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Authority consults the written law - fresco by Constantino Brumidi

Authority consults the written law – detail from fresco by Constantino Brumidi

“Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion.”
Democritus of Abdera

I started thinking some more about this societal penchant we have for telling others how to live their lives (see last post) while simultaneously running to various “authorities” to find out how to live our own.

Aside from being simply a case of what goes around comes around, what’s this all about? It seems rather strange that we should consider ourselves authorities on everybody else’s lives but our own, and others greater authorities on our own lives than we are. After all, there’s only one person who knows what the experience of being ourselves is really all about. Others can share bits of it, empathise with some of it, or find resonance with their own experience, but they can’t experience it. They can only experiencethemselves.

The word authority derives from the Latin auctor meaning “he that brings about the existence of any object, or promotes the increase or prosperity of it, whether he first originates it, or by his efforts gives greater permanence or continuance to it” (Lewis & Short, Latin Dictionary, 1880). It’s that “promotes the increase or prosperity … permanence or continuance” that seems key. It doesn’t sit too well with situations where authority becomes disempowering or even abusive; where, for example, a therapist undergoes a small fracture and becomes the rapist.

Yet for authority to be disempowering, it needs willing candidates. We seem to like our authoritative figures every bit as much as they like playing the role. We live in a culture that largely regards the internal processes of self-reflection as irrelevant nonsense (dreams and imaginings) or dysfunction (physical symptoms), so we’re constrained to seeking a reflection of our present state through the eyes of others who, being as they’re doing exactly the same thing, are as likely to present us with a projected description of themselves or their shadows as anything related to our own processes. Is it any wonder it all gets so confused and confusing?

So what’s the solution? Trying to devise rules and regulations for every conceivable potential abuse of authority will just result in a mountain of legislative code that nobody can either keep track of or prosecute. But the game can’t go on if the players won’t play ball. The fact is, we each have our own individual resident personal advisors who are on the job 24/7, are totally, selflessly and solely dedicated to our welfare, cost nothing to employ, who are perceptive, incisive, and invariably correct, and who don’t give up on us even if we’ve never so much as given them the time of day. All that’s required from us is a little investment of time to learn how to consult them, trust, and a willingness to drop the common misconceptions surrounding their advice.

This is not to say that we can’t benefit from other’s knowledge and expertise, or that we shouldn’t continue to seek help and reflection from the world outside ourselves as well. Only that standing on our own two feet, well briefed, and walking hand in hand with our external advisors, is likely to promote our increase, prosperity and continuance to a far greater extent than placing ourselves entirely in their hands. Responsibility = response-ability.

But whatever you do, don’t just take my word for it …

“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
Carl Gustav Jung

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Thanks to the current insanity revolving around homeopathy in this country, in both media and blogosphere, it's become necessary to insult your intelligence by explicitly drawing your attention to the obvious fact that any views or advice in this weblog/website are, unless stated otherwise, the opinions of the author alone and should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you choose to take anything from here that might be construed as advice, you do so entirely under your own recognisance and responsibility.

smeddum.net - Blog: Confessions of a Serial Prover. Weblog on homeopathy, health and related subjects by homeopathic practitioner Wendy Howard