Tag Archives: Plato

JBP at His Best

On September 30th, I found two particularly endearing tweets posted by JB Peterson Quotes. I thought, I owe him a post showing him at his very best.

The first one shows Dr. Peterson outdoors, sun shining on his brow, hugging smiling students from a surrounding crowd. There’s actually a broad grin on his face! It made me want to smile back at him.

The quote assigned to this photo: “Make at least one thing better every single place you go” – JBP

jbp w friends

The second shows Dr. Peterson gesturing in the professor mode, pronouncing a noble set of maxims. My first response: “What a great heart this man possesses!” It warmed my heart.

jbp Stumble Forward

But then, my rational mind took over.

After the warm fuzzy feelings he stimulates subside, clarity arises. What’s left is this: At each step, his reasoning is based on false assumptions. More fundamentally, the paradigm he’s operating on is incomplete and incorrect.

Life is suffering” is what Mephistopheles (Satan) argues to Faust. This is pure irony, of course, because Satan’s lies are the primary cause of human suffering.

Christ’s example taught us quite the opposite, that Life is Eternal. Suffering exists on the ephemeral surface of the Life Wheel, in large part due to poor decisions based on false beliefs that lead to catastrophic mistakes. Suffering does not exist at the unchanging Center of the Wheel. I’ve dedicated an entire post, Life is Eternal, to support this alternative premise, from which very different results follow.

Further, however obscured by deception, humans are made in the image of God. They suffer terribly because they have forgotten who they truly are and don’t know how to re-member what they sense they’ve lost and dearly long to recover. Insufficiency is a surface illusion, though a very persistent one. (In the context of mortality, Einstein said the thing about time.)

A great deal of suffering comes from ignorant fear of death. Many have been deceived into doubting the existence of the immortal structure that supports the mortal frame. Sages act on the belief that the consequences of their actions inevitably return. They know of a certainty that upon physical death the immortal part continues on to complete whatever has been left unfinished in future life cycles. So they behave very differently from those who mistakenly believe they can get away with murder or that suicide puts an end to suffering forever.

So what’s the problem? Certainly it’s not lack of intelligence or sincerity. Dr. Peterson is looking for Love and Truth using the limited tool of reason to fathom what exceeds and transcends it.

The rational mind cannot fathom or encompass super-rational realms. Further, he’s looking in the wrong place, on the surface. According to an old saying, “It is futile to hunt for deer in a forest in which none dwell.” Even religions as codified, institutionalized teachings, though speaking to direct experience of the Center, partake of surface limitations.

Nor is truth to be found in the duality of human relationships. That’s an especially hard sell. Not very likely. Actually, it’s the other way around. To the extent individuals align with the Center, the more wisdom, compassion and competence they bring to their relationships. If more of us aligned our personal lives with the Center, increasing numbers would find ways to overcome interpersonal conflicts.

Nor do we need to “stumble” towards the Kingdom of God. As Christ confirmed, the Kingdom of God is already present. It rests within. Getting there, for most of us, however, requires a leap of faith.

He says, “To learn is to die voluntarily and to be born again, in great ways and small.” This is the Phoenix response, of which I’ve written at length.

Nor is any of this a quibble, because a great many people right now are influenced by Dr. Peterson’s logic.

book header bird

I felt compelled to address this quote one word at a time.

SUFFERING. To repeat, stating categorically that life is suffering is misleading. While Buddhists equate human experience with suffering, they also teach that the root of suffering is IGNORANCE. And the primary way to ameliorate suffering is to dispel ignorance. In this case, false, incomplete and incorrect paradigms perpetuate ignorance and generate suffering. As he has also made clear, there’s a direct correlation between beliefs and outcomes.

Whereas Dr. Peterson looks to Goethe’s Faust to explain suffering, I prefer the Old Testament:

And then there’s Job, the model of faith enduring to the end and being restored, even better than before. The phoenix image.

Here’s the secret to be gleaned from this story, illumined by the infinity symbol that links the levels of the Life Wheel. Job says, “The Lord giventh.” This is the outward, materializing movement from center to surface of the Wheel. “And The Lord taketh away.” This is the receding path of return to center. In all, “Blessed be the NAME of the Lord.” The Logos.

LOVE. “Love,” Dr, Peterson says, “is the desire to see unnecessary suffering ameliorated.” To answer that one, I had to write an entire post to reply, Yes. And much more:

[Love] can be an expression of one’s affection. It can mean a feeling of brotherhood and good will towards other people.

It can be strong liking for or interest in something (a love of music). It’s a strong, usually passionate affection, partly based on sexual attraction.

In theology, love refers to God’s tender regard for mankind, or mankind’s desire for God as the supreme good. Love is the ultimate mystery. It sparks and keeps the life process going, more to be accepted and honored than psychoanalyzed.

Further,

Plato described seven stages of love. Each is a rung on an evolutionary ladder which leads from a child’s love for parents, to erotic love, to friendship, and eventually the pinnacle of divine connection. These seven steps correlate exactly with the hierarchal seven energy centers of yoga anatomy.

Plato traces the attraction between males and females to jealous gods who split a complete, content person in half at the navel. Ever since, each part has chased after the other, longing to become whole again – another yogic priority.

Tai Chi Tu

Next, he says,”TRUTH it the handmaiden of love. Dialogue is the Pathway of Truth.”

WOW. What a partial truth. Again, it takes another post to even come close to addressing it.

I say, “Dialogue in good faith may be the instrument of coming to common understanding between individuals and amongst groups. But Truth has many levels.

So, truth meaning what? Facts? Data? Axiomatic laws of nature? Absolutes? All of the above.

What does it mean to tell the truth? About what one is doing? Thinking? Feeling? Believing? Layers and levels of truth. How do they hang together?

I even supplied a picture, put together early on in my blogging years before I’d acquired photo-shopping skills:

TruthLevels021713

A Rare Opportunity

Immediately after posting Be Harmless, NOT Defenseless, a twitter message from JBP came to my attention. He will be speaking in Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday, November 16th. Small world. This happens to be a day when I’m already scheduled to be in town.

The event will take place on the UW-Madison campus in the building where I worked two years as a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Educational Administration. My office on the eleventh floor was so high above ground that I could watch incoming weather changes in the sky, far above the railroad tracks and coal yard below.

Since meeting face to face is the only way to answer inevitable questions on both sides, fate seems to be offering us an unlikely and rare opportunity.

Certainly he has many reasons to avoid it. But I have a hunch the best part of him will push past excuses. The opportunity may seem strange, uncomfortable and inconvenient. But on the opposite side of the coin, uncommonly valuable gifts might emerge from a “. . . dialogue . . . so that we can all humbly learn . . .”

Angel Calling

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Love IS . . .

Dr. Jordan Peterson says, “Love is the desire to see unnecessary suffering ameliorated.”

I say, “Yes . . and much, much more.”

Here’s what I mean:

Essay 38. LOVE

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. Moses, Deuteronomy 6:4-5

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you. . .This is my commandment. That ye love one another, as I have loved you.  — Jesus Christ in St. John, The New Testament

In Taoism, we say the heart is the seat of love, compassion, joy and happiness. This is what people are looking for. But they are looking outside. We don’t know that joy and happiness is seated INSIDE our heart. We’re running around the whole world. Going to the amusement park, night club, theaters, all kinds of places in search of happiness, peace, joy. But the peace, joy and happiness are within us. – — Mantak Chia, The Inner Smile

THE FRONT

Roots of love mean to be fond, or to desire. Webster’s first definition is a deep and tender feeling of affection for, or attachment to. It can be an expression of one’s affection. It can mean a feeling of brotherhood and good will towards other people.

It can be strong liking for or interest in something (a love of music). It’s a strong, usually passionate affection, partly based on sexual attraction. In theology, love refers to God’s tender regard for mankind, or mankind’s desire for God as the supreme good. Love is the ultimate mystery. It sparks and keeps the life process going, more to be accepted and honored than psychoanalyzed.

Plato described seven stages of love. Each is a rung on an evolutionary ladder which leads from a child’s love for parents, to erotic love, to friendship, and eventually the pinnacle of divine connection. These seven steps correlate exactly with the hierarchal seven energy centers of yoga anatomy.

Plato traces the attraction between males and females to jealous gods who split a complete, content person in half at the navel. Ever since, each part has chased after the other, longing to become whole again – another yogic priority.

Tai Chi Tu - sized

Unfortunately, rather than seeking to integrate male and female energies internally, most Westerners persist in externalizing this desire for re-union. In contrast, I Ching-related healing arts provide methods for restoring inner wholeness, attaining the ultimate level of Platonic love.

The new law Christ taught fulfills the law of Moses. Further, the Old Testament command to unify the three levels of soul, heart and might into a single-minded love of One God resonates with I Ching-related practices which coordinate upper, middle and lower energy centers.

Practical methods give people of every faith practical ways to actualizing their religious ideals. Put another way, only by integrating and harmonizing the levels of mind, body and emotions can love of God be complete or the universal law fulfilled.

Healing gender, race and religious splits calls for fluency in the complete spectrum of love. Even in grimmest times, love is the omnipresent, underlying bedrock. In Rocky IV, for example, Sylvester Stallione scripted an East-West reconciliation of opposite cultures.

A nature-trained David not only defeats a technology-mutant Goliath with love and relentless grit. He wins the hearts of a hostile crowd. His victory message to international TV viewers: “If I can change, and you can change, we all can change.”

Those who turn love into a commodity exploit what people out of touch with their true selves crave most. There’s a push-pull between those greedy to get what they’ve been fooled into thinking they lack and those who profit from this illusion.

False prophets profit from persuading followers that they’re incomplete and not-okay. Further, there’s a life-changing product that can fix them. If they buy it, do whatever they’re told, turn over their power and money, they’ll be transformed and made okay. Sages grounded in reality, however, know better.

The question then arises, what happens when one is focused and centered. Does all interest in the external world and motive to accomplish cease?

Actually, it’s the opposite. As one becomes more secure from within, fear-built barriers come down. New, more authentic motives arise to replace artificial desires. As one pares away the illusion of need, the native impulse to serve with generous compassion arises.

THE BACK

In duality, hate is the opposite of love. While love grows upwards from childish attachment through degrees of maturity to altruism, hate descends to the depths of destruction. It obliterates connections, shatters hope, and in the end destroys those it consumes.

Fear-based insecurities generate a host of love perversions. Possessiveness, envy, jealousy and rivalry are variations on the theme of illusory insufficiency. In all cases, it’s the result of looking on the outside for what can neither be bought nor stolen, for the completion of Higher Love is the timeless, abiding state of one’s innermost life.

Phoenix - sized

In this context, I say to the definition of Love as “the desire to see unnecessary suffering ameliorated” . . YES. With this modifier: Love is an absolute. In duality it manifests in a multitude of ephemeral desires, altruism being one of the highest.

Angel Calling

MY Worst Fear

When I posted What is YOUR Worst Fear, I intended to follow the next week with a sequil, MY Worst Fear. But it has taken a full month of soul-searching labor to deliver. The outcome – a yin-yang re-birthing of this website.

062115 embryo

The original sequel would have expressed the persistent fear described in Rethinking Survival:

The greatest personal obstacle I listed was pessimism, an attitude embedded deep in my upbringing, which crops up from the reservoir of inherited weaknesses from time-to-inconvenient-time. . . . the demon that surfaces when things get especially rough, taunting that all I’ve learned has been in vain, all the books I’ve written were for naught.

I feared the fate of Cassandra. I feared that I’ll fall short in warning that we urgently need to recognize an unwelcome elephant’s presence in civilization’s room – the hovering uncertainty of human survival.

Then doubts crept in. I decided to learn more about Cassandra, sung of by the bard, Homer, in The Iliad. I knew she was a priestess gifted with foresight. I knew her warnings went unheeded. Her prescience failed to prevent the destruction of her people.

But research uncovered another side to her story. According to legend, she received her gift from the Sun god Apollo in exchange for promises which she failed to keep. The curse of disbelief was attached to her prophetic abilities – so it is said – as punishment for deceiving the gods.

Obviously, I hope there’s no similarity between us on that count. Also, Cassandra died a hideous death, a fate which isn’t included in my particular fear portfolio.

So I searched my memory banks for a more accurate image of my worst fear. Immediately, one came forward.

As a teen, I spent two wonderful summers at Interlochen, the National Music Camp. One night, as was my habit, after the bugle sounded taps and the lights went out, I hid, wide awake, completely covered under my heavy olive drab army blanket and turned on a flashlight to read in the dark.

My borrowed book chronicled atrocities of the WWII holocaust. The powerfully horrifying image that remains with me was an enforced still birth. Enroute to death camps, Nazi guards responded to calls for help when a Jewish woman went to labor by chaining her legs tightly together at the ankles. Suffering oceans of agony, she died together with her unborn child.

Over the years, this is the repeating image of agony that comes to mind whenever the constellation of conspiring events seems to prevent me from bringing my writing into the world.

But again, rethinking led to doubts. I put this fear to Plato’s test, remembering his standard:

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

I decided, figuratively speaking, to turn the flashlight formerly hidden furtively under my youthful pillow for secret night-time use to submit my adult fears to the daylight of reason. Knowing that fear invites danger, I asked myself, “Am I allowing festering fears to become a self-fulfilling prophecy?”

So I named my immediate fears, one-by-one, and took responsibility for allowing them to influence my decisions, yielding a new array of options for correcting old mistakes. I can now proceed to direct future choices toward better outcomes.

For one thing, I decided to take on the paralyzing web of Catch 22s that plague a writer’s career. This is not the place to digress into war stories and bitter complaints. Suffice it to say that trusting authors are all-too-easy prey for members of the established publishing profession who specialize in eating them for their lunch.

But then, the alternative – to do everything alone, wear the many diverse hats required to bring a finished product to the general public – has just as many pitfalls. Marketing especially has been an issue. I took this position in The Positive Paradigm Handbook:

To my way of thinking, a person with something of extraordinary value to offer should be eagerly sought out and welcomed.

This is the book I dearly wanted for myself, the one that wasn’t on the shelves no matter where I looked. I’d have given everything I had for the knowledge in the Handbook. It’s the sum of what I’ve searched a lifetime to find. I’ve sacrificed a great deal to write and make the information usefully available. I’m offering it whole, on a silver platter, to those with an ear to hear.

So courting readers seems inappropriate and undignified, even embarrassing. I’ve accepted the necessity of marketing as a humbling, character-building opportunity. I can gladly swallow personal pride for the sake of human survival. The trade-off is more than worth it.

In some respects, however, I stand my ground. When marketing standards go against the grain of the Positive Paradigm, I draw the line. One fashionable marketing concept is called branding. “The author is the brand.”

Here I disagree wholeheartedly. It’s not about me. I’m just an imperfect messenger, not the message. I am but a transient visitor, briefly here, soon enough gone. The universal structure of the Positive Paradigm is the brand and its center hub is forever.

In this, yet another Greek myth is relevant. Again, from Rethinking Survival:

The Titans were gods sired by Kronos (Father Time). Fearfully jealous, as each was born, Kronos stole the male infants from his wife Gia (Mother Earth), swallowing his sons whole. This story is a metaphor for the Law of Karma. Our deeds may seem to be swallowed up by time, but in fact they never die.

In the cyclical course of natural events, they come back, as did the Titans, returning to conquer and replace the old gods.

Suffice it to say this self-assessment has resulted in a total rethinking of my attitudes and approach. These will be mirrored in the redesign of this website, to take place gently and gradually over the summer months. I’ll save the transformations of specific fears into action plans for a future post, “Under Construction.”

Nothing of substance – the archetypal ideas presented here – will change, but presentation will improve dramatically.

In sum, facing my worst fears for the purpose of writing this post has had a marvelously healing effect. Just so, I remember the Bene-Gesserit fear mantra from Frank Herbert’s Dune:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

062115 eye of the tiger

Know When to Mistrust Inner Voices

A recent misunderstanding taught me a well-deserved humility lesson. Millennial spokesperson RhinoforDinner had challenged me: “What leadership quality do you think is most important for young leaders to learn?”

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Like a thoughtless Rhino, I jumped in feet first with an enthusiastic response. “I’d say Confidence, meaning ‘with faith’ in their True Selves: having the courage to hear & follow inner voice of Conscience.” Further, in a blog, Dangerous Times Call for True Radicals, I elaborated on why Two Sides of a Coin: Lao Tze’s Common Sense Way of Change is dedicated to the Millennial Generation.

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In retrospect, I recognize my answer came straight from my own world view, failing to take Page’s background and beliefs into account. So I didn’t anticipate his response. Instead of answering me back, he cut off our Twitter connection.

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I felt surprised, baffled and more than a little hurt. But when I expressed my disappointment to a close friend, he showed no sympathy.

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In essence, he reminded me of the obvious. I still have a lot to learn. In particular, he pointed out that to people of faith who read the Bible, my response might have seemed New Agey. The responsibility is on my shoulders to be far more careful, considerate and clear in the future.

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I did my homework. Page Cole is co-author of The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Leadership Revolution…One Person at a Time. The book’s sub-title “one person at a time” resonates with the Positive Paradigm of Change and its motto, “Change from the Inside Out, and One Person at at Time.”

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However, whereas I’m a respecter of the world’s great religions, with an eye to the timeless, universal basics they share in common, Page is firmly grounded in the Baptist faith. I have greatest respect for the Bible and regard Christ as the ultimate universal teacher. But my answer failed to reflect this acceptance and respect. He had no way to recognize my answer as being completely in harmony with his beliefs.

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He had tweeted, “We believe in a Leader with Character, who acts with Integrity/Trust/ Respect for People. What do you stand for?” What he probably wanted to know was where I stand in relationship to other people.

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After healing my wounded feelings and doing an attitude adjustment, I invited Page to connect via LinkedIn. He quickly accepted, so I sent this message:

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Thanks for the connection, Page. I’d deeply appreciate your feedback. Rather than guess, I’d like to know from you why you responded to my Twitter answer to your leadership question by cutting me off. My head says to let it go. My heart says there’s something important to learn from you. There’s so much good will on this side. Why the disconnect?

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He responded charitably, re-following my Twitter account immediately. Later he emailed a detailed response. The cut-off was an unintentional error, he wrote, adding , . . “your comments were insightful and genuine. I loved the blog post.” But he also added a hint: “I’m not as versed in the writing you mentioned. . . “

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He continued, “I come from a distinctly Christian background.  I believe that ‘inner voice’ is the character within me that is being shaped by many factors, among them culture, family, relationships and of course Scripture and my personal relationship with God.”

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So far, it was merely a language disconnect. For him, “character” is a highly value-ladened word, one that by his definition spans the surface, middle and center of the Life Wheel, linking them. What I call a Philosopher-Warrior-Ruler, he calls a Person of Character. So far, no substantial disagreement. 

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Here’s how I picture our common understanding:

0 leader ruller

 

BUT then came the heart of the disconnect. He continued,

 

I’m not convinced that the “inner voice” is always a good thing to listen to, as evidenced by the actions of destructive and evil people throughout history.

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This is a seriously important reservation. It’s my boundary-spanner job to reach across the divide with a response that connects us in common understanding.

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The unique contribution of the Positive Paradigm of Change is that it speaks to this issue. It pictures a reality map that draws clear distinctions between rational, sub-rational and super-rational levels of experience. It’s not a new model. But it rephrases the “perennial philosophy” in terms of Einstein’s physics, linking historical wisdom with modern experience. It gives a way to articulate the important difference between misleading, deceptive voices that imitate conscience and the “real deal.”

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It follows in the footsteps of psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who was instrumental in introducing the Wilhelm/Baynes version of the I Ching, the venerable Chinese Book of Change to the English-speaking public. He worked to define the common thread of human experience that links wisdom traditions throughout human history, as did comparative religion teachers, notably Joseph Campbell and Huston Smith.

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Universal stories they focused on include one told by the Greek philosopher Plato. His psychological model pictures a chariot drawn by a pair of horses that pull in opposite directions. A white steed tries to pull the chariot off course, striving upward so close to the sun that it risks catching fire and being consumed. The black one pulls downwards, threatening to crash the chariot and driver into the ground. The driver’s challenge is to rein in and coordinate the team, steering a steady middle course that avoids danger-filled extremes. In this way, he succeeds in reaching his intended destination.

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[Regrettably, this poetic model, while psychologically accurate, has been taken literally and harmfully misconstrued as if it had racist implications.]

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A similar chariot story from the Hindu tradition is told in the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna, a warrior driving his chariot into battle, grows faint of heart. At this point, Krisna, a god representing conscience, makes his presence known. As the passenger seated behind Arjuna, Krisna advises with encouragement and wisdom, giving him the heart to prevail in fighting the good fight.

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The Positive Paradigm Wheel is true to these poetic traditions. All account for the interdependent facets of awareness. The rational mind (driver) of the chariot (physical body) must skillfully harness the horses (energies, emotions) that power the vehicle, while heeding the guiding voice of conscience in order to meet ultimate goals.

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In addition, however, the Positive Paradigm, also accounts for the actions of destructive and evil people throughout history which give Page pause. Despite claims to the contrary, such actions are not the result listening to the Inner Voice of Conscience. Evil actions are the mark of unbalanced extremists who have been misled into following the seductive voices lodged within the middle, sub-rational level of the Wheel.

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Destructive leaders are heeding not the innermost voice of Conscience, but the clamor of the Seven Deadly Sin-Demons — starting with Pride, followed by (and often in combination with) Anger, Avarice, Gluttony, Lust, Envy and Sloth. Modern day demon off-spring include Separatism, Exclusiveness, Arrogance, Ambition and Competition.

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What’s dangerously missing from the prevailing, exclusively materialistic paradigm of empirical science — a glaring gap which the Positive Paradigm of Change fills — is a universally acceptable reality map which includes the sub-rational middle level with all its dangers, but in its complete and correct context: contained by the super-rational level of intuition on one side and by the rational level of practical experience on the other.

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Herein is the common thread which continues the earlier blog, the Fateful Fear of Self-Awareness. I will shortly post a description of the reality map with emphasis on the too little known and greatly misunderstood, danger-fraught middle level. Character- based leaders in every walk of life and therapists as positive change agents can use it as a reference to realistically navigate the temptations of Seven Deadlies and their off-spring in order to prevail in fighting the good fight for themselves, and then for those those who place trust in them.

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In the meantime, dear Page, I heartily encourage you to read your Bible faithfully. I’m remembering Old Testament words burned into my mind from a performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah long ago. It’s a tenor solo, the scripture-based words being, “If with all your heart ye truly seek me, Ye shall ever surely find me. Thus sayeth our God.” It’s as good a guide for sincere leaders as one would wish for in this dangerous world.

 

All best.