I was off at a retreat last weekend, where I presented a program on the Enneagram in 1 1/2 hours.  Sort of felt like a low flying jet plane.  As I said, I was just able to do an infomercial about what it is and how it works, and pass out a list of references.  Whew.

There were some very nice talks and meditations.  One presentation started with the premise: "Suppose parapsychology works.  How does it work?"  This was pretty interesting.  For example, there is no evidence that telepathy is limited by distance (e.g., works better over short distances than long distances).  This rules out a lot of potential physical agents such as the electric field of the brain.

The speaker promised that by the end of his talk, "he would make our brain hurt!"  He delivered on his promise.  He started with a discussion of Plato's theory of Ideas.  And then applied this to parapsychology.  Along the way, he got into a tangential discussion that was really fascinating.  His example was Jaguar S-type owners.  If somebody puts a dent in your Jaguar, you have no choice--if you are a Jaguar owner, you have to have that dent removed.  The Idea of a Jaguar does not admit having a dent.  And if you sell a Jaguar, you can't just sell it to anybody.

So, suppose this Jaguar Idea is sentient!  It lives parasitically in the minds of "Jaguar Egos", who it attracts into buying new or used Jaguars.  And this Idea has some values that it enforces (such as "no dents") by putting them into the minds that serve as its hosts.

Once you admit that ideas might have an existence apart from the minds that hold these ideas, you start seeing examples everywhere.  The idea of classic Coke was able to overcome the effort of the company to end its life because this Idea was so strong in the minds of many people.  This is similar to the theory of memes--ideas that are passed on in families, like genes.  An example of a meme may be "Real clam chowder is white".

This is also similar to the idea of possession, that was the explanation for most diseases in most cultures up to a few hundred years ago.  For example, the Hawaiians believe that all the addictions are controlled by gods--there is a god for pot, tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, and so on.  Someone who is addicted is possessed by the appropriate god.  I suppose there are new gods created all the time--for video games and "TheSims", for example.

Suppose these ideas were real.  The god of alcohol gains power from all the persons who are addicted, and as it becomes more powerful it is able to attract others to become addicted in turn.  This god wars with the god of AA, and with other Ideas such as 'Clean and Sober' and 'Responsible'.  These struggles take place within the minds that give these Ideas home--the weapons may well be brain chemicals and electrical impulses rather than bombs and bullets.

I rather like this idea.  I've never felt quite comfortable with the 'alcoholism is a disease' theory.  And I'm certainly not comfortable with the 'alcoholism is a sign of a person who is too lazy to quit' theory either.  Seeing the alcoholic as possessed by an Idea that is bigger than he is seems to me to admit that the social and cultural support for drinking are part of the issue, as well as the physiology and psychology of the alcoholic.  And in practical terms, exorcism is no less difficult--this model does suggest that you would do well to get some additional Ideas on your side during the struggle to free yourself.

So I wonder how this relates to my weight problem.  I'm aware of many of the Ideas that have inhabited me--eating as comfort, eating to forestall boredom, belief that my body is a lost cause.  They do feel bigger than me, frequently.  And when I dwell on them, they become stronger.  I marshal the Ideas that are on "my side"--belief that my unconscious mind is ready to let the weight go, confidence that my unconscious mind can change my weight easily and naturally, and confidence that hypnosis can let me ally with my unconscious mind in this battle.  A very interesting way to view ourselves--as the host of titanic struggles between Ideas seeking to protect and extend themselves.  Sort of the way that people used to think of our souls as the site of the battle between Sin and Virtue.

Yes, it makes my brain hurt.

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2001 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.