reality, leading people to the same destructive channels.  

It is as though destruction seems inevitable until we find the inner peace that comes with independent thinking. Everything else is simply a mechanism to escape from that ability, the fear we have to create meaning for ourselves. Some, such as the Occult, are dangerous for its highly imagined narratives that channel the insanity of this fear. For me, the castle made on sand collapsed – the mind that never thought for herself – and through morality and creativity as variables that confer meaning, I started anew.

 

[1] Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, Open Road Media (2013)
[2] Ibid
[3] Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, The Occult in Modern Russian and Soviet Culture (1993)
[4] Helena P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Penguin (2006)
[5] Ibid
[6] Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms (1970)

The Ethics of Nature

I remember as a child being completely overcome by the beauty of the Dandenong Ranges, the rain hitting the large ferns that danced to the ambience of the meditative bird sounds echoing from the colossal trees above, the smell of the moisture from the earth below that pirouetted with the scent of plants and wood of the forest and it kindled such joy within me that this emotional affinity continues today. I now often find myself retreating into the cool, forest enclaves across Victoria that ignite the same speechless feeling that I experienced many years ago. There are a number of sources that indicate that our time spent out in nature can improve our physical and mental health, from reducing blood pressure, stress, fatigue and even inflammation that lowers the risk of early death, as well as improvement of mood and even self-esteem that alleviates the symptoms of depression and anxiety and enables improved cognition and increased concentration. But, what is this therapeutic benefit, this strong bond or relationship humans have with nature? Like a person who smokes cigarettes, conscious that this is a major health risk but indifferent to the destructive nature of this pointless habit, humanity has become indifferent to the environment, and the ecosystem – like our body – is slowly being poisoned by the damaging effects of greenhouse gases. Do we have a moral obligation to ensure the preservation of our ecosystem and if so, what does the future of this discipline look like?

Several years ago, I went with friends to the Botanical Gardens to watch a movie at an outdoor ‘moonlight’ cinema they created and the noise from the fruit bats living in the surrounding trees brought to light the reasons for their controversial culling. The colonies of flying foxes are migratory and are both a pest as well as a risk to the plants and flowers of the gardens that make them a potential threat to the survival of many rare botanical species. In addition, the fruit bat – also known as the flying fox – carries the Hendra Virus that is transmitted to horses as it ingests food contaminated by bat droppings and other fluids, causing a number of severe symptoms leading to death. This virus can be transmitted to humans from the horse that causes influenza-like symptoms that potentially lead to death. The mortality rate is high and as a consequence fruit bats were ordered to be culled to reduce the growing numbers that reached crises levels. However, animal rights activists called out against the culling of the fruit-bats on account of their declining numbers and the reason for their migration being due to changes to their original habitat. This calls into question the actual problem that should encourage their protection. Indeed, the fruit bat was soon listed by the Federal Government as an endangered species that required an adequate approval process for culling.

When the Prickly Pear Cacti was introduced to Australia in the early twentieth century, the species quickly became an ecological pest that infested millions of hectares of land and devastated the Australian landscape that a radical method to destroy the outbreak was required in order to reduce the invasive botanical spread. Australia did not have the natural resources that could control the cacti and along with the warm climate and bird species that ate and ultimately distributed the seeds, the prickly pear wrought havoc on the land of the early settlers of New South Wales and Queensland. The tremendous effort required to manage the prickly pear cost more then it was worth that a prickly pear destruction committee was developed! It was until the introduction of the cactoblastis caterpillars that they found a solution to successfully control the outbreak and using this biological method – where the eggs and larvae extracted the plants moisture until the plant died – they were finally able to control the infestation of the weed.

It is clear that human behaviour can shape and control some aspects of our environment and our intellectual activity has enabled us to communicate and alter our decisions that allow us to ascertain our responsibility and forecast a sustainable or improved future scenario. To protect the integrity of our ecosystem, however, can sometimes appear to be bigger than us such as the consumption of natural resources including gas and oil that makes the average individual assume an abstract position in this ethical framework, that we can recycle our cans of drink and paper but still drive cars and use the gas stove. What is the difference in value between the prickly pear and the fruit bat? Why do we place more value on the fruit bat over the prickly pear?

Moral consciousness – what I call “love” or our ability to feel empathy and morally deliberate – originates from our understanding of value, where we give objects a moral status or as David Hume would suggest, that moral value is the value that I attach to the object and therefore relational and dependent on the agent. It is aligned with the theory that love is something that we give or entirely subjective and emotive and that what is value is simply what I believe is valuable and does not have an actual real, objective moral value. I clearly have an issue with this despite the logic behind such relational epistemology, because there is an absence of any value at all and thus if nothing has value then morality does not exist either. It also arouses questions on the exclusivity of moral actions – such as human life is intrinsically better than animal life for instance – or whether one outcome is more morally valuable over another. Intrinsic values are deemed to be valuable for itself or ‘in its own right’ whereas instrumental value are actions that are morally permissible based on a number of variables that leads to a moral outcome. If fruit bats were not an endangered species, would culling them be morally wrong?

Kant suggests that intrinsic moral value is the source of morality, that is, that since humanity exhibits as I suggested earlier the rational or cognitive capacity to deliberate moral agency, they thus contain moral value. Humanity contains intrinsic value and thus the agency to rationally will sufficient moral understanding, and while this may be anthropocentric, rights are also aligned with ethical responsibility or that our moral status is multi-faceted and thus we are enabled with the capacity to question and evaluate objects making values variable in nature. This is the nature of the ethical problem at hand, as human beings as moral agents have intrinsic value and with the criterion of rational cognition place value on objects that otherwise are instrumental in value that abandons the moral status to animals or our environment. What that means is that the effects of deforestation in order to power the economic engine of capitalism has more instrumental value than protecting forests, and those for or against deforestation will raise ethical pros and cons of both sides of the argument to try and justify the instrumental value of the environment.

quote-with-all-your-science-can-you-tell-how-it-is-and-whence-it-is-that-light-comes-into-the-soul-henry-david-thoreau-301249

Let’s take a look at McDonalds, with what I believe to be the most strategic and incredibly intelligent marketing campaign that attempts to justify the immorality behind their business by pretending that they are actually going to make a difference to what is their global impact on our environment. McDonalds had started adding “healthy options” to the menu to lure a continuity of customers, to try and be open and accountable about their ingredients to remove doubt as to the quality of their meat, and now are perpetrating a marketing campaign that claims that they are going to reduce their emission intensity by 2030 because of the sheer scale of the food chain’s impact on our environment. How is that possible when aligned with this is their global growth strategy that aims to increase consumer and ultimately business profitability? If the predominant item in the McDonalds menu is beef, let us take a look at cows for a moment. Agriculture is the primary reason for deforestation and not only is this destroying the habitats of thousands of species, but cows that make the meat in the burgers people eat contributes to global greenhouse gases since they produce more methane that has a greater impact on the environment than C02 emissions. What shifty bastards. People are now going to think that since McDonalds is being so-called open and accountable to global warming that eating McDonalds will no longer be immoral when any real attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be to completely stop eating McDonalds, which would contradict their profit goals. It is value-nihilism at best.

Like the gas stove or using the car, people believe their ethical position in this network of environmental change is abstract and that buying lunch at Maccas is really not going to change anything. It challenges the anthropocentrism of our moral position. Intrinsic value is not something exclusive to rational beings who symbolically project from their own mental reality, but rather as Henry David Thoreau states, “to be always on the alert to find God in nature,” and there is no symbolic or spiritual relationship but that moral realism is present in the physical world and can be directly perceived. That nature has intrinsic value and this biocentric angle moulds together the schism between good or bad qualities that we force on nature and thus rational thought and values become inseparable. Consciousness is no longer separate from nature. That like McDonalds, the primary cause of our problems with nature is the coercive projection of our irrational suggestion that only humans have intrinsic moral value; we become a part of nature, giving spirituality or that symbolic or metaphysical moral system a concrete reality (excuse the pun). While there may be a number of limitations to this since everything becomes almost morally impermissible, it certainly avoids that disillusioned or disembodied separateness, an us and them, the same disillusionment between a person who smokes cigarettes and their own body that they treat as an inanimate mechanism.

At the rate of global destruction that has reached a point of existential crises, civil disobedience and our duty to protect the environment and engage against injustice is very clear. I am preparing to embrace this reality around us, that I am not distant or abstract in the world but that spirituality and that symbolic connection is physical and real. As said by Thoreau: “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

Social Media. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Several years ago during the most difficult period of my life, the internet became the conduit for me to interact socially while at the same time enabled me to be protected by this simulated reality, where I could sit at home and remain behind the computer at a safe distance from people. It was only earlier this year that I realised I actually believed in this virtual reality, where words that were written online by someone somewhere half-way across the earth was real and I used that as a basis for creating a person in my mind. It was not them. It is not solipsism, they actually exist, but my interpretation of them was imagined and based on the words or the language being communicated between us. John Searle’ famous Chinese Room thought experiment sheds light on the theory of mind where he is sitting alone inside a room in front of a computer and outside there is another person who slips cards with Chinese characters under the door. Using a computer program, he interprets the Chinese characters and reiterates this to fool the person standing outside that he understands Chinese. While the thought experiment is primarily about the differences between artificial intelligence and the human mind, it also argues how we can simulate an artificial appearance of someone that is not really us using language to articulate a type of personality, and by manipulating a string of words that symbolise a personality for someone on the other side of the computer who believes we can appear to have type of character that we really don’t have. It is how we communicate with the external world in order to imagine that we are not alone or separate from one another.

This period of difficulty was primarily due to the loneliness that I felt and social media provided the platform to feel connected and enabled me to share narratives of my experiences to a small but supportive cohort of friends, helping me increase my self-esteem by feeling safe and comfortable to open up and share my experiences. It fostered social connections where I made new friends that influenced me to take a break from the continuous rumination I felt trapped in at the time, teaching me to find that balance in how I communicate by objectifying my ideas and opinions to suit an audience through trial and error [through a ranking system of “likes” – the less likes, the less significant] and helped me escape from that repetitive themes of negative thought. I slowly became actively engaged and have forged satisfying and positive friendships by creating an environment of like-minded people. This was based on the decision to remove toxic people from my life and to begin believing that I am worthy and deserve to create my own happiness, removing myself from an environment that once stated how bad I am and how worthless I am where this noise pollutes your sense of self-worth and clarity to be yourself. I was encouraged to feel included by good people.

This socio-semantic web is a platform that enables virtual communication both with words but also with images and these images become symbolic that, viz., Peircean semiotics, is interpreted and given value. According to Pierce, a ‘sign’ which is any object that conveys meaning involves a combination of a ‘signifier’ which is the image but can also include words and sounds along with the ‘signified’ or the mental concept that arises, the latter entirely how the individual addresses and gives meaning to these images. It may be a sign or object – such as a picture of me standing near the Pyramids – but it could represent freedom, a love of travel, passion for history and this enables me to recruit the positive reception from my audience.

But what happens when there is a shift from making positive connections with real people that you know personally to those who you don’t even know? The more likes, the more popular and since it is therefore you in the photo, your value or meaning becomes dependant on the amount of likes you can get and this only alienates you in a different way. The vicious cycle here is that like how people avoid liking photo’s that are not liked by others, they can also like photos because other people are liking and you being in the picture obtain superficial meaning from this; there is no authenticity when they like your photo, it is just people who want to feel part of a community, who want to feel like everyone else and are afraid of being different. And by targeting a particular culture or community in order to garner more likes (i.e. #hashtag), the more likes you have, the more meaning the photo itself has and there the more significant you become. You transform into a product where you start to sell yourself to people rather than sharing your experiences with your friends. The utility or purpose of social media transforms into a mechanism that engineers our imagination into virtual reality, an unreal world of faux interactions.

There are a plethora of studies that show links between social media and depression. The highly competitive “capitalistic” space develops Others or enables comparisons where people become pressured to sell themselves or buy into the selling of others in order to fit in and feel popular. It is indirect peer pressure, telling you that if you do not look a certain way or behave a certain way then you will never be happy, you are different, the Other. Tammy Hembrow, a so-called “fitness” personality who appears to be mimicking the Kardashian mould uses Instagram to display her body and family life and her photo’s can garner up to 500,000 likes. While she is covered in plastic surgery and layers make-up, she pretends to be promoting self-esteem when she has turned herself into a product that causes it. Who she is personally is irrelevant, she could be a complete moron or a lovely person, but what she represents and how she teaches others to be through her images is the problem that is represented as the solution. People then believe they must like her pictures and even be like her in order to be a part of what her images are supposed to represent, despite those liking her photos are likely those that feel alienated and want to feel connected to something that doesn’t even exist.

It becomes a social pathology where virtual reality has offered the medium that hides the evident sickness of this social condition. A pattern forms where the more people behave the same the less it will be seen as a problem. They start to feel at ease in this pattern and normalise what would otherwise be very concerning behaviour. If I were to individualise this pathology – imagine Tammy Hembrow posting but no one liking her photos, or you are an alien wondering what she is doing – the photo clearly shows a crazy woman copying the Kardashians who themselves are crazy. Why is it suddenly acceptable because she has so many followers? And the worst part about this is that when I challenge these very followers and the meaning they have attached to such people in reverence for doing absolutely nothing for humanity, a type of panic forms as though my comments initiate some fear within them. What is that? Is it the fear of exposing their immorality, since what they thought was ‘good’ behaviour – equating goodness as majoritarian – is no longer a good thing and they simply cannot accept that they are wrong or bad in someway? Are they afraid of forming their own identity since they developed meaning through others and when that begins to collapse who they really are becomes visible, which is an empty and separate person from all others? Does that panic amplify the hatred where people like me become the troll or hater to silence me in order to feel secure again?

It calls into question what is real? Is taking a picture with a man and kissing him mean genuine love? Does what the majority approve make something real? Or is everything that we do virtual, a mirror reflection, something that is visible but does not actually exist? Is that the only way we can communicate to one another whether virtually or in reality and if so, is authenticity just an imagined construct? Rousseau stated that our dependence on others diminishes the authenticity of our self-hood and once lost, hierarchies and inequality forms as contrasts from our desire for the approval from others.

Now that I intentionally destroyed my online presence, I saw my life for the first time after years of hiding behind virtual reality, feeling safe and secure but not really forming any real bonds with people. My imagination was shattered and my actual life was suddenly exposed to me where I saw all the future risks and difficulties both present and future, my aloneness and separateness, the panic and the fear of my existence. But, being mature now, accepting this reality, overcoming that panic and fear, I also saw the chance to create happiness and just how outstanding love really was. I was no longer scared. I felt no sadness and all anger was gone. Instead, I felt present, here and now, and a certain relief came over me as though I have finally accepted reality. Social media is merely a utilitarian platform that we must recognise objectively. Authenticity is a choice and gives credibility to our actions and behaviour, whereby it is only in freedom, or free-will, that small part of our consciousness that enables one to discover this contrast and realise her own self-hood.

It is time for me to strengthen real friends and real bonds and be OK at the risks that are associated with that, to feel secure in myself and never escape to virtual reality again.

The Desert of the Real

It was in Raymond Gaita’s book Romulus, My Father that exposed to me an intriguing thought. Romulus, living in an isolated town in Central Victoria, wrote letters to a woman, Lydia, back in his home country of Romania and she responded with the same feelings of affection that he had. His interest in her became so intense that he invited her to be his wife and she accepted. Yet, his deep and unswerving commitment to his principles put him into a state of disarray when Lydia betrayed him and married another man, developing into a madness that Raymond called, “a passion whose force and nature was mysterious and that anyone who came under its sway should be prepared to be destroyed by it.” This romantic love exposed the deeper vulnerability and loneliness he had within and the mysterious force is the powerlessness he felt for this isolation where a panic begins to manifest, so much so that insanity became the safer option than allowing the anxiety to continue and Romulus shut down, a man of resolute principles and dedication to his duty grew disillusioned before he gave up and admitted himself into an institution.

Kant explains the possibility of transcendence from learned knowledge, the ability to occupy thoughts that are independent from our experiences of them, an autonomy where we contribute to our own understanding of moral principles. Our cognition as children develops through conditioning that articulates the relationship between you and the external world through ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behaviour and we are automatically prompted to react with the same fight or flight response when confronted with a problem. It is an automaton mode of being or relation that is inherently limited and consciousness develops as our brain matures that enables one to become conscious or self-aware. Synaptic pruning occurs in all humans that sheds neural connections that are formed in the brain during childhood in order to make room for a more refined capacity for adult use. The young adult begins to experience conscious impressions of objects that enables him to experience a self.

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We become conscious of ourselves and this self-awareness lacks the solidity that we have in our orientation with the external world, a ‘nothingness’ between our mode of being and our interconnection within an object-oriented world. There are a number of barriers such as childhood trauma, lack of education or adequate guidance such as problematic parenting that disassociates this natural engagement with our own cognitive abilities. The social and religious constructs that are entrenched in our environment conditions one to respond against any deviation from the rules as ‘bad’ (fight or flight) that impoverishes our capacity to reach self-hood. The experience of independence and self-realisation becomes fragmented as we are not prepared to acknowledge the responsibility for our decisions and this is further thwarted by feelings of anxiety that deters us from proceeding down the rabbit hole of consciousness. It is like – for a moment – the plug in your brain that treated your existence as a safe, virtual reality awakens to see that reality is, well, real. The emotional response to this realisation is anxiety and it is anxiety because we simply do not know how to be ourselves. There is no language in this independence because we have never used it before and so we cannot explain and articulate our perceptions and identification to our experiences. This is referred to biblically as being born again, the path which is narrow and few are able to find it.

We naturally want to avoid anxiety and are compelled to things that give us happiness. Ignorance is devoid of these emotional responses. Like Romulus, we either retreat to insanity – a realm where one gives up entirely any cognition or responsibility that thus removes the pain of the emotions – or one completely conforms to a belief-system, society or even a person and in effect becoming what Hegel would call a slave where they lose their ability to feel because they get others to think for them. To avoid retreating, familial support can enable a gradual move toward transcendence or independent thinking however reliance on this is ambiguous particularly with the fact that in Australia 132 divorces occur every day and 1 in 4 children are exposed to domestic violence. As language is a tool that enables us to articulate and communicate our understanding, education becomes the primary necessity for building adequate knowledge that explains this ‘unknown’ self hood.

A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet “for sale”, who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence – briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing – cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society. He cannot help doubting himself and his own convictions, if not his sanity. He cannot help suffering, even though he can experience moments of joy and clarity that are absent in the life of his “normal” contemporaries. Not rarely will he suffer from neurosis that results from the situation of a sane man living in an insane society, rather than that of the more conventional neurosis of a sick man trying to adapt himself to a sick society. In the process of going further in his analysis, i.e. of growing to greater independence and productivity, his neurotic symptoms will cure themselves.

As it is a cognitive disposition that we each possess, we are not capable of retreating without forming an imagined meta-narrative, an abstract representation of reality that becomes an apparatus to form an identity within the margins of something imagined and that can be rationalised. Our temporal and spatial representations become linked to a faux ‘unity’ with our environment that conceptualises our identity as homogeneous and timeless, similarly like what Romulus felt when he fell in love with a picture and a letter. In romantic love, we form a symbiotic attachment as a way to possess our beloved and we imagine that this possession – which stems from that inner anxiety – is actually a real connection by framing it within a meta-narrative of true love and other imagined ideas drawn by social constructs and further fed by a false authenticity. It is a self-defence mechanism that enables us to experience the world without being overwhelmed by the emotional impact honesty and authenticity can have, which explains why people become very defensive when this fictional meta-narrative is openly discussed. Social constructs give validity to the imagined narrative and the more people do the same thing, the more real the experience becomes since there is a shared acceptance of this imagined transaction.

Love is something that we give. It is a process that is only enabled once we reach that state of transcendence because authenticity – which is a state of mind or how we interpret our perceptions and experiences – is necessary since love can only be real when we express it through this self-hood. That is, when our motivations and intent are no longer tainted by these imagined meta-narratives but expressed in synthesis or unity within ourselves. Without this, our engagement with the external world is about receiving – where people present themselves like a Hegelian slave by adhering to socially constructed archetypes – where they imagine they are connected to society – and yet there is really no inner connectedness. We are prompted or motivated by the need to be recognised by others and by adhering to social constructs we receive recognition. There is no giving. It is all about wanting. It is essentially a deep vulnerability and these superficial connections based on how well we perform socially only further alienates one from this self-awareness.

Most people are not even aware of their need to conform. They live under the illusion that they follow their own ideas and inclinations, that they are individualists, that they have arrived at their opinion as the result of their own thinking – and that it just happens that their ideas are the same as this of the majority

We each have layers of cognition similarly to the Freudian triptych between the Ego, Id and Superego, and Bandura explains these stages of cognitive development (coming of age) where consciousness, the unconscious, and our imagination structures our responses through socially learned expectations. Our motivations are filtered and controlled by probable reactions and rewards that we will receive from others. This is why people lie as though they are protecting themselves from punishment, just as much as these meta-narratives protect one from the pain of anxiety since our emotional responses can be just as unpleasant as the threat of punishment. Heidegger concludes that this anxious response is causally rooted to fear, the fear of something threatening and that compels us to lie and to be self-defensive. The cure is to overcome this fear, to have the courage to be actively engaged with your inner self and accepting the responsibility you have for this cognitive freedom and independence. Moral consciousness suddenly switches directions; it is about developing your own awareness and deciding your own moral standards where you are motivated by an authentic connectedness with your own being. One transcends the narrowness of the imagined narratives and the self-defensive responses to make decisions independently and thus become aware of our cognitive faculty and the possibilities of knowledge a priori and thus reach our epistemic capacity by overcoming all the barriers. It is a type of love for oneself, a belief or faith in your ability.

To have faith requires courage, the ability to take a risk, the readiness even to accept pain and disappointment. Whoever insists on safety and security as primary conditions of life cannot have faith; whoever shuts himself off in a system of defence, where distance and possession are his means of security, makes himself a prisoner. To be loved, and to love, need courage, the courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern – and to take the jump and to stake everything on these values.

 

Forgiveness 

Words are physical. They can be as violent as hurting someone physically and carelessly scolding someone with hurtful words can be as violent as physically injuring them. I know this because I have experienced this and it hurts even more when these words come from people you love. They can penetrate deep as though poison that changes the way you feel, think and behave until you depart from such toxicity, where following the time needed to withdraw from both the experience and the spatial dependence you may have had, eventually recover enough to become conscious of your vulnerabilities. However, so many fear or feel trapped from departing or separating themselves from such people and to adapt to their circumstances delude themselves by normalising their experiences, conditioned to tolerate as though subconsciously believing some validity exists behind the experience. If you work with people who are terribly abusive, changing the layout of your desk is not going to alleviate the abuse. Those who prolong toxic relationships by making superficial changes are merely prolonging a bad environment and there appears to be no prompt in their mind to tell them that they are worthy or that they deserve better, their motivations filtered by socially learned expectations that react unconsciously to superficial rewards

The youngest of three sisters and one brother, I grew up in an environment where each of them mistreated me and it was not uncommon to hear you are dumb or you are ugly from them on a continuous basis, sometimes even harassing me to do things and threatening me if I did not oblige such as ostracising me from family activities. They would together justify their behaviour as though I deserved it. One attack after another they would nevertheless claim to be my fault. I was a non-person. And I tolerated the abuse – being only a child –  since all my siblings being older than me and being the people that I wanted to love and wanted to be close to, knew better than I did. I was a non-person to me too. In similar vein to a slave, I would serve them and silenced my own suffering almost to a pathological point where I was not even aware that I was even suffering. I was able to confront this self-awareness during the process of my transcendence where I came to recognise my self-worth and who I was. This reality was frightening to me because I never knew who I was or how to think for myself.

It was inspired when I first thought I loved a man and that mirrored a reflection of my own consciousness, that I actually existed, so when I thought he may have liked me in return it produced within me a severe anxiety. This anxiety exposed all the barriers that I created, those imagined ‘truths’ that I was a non-person and when this disintegrated, I was left with nothing but me. I became real. It was deeply disturbing and it exposed a vulnerability because I suddenly became aware of the abuse from my siblings and how much I had actually been injured by them. It took a long time from that point, but removing myself from the toxicity and with the right care, I recovered from the injuries and over time have healed.

The main way I know is  I have learnt that despite any antagonism towards me, I remain self-assured, that I do not believe in the antagonism. I believe in myself. I healed by having the courage to continue to learn and develop my own language or voice – despite being new to it – and I did this through continuous self-reflective practice. I found forgiveness because I found the ability to love, to give love. This forgiveness is primarily self-directed.

The Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan

Following the painstaking experience watching Titan on Netflix last night (I highly recommend you don’t watch it) which was about the possibility of life on Saturn’ moon following an existential crises plaguing earth, out of sheer agitation I decided to look into this theme and find out more. The Cassini-Huygens mission was a seven year journey of the NASA Cassini Orbiter along with the European Space Agency’ Huygens Probe intended to travel to the Saturn system. Titan IVB-Centaur rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral carrying the orbiter and probe in 1997 and passing Venus, Earth and our moon, an Asteroid Belt and Jupiter, the Huygens Probe successfully landed on Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005. The Cassini spacecraft also managed to capture new and detailed information and images including a number of new moons such as Methone and Pallene, as well as the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn that showcased surprising activity on Enceladus, new rings around Saturn, and a plethora of additional information not previously known by scientists. The 2 hour 27 minute descent to the surface was matched with 72 minutes on the frozen ground until contact with Cassini was lost, and the probe managed to obtain images of Titan’s geology and meteorology to reveal astonishing similarities to Earth. But is Titan really similar to Earth?

The primary scientific goal of the mission was to explore Saturn’s interior and atmosphere, the ring system and the magnetosphere and plasma environment, as well as the magnetic field and origins of Saturn. In addition, a strong focus Saturn’ second largest moon, Titan when the Huygens probe was launched into the moon through the thick atmosphere during its descent to the surface. The probe was intended to study both the atmosphere and the surface composition and contain six instruments that enabled this, such as the Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument (HASI) designed to measure the electrical and physical properties of Titan.[1] It was additionally equipped with the following experiments:

Surface Science Package (SSP) aimed at determining the properties of the surface where the probe landed in order to ascertain further details of its composition and measure other aspects of the landing site.

Descent Imager Spectral Radiometer (DISR) that used sensors to uncover spectral measurements of the surface and as it descended toward the surface took images of the spectra.

Gas Chromatograph and Mass Spectrometer (GCMS) that attempted to identify gaseous atmospheric properties and captured material that it analysed as it descended to the surface.

Aerosol Collector and Pyrolyser (ACP) is a device that collected chemical and aerosol samples of the atmosphere and analysed the material taken from the atmosphere.

Doppler Wind Experiment (DWE) detected Doppler shifts that the probe experienced and caused by the atmosphere and winds was measured along with other properties through radio signals.[2]

The atmosphere of Titan contains the chemical composition mostly of nitrogen, but also a mixture of methane, ethane and other hydrocarbons, which makes the composition itself similar to that of Earth that contains 80% nitrogen,[3] particularly as it is the only other planetary body in our solar system that has evidence of liquid on the surface. Images from Cassini show how the surface of the moon contains rivers of ethane and methane and explains why it is the only moon that has clouds and a thick atmosphere. The orbital period of Titan around Saturn nears 16 days and is tidally-locked to Saturn, while the distance to the sun is almost ten times further than earth at 9.54 AU making the solar energy captured by the moon at a much lower rate, however the atmosphere enables Titan to capture solar energy. “It’s partial transparency to significant amounts of sunlight, and its high opacity to longer wavelengths… [s]ome of the energy from the Sun reaches the surface of Titan because solar radiation consists mostly of photons at near-visible wavelengths and the atmosphere is partially transparent at those wavelengths,”[4] that allows only about 10% of the energy to reach the surface. This energy is then absorbed by the surface that releases infrared heat out and back into the atmosphere that re-radiates by out and back down and the phenomenon of this greenhouse effect contributes to the temperature, which is at 92k (-180 degrees Celsius). The atmospheric pressure of Titan is 60% greater than Earth and the radius is almost half, but as the mass of Titan is 1.3452 x 10^23 kg compared to this size, the gravity cannot hold the gas and thus the atmosphere is much greater than that of Earth.

Seasonal variations to do exist on Titan and the Cassini mission aided researchers to ameliorate their understanding of the patterns of atmospheric changes, arriving on the northern hemisphere of Titan during winter.[5] Seasonal changes, however, are incredibly slow as it is driven by the eccentricity of Saturn’ 29.5 yearlong orbit around the sun, and the atmosphere responds to the effects of these changes in rising and falling temperatures as well as day to night variations. The orbital configuration has resulted in an imbalance of methane lakes and rivers in the northern and southern hemispheres of Titan that transports chemicals through evaporation and precipitation differently. The atmospheric pressure on the surface is at 1500mbar and researchers have confirmed the moon experiences cryovolcanism captured by observations from Cassini where the eruption style and composition is similar to volcanoes erupting liquid instead of lava.[6] Among the other important findings include the origins of Titan’ methane and the chemistry of the atmosphere as the gas increased during the descent of the probe, until it reached the surface when a spike was detected at almost 40% increase in methane suggest the possibility during the formation and accretion period, methane became trapped in the ice and reached the surface through cryovolcanism. In addition, radiogenic argon-40 (40Ar) was also detected that further confirms details of Titan’ interior since 40Ar can only form through the decay of potassium-40 (40K) that is found in rocks.[7]

HASI findings also enabled scientists to measure the density of the upper atmosphere and showed the thermosphere to be warmer and with a greater density. Atmospheric circulation and the transportation of heat was captured by the DISR by the “imbalance seen in the radiative flux measurements”[8] and it indicates winds verified by the probe as it encountered the flow from west to east and therefore the same direction as the rotation of Titan. Models have since showed that the captured data confirmed a reversal of direction and different points during the descent of the probe caused by temperature variations between the northern and southern hemispheres and within the Hadley cell that circulates from the north and south poles.[9] The super rotating winds measured the Doppler shift during the descent of the probe and measured large variations in wind speeds as it decreased the closer it reached the surface and the findings also suggest that Titan does not have a mesosphere as was predicted.

The atmosphere of Titan was found to be stratified comparatively to Earth’ troposphere where variations in temperature produce layers and while the amount of sunlight is minimal, the icy moon still contains wind and clouds, where clear by images by Cassini indicate massive dunes on the surface.[10] This provides greater details of the structure of the atmosphere including its temperature, as the DISR captured images of the surface and terrain and showed a plateau of dried river beds and lakes with narrow channels and dendritic networks that parallel the fluvial configuration you’ll find on Earth particularly erosion which DISR detected and indicative of such activity. Buried below the icy surface together with the discovery of what is known as Schumann resonance, very low radio signals in the atmosphere (around 36 Hertz) and for such signals to be reflected, “an ocean of water and ammonia which is buried at a depth of 55-80km below a non-conducting, icy crust”[11] could explain this.

There were a number of reasons for destroying the Cassini orbiter by incinerating it through the powerful atmosphere of Saturn. Not only will it provide additional information to scientists both gaining closer access to the rings of Saturn and the upper atmosphere that provide a glimpse of the interior structure and the opportunity to accurately ascertain the age and composition through closer inspection of the mass of the rings surrounding the planet, but also because of regulations vis-à-vis interplanetary contamination. The preservation of the integrity of the solar system in order to prevent and potentially damage both other planets and our own has led to all spacecraft to undergo sterilisation processes to avoid microbe contamination, particularly of planets or moons that may be capable of organic habitat. The Cassini spacecraft detected a number of new finds on Enceladus that verifies the possible conditions for contamination of microbes from Earth. Cassini itself captured vapour being released from Enceladus that confirmed an oceanic subsurface Knowing that the craft itself has a maximum output of fuel, to prevent any risk of it contaminating the integrity of the moon, scientists decided to plan the death of the device.[12]

While Titan does have similarities to Earth, particularly for having a thick atmosphere and a high percentage of nitrogen, but a number of other missing or differing constituents make these similarities marginal at best. The benefits of the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan enabled scientists to gain further insight to clarify these terrestrial and atmospheric differences.

[1]Fulchignoni, M., Ferri, F., Angrilli, F. et al. Space Science Reviews (2002) 104: 395. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1023688607077:
[2] Patrick Irwin, Giant Planets of Our Solar System: Atmospheres, Composition, and Structure, Springer Science & Business Media (2003) 330
[3] http://www.lmd.jussieu.fr/~sllmd/pub/REF/2012Icar..218..707L.pdf
[4] Athena Coustenis, Fred Taylor, F. W. Taylor, Titan: The Earth-like Moon World Scientific (1999) 62
[5] Ingo Müller-Wodarg, Caitlin A. Griffith, Emmanuel Lellouch, Thomas E. Cravens, Titan: Interior, Surface, Atmosphere, and Space Environment, Cambridge University Press (2014) 215
[6] R. M. C. Lopes, Cryovolcanism on Titan: New results from Cassini RADAR and VIMS: https://doi.org/10.1002/jgre.20062
[7] Robert Brown, Jean Pierre Lebreton, Hunter Waite, Titan from Cassini-Huygens, Springer Science & Business Media (2009) 182
[8]Ibid., Titan from Cassini-Huygens, 345
[9] https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/whycassini/cassinif-20070601-05.html
[10] http://pirlwww.lpl.arizona.edu/~jani/radebaugh-titandunes-aeolian13.pdf
[11] http://sci.esa.int/cassini-huygens/55230-science-highlights-from-huygens-9-schumann-like-resonances-hints-of-a-subsurface-ocean/
[12] http://www.spacesafetymagazine.com/space-exploration/extraterrestrial-life/cassini-huygens-preventing-biological-contamination/

The ‘Seeds’ of Super Massive Black Holes

Stellar black holes are scattered throughout the universe, formed under the right conditions when stars reach the end of their life cycle as it collapses into itself when it no longer contains the fuel to counteract the pressure of gravity and resist compression. In order to produce a black hole, the exploding star would need to have a mass greater than our sun (at least twenty times greater) so that there is enough material – which is dispersed following the supernova – to form a black hole and will continue to grow as it consumes material such as gas and stars that draws them into the dense space. Super Massive Black Holes (SMBH) are comparatively galactic monsters that live in the centre of most galaxies and while their origins are indeed more difficult to ascertain, a number of theoretical possibilities continue to elude astronomers. Do they having the humble beginning by starting as stellar black holes that grow over billions of years through accretion and even mergers with other black holes? The confirmation that Sagittarius A* located 26,000 light years away is a SMBH located in our very own galaxy and a number of techniques have been used to ascertain its position, particularly through comparative observations found in the properties of other host galaxies and quasars. The recent quasar, J1342+0928, has given astronomers a glimpse into the possible causes of such huge SMBH.

Albert Einstein predicted the existence of black holes through his general theory of relativity, however it was not until Sir Martin Rees proposed the idea that extremely massive black holes could exist within the Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN)[1] of our own and most galaxies. His theory pieced together a detection of an unknown radio source by Bruce Balick and Robert Brown at the centre of the Milky Way and a possible demonstration that the object with such powerful gravitational force could be caused by an SMBH. AGNs are the centre of an active galaxy and depending on the properties and activity that occur within name, AGNs can be called Quasars, Seyfert Nuclei, Blazers, Liners, Radio Galaxies and BL-LAC objects and a number of other names that verifies the diversity of activity the centre of galaxies can have.[2] Host galaxies themselves also present unique characteristics and types including the elliptical, spiral and irregular galaxies and each have different components. Classification of galaxies was initially developed by Edwin Hubble that divided and then subdivided commonly found features that exhibit unique properties the he coded into a general system; a spiral galaxy, for instance, contains a bulge at the centre, surrounded by a halo and a disk structured as arms like spirals around the galaxy. Further classifications developed as the study of galaxies improved including de Vaucouleurs’s classification of galaxies that helped classify unusual properties or peculiarities, such as Quasars.[3]

R0CjB

Following Balick and Brown’ discovery, there were clear limitations to radio observations to verify whether the source was specifically a SMBH and continued efforts led to NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory to spot never before seen x-ray emissions by penetrating the galactic dust and clouds that blurred the possibility of a closer investigation to this blackness at the heart of our galaxy using radio sources, giving us more insight about the activity and behaviour of SMBH.  The Very Large Array as part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) includes 27 radio antennas configured to provide images that would give the resolution of one dish at almost 130 metres in diameter.[4] The image below is one such image taken from the observatory in New Mexio and shows a central source – now known to be Sag A* – has forced ionized gas into a mini-spiral rotating around centre and revealing the possible features of a concentration of dark matter, but whether this concentration was a SMBH was not confirmed as well as raising the question and nature of SMBH as apparently motionless. “The implied minimum dark matter density of ~3×10.9 M  pc^-3, however, still allowed a cluster of dark objects, such as neutron stars or stellar mass black holes, as one of the alternatives to a single supermassive black hole because the measurements did not force the cluster’s lifetime to be shorter than the age of the Galaxy.”[5]

Picture 1

As observations have also included evidence of the emission of radiation including Infrared, X-ray and Gamma-Ray sources, other telescopes including the Very Large Telescope (VLA) managed by the European Southern Observatory in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile and the 10m W. M. Keck I telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii has mapped the orbits of stars and objects that are within one parsec (about 3.26 light-years) of the central dark object, enabling astronomers to measure the mass of Sgr A* utilising Kepler’s Laws that calculate the length of time it takes for the orbiting object to encircle the galactic centre together with the semi-major axis, leading astronomers to believe the centre of our galaxy is contained by a SMBH equivalent to 4 million solar masses.[6] “Orbits are derived simultaneously so that they jointly constrain the central dark objects properties: its mass, its position, and, for the first time using orbits, its motion on the plane of the sky.”[7] This is because the dark central object has a powerful mass within such a small radius nearing 100 AU (1 AU is the distance between Earth and the Sun or about 150 million kilometres) that suggested dark matter to be confined in a space of 0.015pc ruling out the possibility of a cluster of stellar black holes as the source, leading to the conclusion that it is a SMBH. The Fermion Ball Hypothesis offers an alternative possibility for the blackness problem as it attempts to explain the supermassive dark object at the centre to be a ball of self-gravitating, non-interacting, degenerate fermions.[8] Fermion balls may have been formed in the early universe and studies show the analysis of the orbits of stars S0-1 and S0-2 around Sgr A* was initially consistent to the FB scenario as the pressure from the degeneracy maintains a balance with the gravitational attraction to the fermions.[9] Continued observations of the S0-2 orbit revealed that a mass of 3.6‡ 0.6 x 10^6 MΘ  is located within a sphere radius of 0.6mps Sgr A*[10] that excludes the possibility of the FB Hypothesis as such a mass density would impact on the fermion ball particles.

These advances in telescopic technology including the use of Very-Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) techniques that captures high resolution radio sources from different locations before being combined into following the meticulous measurement of time differences all fed into one central location on a supercomputer with enormous data capacity to enable this to occur efficiently have recently made it possible to capture the shadow of the event horizon, the boundary surrounding the SMBH. As the diameter of the telescope increases the resolution, sensitivity and baseline, and the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) and the Global mm-VLBI Array (GMVA) combines multiple telescopes around earth to simulate the power that an earth-sized telescope would capture. The boundary surrounding a black hole is an event horizon because while gravity is very strong, objects can still escape from the gravitational pull and thus energy can be detected near the horizon while anything that travels beyond that an observer cannot see.[11]

The Event Horizon Telescope and Global mm-VLBI Array on the Eart

Quasars are the most luminous AGN and they have a very strong correlation to SMBH as the latter is required to give Quasars the immense power that they project. “Quasars rank amongst the most luminous sources of radiation in the universe and are believed to be powered by SMBH.”[12] M–σ or the M-Sigma relation indicates a correlation between the mass of a SMBH and the stellar velocity dispersion in their host galaxies[13] and confirm SMBH to be a fundamental element of host galaxies with Quasars. Quasars are said to exist in predominantly larger galaxies during the active phase of gas accretion and therefore the early life of a galaxy, where particles or matter are heated and accelerated away like a jet or stream of light from the ionization around the boundary of an SMBH at velocities almost at the speed of light and emitting powerful energy and therefore luminosity that exceeds all the sources of light within the entire galaxy.[14] In December 2017, the most distant quasar J1342+0928 at a redshift of z=7.54 was found and provided a glimpse into the cosmological timeline by using Planck parameters that confirmed the age of galaxy to be barely 690 Myr after the big bang[15] with an SMBH that contains a mass of 8e8 Msun (800 million solar masses!).[16] The existence of a SMBH during such an early epoch of the universe’ existence confirms a number of models about how black holes can grow to such a supermassive size as it captures nearby material and ultimately engines the power of a quasar. The standard view is that following supernova explosions, the gravitational interactions form stellar black holes and continue to grow through mergers and accretion, however the accretion theory does not explain the SMBH in quasars so old and powerful as J1342+0928 known as the quasar seed problem, indicating that the conditions to have formed them must have been achieved by direct collapse.[17] A large ‘seed’ to form a black hole as colossal as 100,000+ solar masses and therefore thousands of times bigger than black holes shaped by a supernova is possible in the right conditions during the early universe as it required an equally colossal star collapse that would supress star formation because the temperature of the ultraviolet photos ensure that the surrounding gas remains hot enough. Stars usually form when the cloud cools as the gas is dispersed, but the conditions in the early universe confirm that such a supermassive ‘seed’ could be possible before it begins to attract matter and gas to grow over billions of years into its colossal size.[18]

The catalyst that enables supermassive black holes to form remains unconfirmed, but as technology enables astronomers to locate and verify new hints about the galaxy, we are inching closer and closer to verification of theories

 

[1] Supermassive Black Holes in Galactic Nuclei: Past, Present and Future Research, Ferrarese & Ford 2005, Space Science Reviews, Volume 116, Issue 3-4, pp. 523-624
[2] Supermassive Black Holes in Galactic Nuclei: Past, Present and Future Research, Ferrarese & Ford 2005, Space Science Reviews, Volume 116, Issue 3-4, pp. 523-624
[3] Sidney Van den Bergh, Galaxy Morphology and Classification, Cambridge University Press (1998) 13
[4] http://www.vla.nrao.edu/
[5] Stellar Orbits around the Galactic Center Black Hole, Ghez et al. 2005, The Astrophysical Journal, v.620, p.74
[6] Supermassive Black Holes in Galactic Nuclei: Past, Present and Future Research, Ferrarese & Ford 2005, Space Science Reviews, Volume 116, Issue 3-4, pp. 523-624
[7] Stellar Orbits around the Galactic Center Black Hole, Ghez et al. 2005, The Astrophysical Journal, v.620, p.74
[8] Neven Bilic, Supermassive Fermion Balls and Constrains From Stellar Dynamics Near Sgr A∗: https://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0310172
[9] http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1086/323949/fulltext/
[10] Siegfried Röser, From Cosmological Structures to the Milky Way, John Wiley & Sons (2006) 196
[11] Jim Al-Khalili, Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines, Taylor & Francis (2016) 64
[12] Formation of z~6 Quasars from Hierarchical Galaxy Mergers, Li et al. 2007, The Astrophysical Journal, v.665, p.187
[13] Raphael Sadoun, M- sigma relation between SMBHs and the velocity dispersion of globular cluster systems: arXiv:1204.0144 [astro-ph.CO]
[14] Andrew C. Fabian, Active Galactic Nuclei: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Apr 27; 96(9): 4749–4751.
[15] Fulvio Melia, J1342+0928 Confirms the Cosmological Timeline in R_h=ct: arXiv:1712.03306 [astro-ph.CO]
[16] E. Bañados,, An 800 million solar mass black hole in a significantly neutral universe at redshift 7.5: arXiv:1712.01860 [astro-ph.GA]
[17] Bhaskar Agarwal, Formation of massive seed black holes by direct collapse in the early Universe, Dissertation (2013) pp 24
[18] Silvia Bonoli, Massive black hole seeds born via direct gas collapse in galaxy mergers: their properties, statistics and environment, https://arxiv.org/pdf/1211.3752.pdf

The Monster That Changed My Life

I could barely lift my head. I managed, holding myself up against the washbasin and stared deep into my own, dismal eyes. I felt wretched. Weak. There was a part of me that hated this, a dark voice within that mocked this physical tragedy, the echo of her laughs at the sight of my swollen neck, my skinny arms shaking as they tried to hold me up, my shrunken breasts as she drummed ha ha ha at what was left of this person. If you could call me that. I was dying. No. I was killing myself.

There has never been a quote that parallels this moment in my life better then Nietzsche: “He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.

This is perhaps the most difficult post for me for a number of a reasons. I can happily say that it is a bildungsroman but one that stripped years of my life. It is about my experience being bullied, my eventual decline, and my transformation. It is very personal. No matter how often I speak of my past, each moment is uncomfortable, sometimes even unbearable, but I know that it must be done. It must be done for twofold reasons; because I mentor young girls and I want to inspire them to do the same, and I want to inspire them because I know it has the power to heal past wounds. Sometimes our experiences are shattered into a number of pieces, time no longer linear and all that is left is a mess of thoughts and confused emotions. We need to create an arrow of time, some temporal order. A timeline. A timeline of our experiences, articulate it into a story from beginning to end in order to understand the experience, and to understand ourselves in that experience.

I never knew myself until I encountered this man. He was a very bad man. The damage that he wreaked was born purely out of ignorance, the violence of his words challenged my emotions, my psychology. He frightened me. Threatened me. And above all, I loved him. Not the love you think, not the romantic love.

Giving love should flow unconditionally. One cannot select who they give love to whether it is a person or an object, while at the same time fail to give love to all others. That is not love, as Erich Fromm states, that is just an enlarged egotism. Love is moral consciousness, it is our response to the world, a choice that permeates and transcends the determined landscape and given to all people and all things by choice. Even bad people. Giving love is something that you give. This is different from accepting love into your personal life and indeed there are conditions that you need to set to avoid becoming Nietzsche’ monster.

The experience of seeing this man daily over a period of seven months made me confirm that such proximity to one so toxic is dangerous as much as it would be being near any type of poison. He was lost. He knew nothing of himself and the instability of his moods reflected the chaos of his personal afflictions. I believed that I knew how to help him, despite his forceful reactions and impulses that blurred any possibility of being reasonable, least of all his conscience, if indeed he even had one. Yet, within such an extreme personality lied a terribly fragile child, insecure to such a degree that he copied others, sometimes almost pathologically. The wrong others.

It could not be put more perfectly than this:

[I]f you have high testosterone levels and a deviant peer group you may become conduct disordered – yet if you have that same high testosterone and circulate in a non-deviant peer group you are instead led to become a leader.

I believed that my moral obligation was unconditional towards him, that I truly believe he could improve, that my knowledge and understanding of Borderline Personality Disorder could eventually help him.

I was wrong.

Meeting Him: The Bully


I was working for a large marketing services business that assisted business clients with customer service support through call centre facilities that they managed. I initially worked in a customer service contract. It was great fun working there and I made some really close friends that I have even till today. I primarily answered emails and performed other administrative requests until a new project started with a different company and I moved up to become a quality assurance analyst. That is where I met him. He, along with another woman and me would work closely together as a team.

My initial impression of him was very negative. His introduction involved constant and coercive indifference that bordered contempt, becoming even clearer when he attempted to ostracise me by talking about me to our colleague, which she later admitted to and apologised particularly for believing him. He seemed attracted to her and while she was married also appeared to have an interest back, although it came to my attention from staff who knew her that she had a history of enjoying the attention she received from men without ever taking it further. I believe her apology to me came only after he realised she was married and so she became resentful of his dismissal.

When I became aware that he had slandered me, I felt an anxious discomfort but also a deep embarrassment for encountering a grown man who was audacious enough to behave in such a manner. I was nevertheless resolved on improving the environment. I ignored what happened and continued to build on encouraging better relations between both of them. I baked for them on their birthday and attempted to get to know them a little better by trying to have and make the time to converse with them. The conversations with him, however, were often uncomfortable. He would talk about selling drugs and smoking marijuana. He would explain how he was part of a neo-Nazi group when he was younger, how there were underground fighting ‘fight club’ spaces in secret pockets in the town where he grew up, that he decided to take steroids to bulk up for his fitness career. He was a brutish man, twice my size and height with fierce eyes and a fierce presence.

My interest in his psychology, however, was sparked not long into our working relationship. We were sitting and having a conversation while doing some tedious paperwork and to pass the time we discussed nutrition and health. He spoke of the benefits of zinc and other minerals and I spoke of metabolism and how I can eat large portions of food to compensate for the highly active lifestyle that I had. It was at this point during our conversation that something drastically changed in his behaviour. I said, “I end up losing weight really fast if I do not eat large portions of food,” before his eyes widened as though he were dreaming and as he stared out in front of him, he rocked back and forth on the chair he was sitting on. I was confused at his sudden change of demeanour and while I observed his intense eyes, he blatantly snapped “why don’t you?” (stop eating and lose weight).

It was not the fact that he insulted me that made me feel uncomfortable, but it was as though he temporarily disappeared. His abrupt irritability and detachment from his surroundings as a way to manage the feelings he was experiencing astonished and disturbed me at the same time. He missed the rational steps that could lead one to prevent such eruptions, leaping past any cognition that determined his behaviour as he appeared only to rely on his irrational emotions that further perpetuated his anxiety because the emotions were negative and not understood, enveloping him to further distress. He could not rationalise that he was unhappy being there and doing menial tasks – as I could – and that the conversation was terrible but necessary to avoid an awkward silence. He skipped that. He wanted it to end, but he was not cognisant of this, could not articulate this to himself and so responded to the negative feelings without concern for how his response affected those around him.

This continued time and time again. One time, I briefly talked about the cow’s lick that I had on the side of my hair and he snuffed, “because you are going bald.” The constant insults about my appearance, my mind, my person was hurting me despite being capable to rationalise each time why he would say that or respond that way. For instance, he had mentioned the emotional effect his significant hair loss had caused him after he ingested a product that he was not aware would cause baldness. One after the other, it was like each insult was a small cut made by a sharp tongue, until finally his behaviour stabbed me deep when he said ‘women deserve to get bashed.’

The more I attempted to build a professional relationship with him, my attempt to overcome the initial difficulties by strengthening a positive working culture, the worse things became. It was becoming apparent at this time that he was forming some attachment to me. One time, he informed me that our manager had asked him to do some additional work and was required to come in earlier than our standard start time, asking me if I could accompany him so that I could assist him with the accuracy of the spreadsheet he was required to work on. I initially thought it was a simple request where he wanted the company of someone who was good at her work and so I agreed, but at the end of the day on my way out, I bumped into my manager at the elevator and informed him of the situation, which he clarified that he knew nothing about. It became evident that he was luring me to come in early so we could be alone.

I came in an hour later than we had agreed and at a time I knew we would not be alone for very long and when I came in he immediately began to compliment me. “Are you wearing foundation?” he asked, before he continued following my response with, “you look beautiful!” It was clearly rehearsed, a very nervous announcement of my appearance. This raised my alarm bells and I smiled and said that I am going to make breakfast, taking a very long time to do so until I heard another person had come in. Another time he said to me, “I am going to the park. I am not feeling really well,” as he looked at me with a mild, almost sad expression. I am a very warm person and it was as though he expected me to further enquire. He wanted me to go with him. “Ok,” I responded, rather uneasily and intentionally did not enquire, my heart at this point racing knowing he was again trying to lure me.

The question that continuously came to mind at this point was what did he want? Did he like me? Did he want to get close to me? Or did he want to lure me? Potentially hurt me? With his constant insults that were beginning to cause me sleepless nights, it felt likely he wanted to hurt me.

The latter became more and more potent as time progressed as did his strange behaviour. During working hours, he spoke of how he had witnessed earlier in the morning a cat walking upright like a person, his eyes wide that displayed the paranoia of someone who had taken drugs and incapable of distinguishing reality. His failure to speak openly about what he wanted may have left him feeling humiliated and his inability to rationally understand his experiences resorted in his ‘explosive’ or harsh reactions. I came into the office one day and unawares that I did not acknowledge him as I was preoccupied, he exploded with yet another indirect comment that women deserved to get bashed, yet this time with a very serious and aggressive tone. I left home early that day and several staff members who witnessed his outburst implored that I go to human resources to make a complaint, particularly since my distress was very visible as I could not stop shaking and crying. He soon after declared that he had built a bunker that no one knew about in his rural town, a place where he could do what he wanted and no one would ever know. He boasted about the film Streetcar Named Desire as he attempted to convey his resemblance to Marlon Brando and no doubt my resemblance to Vivienne Leigh, who was raped. This fear was almost solidified when he said that I should watch the movie Irreversible, a French film about a woman being brutally raped and beaten. He said to me that he was interested in making gunpowder and when I asked why he would want to make gunpowder, he smiled and remained silent.

I started to feel real fear. He was psychologically tormenting me with constant and indirect threats, continuously insulting my appearance that made me feel really ugly, and he manipulated the situation by consistently boasting about his partner to others as though this would afford him the protection that he actually had no interest in me and that he was a good man. I would not be surprised if he continued this slander about me even to his partner so as to extend this immunity from any guilt in his actions. He made it out that it was all me. If his behaviour was indirect and if he pretended to a wonderful life elsewhere, a life where a woman – who clearly knew nothing about him – would speak highly of him, how could anyone think he was this monster? And yet, he was audacious enough to exclaim to me that he leads a double life. What was going on in his head?

I could no longer sleep. No longer eat properly. I had severe anxiety and several times had anxiety attacks. My attempt to appeal to his conscience by disclosing my troubled childhood did not work, on the contrary it almost made him laugh. I was afraid that his indirect threats that he will rape me, kill me or attack me would manifest. In all this, I did not go to HR. I did not follow through with the advice given by colleagues who told me to pretend I had a boyfriend. In all this, I still believed in him. I believed that there was a way to help him that would in turn help me. I told myself that he was similar to me – by that I meant that he had a good heart – and that being so he had a chance to redeem himself. So I attempted to help him progress professionally, hoping through that he may mature. My manager would often ask me to do things as he wanted to train me to move into management, but I would replay that offer to him with the intention that it may both help him, preoccupy him, and even impress him enough to like me and stop the constant onslaught of hurt. I wanted to be his friend and I wanted him to be mine.

By the end of this, I could no longer contain the anxiety that I was feeling and I started to explicitly show my distress. I reached that final point the last few weeks before I had a major car accident.

My Decline


I was lying in hospital and all I could think about was making him think that I am fine. I could not make him think I was weak, vulnerable, that was just how distressed I was. Despite the fact that I was injured and that I had no family or next of kin, I sent a picture of myself pretending that I was fine to a colleague at work who I explicitly asked to send out to others. I was injured, alone, frightened and irrational. I was no longer working, at home attempting to recover both physically and mentally having lost so much. I continuously ruminated how alone I was, a wound that was very deep and very old. I shut everyone out, while people wanted to help and be there with me, I cocooned myself inside as the anxiety worsened my already deteriorating health. I cried almost every day and had regular anxiety attacks, sometimes so disabling that it would last well over an hour as I lay helpless on the floor attempting to breathe through the pain.

I cannot be absolutely sure given the circumstances, but this harrowing behaviour continued online. My Facebook page at the time had a continuous flow of random people attempting to befriend me and who I consistently rejected and blocked; while this can occur, the timing it suddenly started and even now upon reflection when it stopped and never occurred again as it did, along with the similarities of those created people (they all had no friends or a very small number of friends and had no posts) made it clear that it was one person creating multiple accounts. I had disclosed that I am a regular on a philosophy forum a long while earlier and a person who clearly presented the same ideas, behaviours, even the way he articulated himself suddenly made private contact with me that left me in no doubt at the time that it was him. Only now he was protected by virtual reality, fabricating archetypes that once again made him immune from scrutiny.

I was in a constant mental battle at that time between the need to get rid of him, or the attempt to help him understand how to use his conscience, to have empathy. I would try and say things that I hoped would stop his harassment while at the same time attempted to help him better understand himself. I told myself that he had absolutely no idea just how much he was hurting me, on his side or from his perspective I felt confident that he thought it was a game to be played, hiding and protecting himself from the reality that on the other end of the computer there was a girl who was dying because of his behaviour. I became very sick and lost an extreme amount of weight. I was giving up on my life, my state of mind heavy and my outlook darkened by an irrational mind and an injured body.

Whatever I said, stories I told, methods I used to try and appeal to his conscience, he misunderstood, ignored, tossed aside and it was back to square one. On the contrary, he actually believed that he was there because he was helping me. I cannot describe the emotional sensation I felt at that moment when I realised this, but it evoked a feeling a person would have if someone had raped them before helping them put their clothes back on. It was until Christmas day, alone and at home so terribly unwell, he made his final monstrous comment that I knew he had no chance of improving. My love was worthless. I made it clear as such that he was stuck and will never under any circumstances become a good man, that whatever it was in his life that made him become such a monster has poisoned him beyond repair, and that I have come to the realisation that I have wasted my time on such a worthless endeavour. He laughed at my comments.

I tried to rescue a drowning man only to be drowned by him. I deleted my account on the forum and that evening went to bed with the greatest chest pain I had ever had, a feeling of paralysis across my neck and face as I wheezed in a breathless pain. I closed my eyes as though I knew that would be the end.

My Transformation


 

As said in the English Patient:

“If you take in someone else’s poison – thinking you can cure them by sharing it – you will instead store it within you.”

I am thankful to say that the very next day, I woke up and have never again experienced such anxiety. No chest pain, nothing, it was as though it miraculously disappeared. I was still profoundly sad, but I was protected by a peace from the anxiety that enabled me to slowly heal. It took several years from that day to achieve this and these steps I can now reflect on as being very important for anyone. The first and primary being the removal of all such toxic people from my life and although I was alone and it was incredibly difficult, this loneliness allowed me to form a clean slate without being tempted to concede to living or associating with the wrong kind of people. Authenticity, moral consciousness and love is an expression, something we give and we should only welcome those into our personal space who are capable of understanding and appreciating this, despite giving this love universally. Some conditions need to be set to protect yourself.

The healing powers of creativity is yet another essential, as a previous holiday to Italy because of a chance opportunity given to me through TAC (Transport Accident Commission) following my car accident reawakened my love for art and classical music that I began to find ways to heal through writing, books and food, something that I had lost over the course of this experience. Writing or drawing your experiences, piece by piece, enables you to form a timeline and articulate who you are through a story and why storytelling, parables and metaphors are so important. As Hannah Arendt said so perfectly:

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.

We find meaning in the work that we do and whether it is creative pursuits or professional ones, it is necessary for us to give back in some way and so when I was given the opportunity to work for an NGO as a youth worker, I found my ambition and my motivation. I met young girls who had experienced some terrible things and found healing within me by helping them. I also worked with some of the most beautiful and kind women who knew that I was incredibly fragile at the time and helped me feel protected and secure when I still felt so unsafe. They compelled me to believe that love still existed and that enabled me to articulate my experiences during childhood with my family, my siblings who had also mistreated me and healing from my past through forgiveness.

The greatest experience, however, was seeing him again. I had began a new role and while working on a charitable project saw him by chance at the local shop. He intentionally ignored me, but it was clear he saw that I was there. I came to realise my feelings over the years had solidified into an imagined notion of him being something more than what he was, no doubt because I was so afraid and irrational at the time that I imagined him to be good person, someone with the chance of being wonderful despite his chronic and pathological behaviour. I imagined him capable of apologising, capable of being my friend, of caring enough about me to stop hurting me so much, but the sight of him pretending like that, I realised that this incredible possibility was all in my imagination. I cared for him at the same time as wanting to protect myself from the pain that he was inflicting, but that maybe it was more the latter, maybe it was selfish of me. I sometimes oscillate between this disdain towards him and this love for him, but that day when I saw him, all I felt was pity.

A friend asked me about my future plans for adoption and how I would like to raise a son. He remembered that I said I would like to raise a feminist. I guess there is a part of me that always believes that people can improve because I have, that love will always reign supreme as it does with me, but I have increasingly become aware that self-respect and self-love projects outward. It is the foundation for our capacity to give love. I want him to see the strength in being vulnerable, and to be wholeheartedly dedicated to honesty and to loving-kindness. Without the right disposition, the right lifestyle or the right mind, it would be impossible for me to give love. I would like to raise a son who will form such self-respect and self-love so that he can learn to give the same to all people, men and women, the elderly, children, animals, the environment. And I will do that by loving him with all my heart and that I may inspire him to do the same to others.

It was not that I was weak that he was able to take away so many years from me while at the same time remain oblivious to the hurt he has done. It was not because I was vulnerable that I almost died from all his psychological threats that made me confused and irrational as to how I should respond to his violence. It is not my fault that he played deceitful games with others to save himself from the guilt of his behaviour – the more people he had believing in him, the more right he became despite the fact that even he knew it was lies – and I am not to blame.

He was just a bad man. Whether it is those in close proximity to him that have made him such a bad person or whether he has no conscience or empathy no longer matters, he chose that life he is living and the people that he associates with. I think David Hume perfects how I view him now: “The richest genius, like the most fertile soil, when uncultivated, shoots up into the rankest weeds.” 

If you experience bullying, harassment or threats of any kind that make you feel uncomfortable, anxious and scared, please seek help. There are laws against bullying and harassment, especially if it repeated over a lengthy period of time. You are never to blame no matter how hard they try to make you believe it is your fault that they behave that way toward you.