Originally presented 9/13/95
Copyright © 1995, J. M. Cox

 All public forms of mysticism, all religions, and most humane ideas of decent people carry prohibitions of some kind against criticism, and there is a reality behind such prohibitions. There is danger of a very specific nature, for a few people, in criticism. And it's simply this: if you criticize the external world -- other people -- it will eventually turn into you criticizing yourself at the mental level. Criticizing yourself physically is neither here nor there. But criticizing yourself mentally is the end of everything. What it amounts to is a kind of "internal dialogue enhancer" -- as if you needed one. Criticism will activate, to an even greater than normal degree, the appeal of that internal 'Tar Baby'. The traffic running through the mind -- the automatic, intrinsic operations of the mind -- will forever keep a person from any other state of consciousness. Surely, by now that's becoming glaringly obvious to some of you, at least sometimes. Life has already provided the traffic running through your mind, and no matter who you are or what you think, there is no way you're going to reroute it. There is no way you are going to be able to separate some of the coaches and some of the cars on that train. There is no way to reconfigure them, clean them up, grease the wheels, or repaint them. Attempting to change what Life has given you to think will not alter your level of consciousness.

If there were any possibility of ordinary people collectively seeing what This sort of activity is about, then what I just said would have been obvious by the time Adam's first kid arrived. By the time men were beginning to play with the mind, they began to find that in certain respects, the ordinary thinking that Life provides is not unlike annoying relatives who apparently have come for just a visit, but who won't ever leave!

Everyone has criticism about the kinds of things their mind does, and it doesn't have to be of a world-shaking order, just such things as, "I can't get this song out of my head, I keep thinking the same line over and over." Or they keep repeating some insult that someone directed toward them five minutes ago -- or five years ago. So if even a non-mystical sort of person gives much attention to his internal condition, and you ask him later, "What have you gotten from your observations so far?" -- most likely he would say something along the lines of, "Well, most of what goes on in our minds is just garbage. It's repetitive, it doesn't get anywhere, and distracts one, ofttimes, from the job at hand." Of course, I'm really giving him credit. All in all, about the best you can expect from an ordinary person, if he applies himself to this attempted study of man's condition -- which refers to his internal state, not his behavior -- is the conclusion that much of it needs to be changed, altered, deleted, or reduced. And humans have had easily seven or eight thousand years (that you know of) to make such alterations, with a striking absence of success. Yet collectively, no one learns anything from that, as always. There is nothing you can do with the thinking which Life has already provided in humans that will change your level of consciousness. As if you needed the wheels of the train greased. As if you needed to be standing on the tracks, you know, trying to direct Life: "Send some more of that stuff over here." As if you needed that.

There is always some reality behind even mundane, work-a-day, historical epithets having to do with morality -- in this case, prohibitions against criticism. If you realize the real basis, it's not that criticism is immoral, or unChristianlike, or unMuslimlike. None of that. But here's the thing. Let's say you could begin in a non-critical state. (Of course, all this goes on continually in you, but I'm giving a kind of historical, made-up view of how the process could have started.) There you stand, a virgin as regards criticism, and suddenly you hear an idea, or you read something. And you start to think to yourself, "Well those ignorant so-and sos." Or, "That's really stupid." Whatever. If you do that, here's the danger for a few: you start off apparently criticizing externally, but there is no way to stop the process after that. None. Good intentions do not count. Nothing counts. Because once you engage in criticism, it is a short step (and will only take a matter of seconds) to where the criticism turns on you. After you once turn criticism externally, onto anything, it will eventually turn on you. You will turn it on you. You have no more control over that than you had control over your initial, apparently externally-directed, criticism.

 Now, this has nothing to do with whether or not you personally "deserve" criticism. Anybody who thinks they deserve criticism, by the way, is a living example of, "You live, then you die; anything in addition to that is you thinking about it." That simple, unadorned view -- which is not commonly available -- sounds like some sort of cynical or sophomoric smartass remark, but it's not -- you live, you die, and anything in addition to that is simply you thinking about it. There simply is nothing to criticize in man's behavior, in human existence. But that has nothing to do with collective man. Men would not continue to operate as a vehicle for the expansion of Life, if that were true for most humans. And any reasonable, sane person -- any civilized human being -- would laugh in my face at that comment if they thought I was serious.

Still -- there is nothing to criticize in the life of man, if you see what the life of man is. Would you like a hint? This is not proof; it would take an exceptional mind to even get the juice from the hint. But here's the hint. No one, knowing they're dying, lying on their death bed and still having their mental abilities more or less intact, has ever found any fault with life. And, in a non-meaningful way, that's a known fact. If you have some old uncle or aunt, somebody who is just a living rat's ass -- just drives everybody crazy -- all they have to do is come down with a fatal disease and stay alive long enough for people to get around the bedside, and they will turn into a saint. And I don't mean some sort of sham attempt at the last minute to placate the gods and make up for their sins. It's not that.

As I have pointed out before, electrochemical energy flows from planet earth through man, up the human nervous system, culminating at the apex in the human brain. Once you start dying, you're still subject to the laws of physics. Energy starts depleting from the top down. Which is why, whether you ever noticed it or not, when you get sick with a cold, or anything that's going to temporarily incapacitate you, your mental capacities begin to be depleted before anything else. (In years past I have pointed this out to people. The usual response is, "Well, I never noticed that. I know what you're saying; it will eventually take its toll on me mentally -- I can't concentrate, and I just kind of lose my powers of attention -- but that's after I'm really sick and the physical symptoms come out." Okay. If you say so. Their response reflects how much they have observed the operations of their own mind.) Once energy starts draining out of the human nervous system, one of the first things that goes is criticism. So now, consider this. If, when you are sick or dying, criticism goes faster than your ability to even stand up or play touch football, you should ask yourself the rhetorical question, "Of what real significance, of what actual validity, is criticism?" Is it genuine? This just flies in the face of all morality, I know. And even if we could, overnight, make everyone in this world operate as though nothing in the life of man is worthy of criticism, things would fall apart. But once you see what Life is, there is simply no criticism left. This can't be explained; there's just nothing to say after that.

If you ever tried to tell this to an ordinary person, they would take you to be an absolute idiot, or worse. They would want to debate. They would start with, "How do you explain the fact that tyrants, right now, are killing innocent women and children?" They'd pick out all the atrocities of history and say, "How do you explain that? You're gonna tell me you're not going to criticize Papa Joe, or Mussolini, or Attila? You're not going to do that?" There's nowhere to go with this, because you certainly can't say,"Well, no, I won't criticize them." So it's not the kind of thing that is ever going to be in popular usage, because it cannot be commonly understood. You either begin to see this, or you don't. There is nothing in the life of man to be criticized. I could be crude and call such criticism a form of hubris, but it's really just a form of low awareness. Men do not find fault with any other creature on this planet. No one ever goes out and looks at all the acorns and limbs and leaves in their back yard, and then takes a stick to an oak tree. "Bad tree!" Anybody sane does not criticize the behavior of lions, or of possums. That's just ridiculous. You would have to be a little past the edge of the mainstream of even common mental existence to criticize a hippo. There is nothing to criticize. Hippos hippo. Dogs dog. Trees tree. Men man. If a fox comes and scratches up your rose bushes looking for something to eat, you can certainly be angry. But you do know that only someone off the radar scope of mainstream common existence could then become a personal critic of foxes: "We should round up all the foxes and train them to be more horticulturally correct!". Or a bear could maul and kill one of your family. After you get over the initial shock, you may start a new organization -- MAUB, Mothers Against Unruly Bears -- to keep bears out of public parks, or to round them up. But you understand, you would not suddenly become, unless you lost your mind, a critic of bears. The bear simply did what bears do. It is surely a damn shame that it killed somebody you knew, and you might decide to try and protect others from bear attacks. But you still do not criticize a bear. All the bear can do is bear. In that same sense, what I have been calling man's instinctive side operates automatically, and there's nothing to criticize. You don't criticize the operations of your stomach. You don't criticize someone else's breathing. That would be ridiculous. You can get a man to agree that from the level of consciousness down, he lives an automatic instinctive life, and that's that. In the mind, though, is a place where he believes he lives otherwise. Now notice, I'm refining the map a little bit. I'm not saying that he does live otherwise, but that he believes he does. It is only in the area where he can believe, at any given time, that he lives otherwise than automatically and instinctively -- it is only there that he can criticize.

 Bodies do not criticize one another. The whole world of criticism is in the world of the mind. The danger, for a few people, in trailing along with any of the criticism that goes through you, is that you have set up the reality in which you will then criticize your thinking. Not your behavior; forget all that. Whenever you criticize anything externally, it will turn on you. And I don't mean some sort of moral justice. And I don't mean that what you accuse other people of will come back to haunt you. It's not that. The specifics have nothing to do with it. As long as you find fault "out there," you will find fault "in here," with your thinking; you will enhance, spur on, cheer on, extend, fill up, and add to the inner dialogue. Which is just what a would-be mystic needs -- something more to think about. And something annoying, at that!

 All it takes is some sincere observation, and you realize that a large part of the normal Life-induced flow of traffic that runs through man -- which we, from the outset, call our own thinking - - is engaged in criticism. Were it not for criticism, the automatic flow of thinking through man would run the serious risk of coming to a halt. I'll put it to you another way. What I'm about to say is not true, but there's no really good way to say this: the criticism that a man has about his own thinking is part of what keeps his own thinking going. You want to try "it's not true" in the opposite direction? This is a little less not true in the opposite direction: if you could stop finding any fault with what went through your mind, you would have a much greater possibility, at any particular time, of being able to suspend thought.

It is almost impossible to become aware of what's going through your mind and not find fault with it. Anyone with even a modicum of awareness of that process is going to be ashamed of some of the things they think. If we could take the thoughts running through your mind and flash them up on wall, and I propped open your eyes and we looked at your thoughts up there, then you do know -- any decent, ordinary person would be greatly ashamed. Broaching on acute humiliation. It's only natural. It's only natural for those kind of things to go through your mind, and it's only natural to find fault with them. In fact, if you do not feel ashamed of those kind of thoughts, your lack of shame will eventually become apparent to people around you. In some way it will come out, and you will be shunned as being antisocial or worse. You're supposed to feel ashamed. But every time you criticize your thinking, you're also encouraging yourself to stay in that condition. Not because you're angering the gods, and not because criticizing others will keep you at a low level of consciousness. No, no, no. (That means severe, "No, no, no!" That means distractingly, "No, no, no, no.") That is, if you don't see this, you're distracted, severely.

 You remember the story of the Tar Baby? This very aggressive, annoying, critical, hot- tempered bunny rabbit thought the tar baby was making fun of him. If you recall, a fox made this doll out of tar and set it up on a stump, and hid behind it. When the rabbit goes by, the fox says, "You ugly-looking son-of-a-hare." The rabbit says, "You can't talk to me that way. You say one more thing and I'll bust ya!" And surprise, the fox says, "Well, up close, you're even uglier than I thought." And the rabbit hits the tar baby. Bam -- he's stuck. Hits him with the other front paw, stuck! Kicks him with the back paw, pretty soon he's tied up. That's the tar baby story for those of you who don't know it. When you criticize the thinking that runs through your mind, you have, as if you needed to, as if it were necessary, increased the appeal -- the attraction, the allure -- of the internal tar baby. You are fighting something which not only can you not defeat, but the more you fight it, the more you're stuck with it.

 Criticism is never a nutrient. Criticism is never growth- productive. It is not nourishment. But by any ordinary view, that's untrue. Men would say that it's only through criticism that humanity rectifies its mistakes. And you can't argue. You cannot talk to an ordinary person about extraordinary things. You cannot talk to a mind being run by a fox -- a mind being run by an outside force. To be able to hear this would require that the person have some experience of individual thinking, and people normally do not. Humans are still criticizing one another for the same things they were criticizing 8000 years ago. The game has not changed. Men have not slowly corrected some of those things, so that we're on to, you know, some new areas to criticize. It's the same areas. That is one of the claims of psychiatry: "Now, we're getting somewhere." And psychiatry is nothing new. It is just somebody talking about the problems they have with how they think. Psychiatry cries, "Here it is, finally, we're reaching close to the 20th century, and a new age is born." No it isn't. People have been doing talking-analysis as far back as history goes -- while simultaneously being unable, absolutely unable, to see that it changes nothing.

We could conclude by asking a second question. If none of the thoughts that men normally have are worthy of any criticism, are they then worthy of any credit? Or even any attention? Some of you may realize the answer to this question. They aren't. So then we're left with a third question: what sort of thinking would be worthy of some attention, some credit? What kind of thinking would be worthy of man? And that's easy. The first two questions are hard to ever see, but the third one is easy.

Even ordinary people believe the third one easy, not realizing it is impossible. That's why people must come up with mortally- conceived paradigms by which to measure anything. The only way that you can picture "getting somewhere" in life is to have a mentally-conceived model of human existence. We're talking about a model, not about the way men live. The model is mental. Christians have a Christian model of reality. You've got to have some model. And only within such a complex model is there any conception, any illusion, any feel, any speculation, that "getting somewhere" is possible. While I'm saying the model is conjured up, it's real enough. But it's stuff above the level of consciousness. It is not down at the automatic instinctive level in which men live. You've got to have this made-up model to have the conception that you're going somewhere.

Consider the story in Pilgrim's Progress. To believe that you're on a train going from the city of destruction to the celestial city, even though they're both imaginary, you first have to adopt some imaginary map. In this case, the Christian system. It doesn't have to be religious; it could be simply the decent-Irish-system. The only way you can judge progress is in relationship to some artificial picture of what life is, so that you can then imagine that there is some progress possible -- that you can actually get somewhere.

Back to the three questions. The first: "Are any of the thoughts running through man worthy of criticism?". The second: "If not, are there any such thoughts that are deserving of positive attention, that are worthwhile"? I have hinted that the answer to both is no. Then the third question should be, "Then is there any thinking that is worthwhile, if these are not?".

We just answered that question. Didn't we?

 Someone call John Bunyan's agent, and we'll find out.