Let's Prehend
A Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design


In spite of the predominance of contractive `ego' therapies, expansive therapies have a strong foothold and continue to advance, maybe.

The typical contractive psychotherapy, whether cognitive, behavioral, psychoanalytical, or just plain heart-to-heart talk, is usually an ego therapy. At best, it amounts to re-parenting, an appropriate remedy for declining family support in our dying culture. Unfortunately, ego therapy often functions to increase and enhance modern abstract culture, MAC, rather than alleviate it.

Adjust we must to an increasingly alienating culture. A culture in which people can expect an average of over half dozen jobs, often moving from one quasi-tribal personnel to another. The financial and human cost of such mobility is great. In spite of the stress, a new job can mean a heightened awareness, even elation. On the benefit side, the newly adjusted worker may feel an empowerment of self, perhaps better ability to fight the battles of an adversarial culture, even an enthusiastic acceptance of strangers. But on a deeper level the cost is a dissociation from the deeper harmony of mind and from the organic social life that supports conscious life. Common contractive therapies, helpful though they may be, enable and support the pathology of modern abstract culture.

Expansive therapies re-blossomed in the sixties, but their roots go back as far as human consciousness. All stable cultures have well-developed expansive therapies. The Asian traditions have impacted European intellectual life for thousands of years. Alexander the Great, Schopenhauer, and countless others benefited from the wisdom of the East. But the biggest burst of Buddhism was in California in the sixties.

In India, the source, expansive therapies grew not only from the basic challenge of the human condition, but also from a brutal caste system resulting from conquest by the warriors of the north as explained in OOPS, p.233.

In California the rebirth was stimulated by the brutalities of the Korean and Vietnam wars, lubricated by the increased use of expansive drugs, and enabled by the prosperity from the "Last Good War", WWII.

The history of this movement is well studied, but a rough survey makes this point: Contractive ego therapies may occasionally alleviate short term suffering and adjust to and support an abstract culture, but the expansive therapies offer the integrations and inclusions which deepen life and culture.

It seems to have started with the sensitivity `T' groups of the fifties. The intimacy of family was fast disappearing and small group sharing was sorely needed. The sensitivity movement correlates with the mellowing of Calvinism and the challenges of desegregation. It also assuaged the psychological damage from the trauma of war, a task which the contractive therapies with their contractive drugs could barely approach. In some cases the expansive therapies may have slowed the long term gradual breakdown of family and culture, the persistent progress of modern abstract culture.

Perhaps the most brilliant expansive therapy was EST developed by Werner Erhart (EST as Erhart Seminar Training was OK, but `est', the Latin `it is!' Buddhist assertion of imminent reality, could not be used as a foreign word). It grew from, and was followed by, a plethora of similar movements. Mr. Erhart was the consummate salesman. He took salesmanship to its extreme and sold enlightenment. He surveyed the bounty of mankind's expansive therapies, including Buddhism, integrated and selected from them, and translated the expansive processes of enlightenment into plain American English, so clearly that even the lumpen-bourgeoisie[ See ELBY, The Ethics of the Lumpen-Bourgeoisie, p. 315.] could "get" it.

EST drew heavily from Asian Buddhism, "When you enter a monastery you shave your head as a commitment. In America, you pay $200." EST broke the tyranny of the self (from "assholes' to the gentler "turkeys"), disclosed the compulsions of the contracted mind, and provided meditative mechanisms to reverse the compulsion to the abstract life, CAL, in order to "turn life around".

So much has been written already that no summary is possible. "Understanding is the booby prize." In EST and in sex, understanding compares poorly to experiencing. Enlightenment is more than acknowledging that experience is not the basic reality, that self is not separate from others, that participation is more than just job. All these are expansive modes.

The rationalist-idealist RIDs are justifiably threatened, just as the schizophrenic might be when you tell him he is not Napoleon. From a RIDs tradition, EST might seem the embodiment of evil. EST destroyed the RIDs world view in two weekends. Mr. Erhart is lucky he survived to spend his mellowing years un-indicted in Mexico.

But EST did not directly approach the issues of the reconstruction of organic cultural life. Some studies have indicated that EST may have some dissociative effects such as increasing the rate of divorce, in spite of overt efforts to the enhance couple and family. Perhaps the self, gaining is vigor by this expansion, succumbed to the tyranny of the self, TS, and the compulsion of the abstract life, CAL. EST had a major impact, addressing as it did the upward mobile middle class. Wider use of terms such as `empowerment' and `transformation', hint at its maturing influence on an otherwise degrading work ethic and culture.

These expansive movements were world-wide, and took many forms. The "born again" movement must be considered an expansive therapy. Clearly it is a breaking of the bounds of the contracted mind, in order to experience the greater reality, unfettered by the tyranny of the self. Like any enlightenment, it cannot be forgotten. It does not solve the problem of the fall from grace, which is inherent in the mechanism of consciousness itself; but the enlightened person has a broader view and a bigger heart. The EST graduate, like those born again, might defensively protest to criticism, "You should have known me before."

In recent decades the contractive culture of post-Reaganism has starved the expansive impulse and exacerbated the triumph of the will. The ecology movement and the Aquarian Conspiracy offer some rebirth of the broader world view, but so far it seems to lack that experiential power that a truly expansive movement needs. As usual, we await the second coming, or is it the third, fourth, or fifth.

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