The Synthesis Effect: Your Direct Path to Personal Power and Transformation

The Synthesis Effect: Your Direct Path to Personal Power and Transformation

by John McGrail

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781601632050
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 03/22/2012
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author


John McGrail, PhD is a clinical hypnotherapist, self-improvement expert, and spiritual teacher. His unique therapeutic and teaching approach blends a life-long passion for understanding the human condition and spirituality with the experience and wisdom acquired through working with thousands of clients and students from all walks of life in his clinical practice and self-improvement/motivational seminars and workshops. His writing and expertise have been featured in/on Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Self, Women First, Experience Life, Whole Life Times, WebMD, LIVESTRONG.com, TLC, ABC News, and many others. His Website is www.hypnotherapylosangeles.com. Dr. McGrail resides in Los Angeles.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Who Are We and How Did We Get Here?

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

— Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

I have always been fascinated by the mystery of our development and our evolution as a species. I'm especially curious about the enigma of just why and how we evolved as we did. Of all the creatures on Earth, why was it we who rose to dominance on the planet? To me, this question, like that of the human brain trying to figure itself out, is both somewhat ironic and profoundly interesting — and it may never be fully answered.

What we do know, of course, is that our great evolutionary advantage was our mind. Our brain. We developed the ability to think conceptually and abstractly, decipher cause and effect, and discover the how and why of things. This led to the appearance of social intelligence, or the ability to think and act as group, to cooperate in obtaining an outcome. Given that our early ancestors were much smaller and weaker than many of the critters they were trying to eat, this proved to be a huge advantage in ensuring our survival.

In and of itself, social intelligence is not unique to humans. But we took social intelligence to new levels, because we also developed complex language, which gave rise to what anthropologists call cultural evolution — an occurrence that was unique to our species, and, perhaps, the great differentiator between all our fellow creatures and us.

There was a huge chain of consequence from this development. We transcended the requirement for devoting all our time to simply ensuring survival; we got free time! With that time and our powerful, conceptual brains, we developed the ability to exert some control over our immediate environment. We learned to control fire, manufacture shelters, and make and use sophisticated tools. We learned to domesticate plants and animals, which led to settled, agricultural societies. We thus achieved an easier and relatively more comfortable existence, and with that came an awareness of subjective value, of duality, ease versus dis-ease, or what I call disconnection. More simply stated, we unwittingly invented the concept of contrast.

It is not a stretch to state that the essence of our further evolution hinged upon this single aspect: duality, contrast; more or less good or bad. Contrast makes possible the exclusively human concepts of ecstasy, love, passion, bliss, pleasure, health, wealth, and abundance, but these exquisite qualities of life have meaning only through the knowing of their opposites: agony, hate, apathy, misery, illness, poverty, and scarcity.

Contrast then, became (and remains) the single-most important factor through which we define and judge the human experience. It is our species' definitive and primordial meme. "Meme" comes from the Greek word mimema, meaning "something imitated." It is a term coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, and refers to the concept of encoded and entrained thought patterns existing within and as part of a society's mass consciousness — the elements of their ethos.

Memes are considered to be almost like cultural genes that are automatically passed among individuals and from one generation to the next, and thus serve to both propagate and perpetuate cultural thought and behavioral patterns. The "science" of memes, called memetics, is considered unempirical, yet the idea that we pass on these so-called cultural genes among ourselves and between generations certainly seems to make sense when we look at how we live and behave.

With the invention or awareness of contrast — our primordial meme — the ship we might call modern humanity set sail, and the generation and development of the memes of modern mass consciousness began, all leading to who and why and how we and you live the way we and you do today. Contrast became and is both our greatest blessings and our greatest curse, because for some reason (and I believe we are unique in this regard as well) we have learned to be very tough on ourselves.

For instance, if a coyote hunting for his dinner sees and chases a rabbit, and that rabbit escapes, it is safe to assume that the coyote does not enter a deep funk or depression, or have an anxiety attack. He does not develop a rabbit phobia, or suffer a blow to his self-esteem. He does not chastise himself as he drinks himself into a stupor at the local Coyote tavern: "Oh dear, I am a bad coyote; I am unworthy; I do not even deserve a rabbit; I am depressed; I am a disgrace to coyote-dom!" No, he just gets right back to hunting and keeps at it until he finds a slower rabbit.

Only we engage in such self-judgment and self-degradation —"I'm not cool enough, smart enough, sexy enough, rich enough, brave enough, lovable enough, whatever enough. I'm not worthy. I'm less than. I'm a failure." And we do it quite well! Do you see any of your current feelings about yourself, your behaviors, or your life in those statements?

I bet I know the answer. I never ever receive calls from people who are suffering from too much happiness, abundance, comfort, control, or peace of mind in their lives. None of my clients calls and asks, "Doctor John, can I come in for a few sessions? I'm feeling way too good."

On the contrary, I only hear from people who are in a state of disconnection and want something they do not have, or want to get rid of something they do have. Either way, their "something" is always triggered through a feeling of lack, of being less than, unworthy, or a failure in some way. And it almost always stems at least in part from comparing themselves to some arbitrary societal or cultural standard(s) — some meme — as to what is enough, or cool, or acceptable.

As we evolved and advanced, as we gained even more comfort and more free time, we came to want more of it. We consequently also became more and more curious about the bigger picture. We began to want to understand the big and sometimes scary world in which we live and also more about our place within that world, both in terms of our existence on earth and within the greater context of the cosmos, the universe. Why? Again, we turn to contrast. The more we learned, the more we felt in control of our existence. The less mysterious the world felt, the greater our comfort level living in it.

At the 1988 Scientific Symposium, Travis W. Binion stated in a keynote address that human cognition and curiosity manifested in three main forms of endeavor: religion, science, and philosophy. "Religion delves into the spiritual realm, science into the physical realm, and philosophy unifies the two in a pervasive search for universal reality," he said. He also asserted that these three disciplines became innate to the human condition, and the anthropological evidence supports this idea. All ancient cultures and civilizations produced and practiced some form of religion, explored science, and generated philosophical theories and doctrines.

"So, who cares? What's the big deal?" you might ask. Well for me, the big deal is that despite differences in specific traditions, ceremonies, and religious practices — what we might call cultural semantics — and despite being separated by vast geographic barriers and distances, the worldviews of the early indigenous cultures regarding the structure and function of the universe and their place and role within it were uncannily similar.

As illustrated earlier by the story of Pigeon Feather and Little Quill, the societies and cultures of the native peoples around the globe were defined by community, energetic connection, and contiguity: oneness and balance between and among all things and all beings throughout the tribe and throughout existence. This way of life is often referred to as "the old ways" by descendents of these peoples. This is a point worth examining a bit further.

My search of the literature revealed virtually no mention of mental illness among indigenous peoples — that is, at least before they were exposed to Western culture. In other words, when living by the old ways, the people of native societies did not seem to suffer endemic low self-esteem, chronic worry, or chronic stress. They did not seem to experience anxiety disorders, panic attacks, or phobias. They apparently also felt no need to numb themselves from the realities of life with drugs or alcohol or other behavioral addictions. They did not appear to suffer from depression, mood swings, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADD, binge eating, mass anger, or any of the other of the myriad and all too pervasive disconnections that are endemic to us in contemporary society. Interesting.

Did they know something we don't? Seems so. We might infer that living in connection, community, and unity as they did was beneficial to the health and wellbeing of both the individual and the tribe. We might also infer that these people somehow avoided succumbing to the meme and disconnection of chronic lack. Surely, as "modern humans" they understood duality and contrast; they simply and clearly handled it differently.

I believe it is because they lived in energetic balance among themselves and with the world around them. I also believe that it was losing this connection and balance that helped spawn the great social and individual disconnection we live with and suffer under in modern society.

Indeed, as our modern Western societies developed we left the old ways far behind. The more we learned and the less mysterious the world felt to us, the greater our comfort level and sense of control, and the more powerful we felt. The more comfort, control, and power we felt, the more comfort, control, and power we wanted; and, ironically, the more we also realized how little of those attributes were actually in hand. Yet more lack!

And on it went; our incessant craving for greater control and comfort in turn generated increasing isolation from both the natural world and our sense of community with one another and our fellow creatures.

Isolation and separateness are two of the core concepts imbued into all Western thought as expressed through those common and innate activities of religion, science, and philosophy. And to me they appear to be the breeding ground of many (if not most) of the social pathogens that plague our society. Ours is a philosophy that separates the individual from the community, destroys the concept of unity and connection, and has spawned a culture burdened and sickened by contrast and a seemingly constant sense of lack.

We have become a species lost in a world of artifice and the virtual rather than grounded in the real: video games, online relationships, television, movies, and voiceless communication consume enormous amounts of our time and attention. Our incessant desire for instant everything — including physical and emotional gratification, success, and our seemingly limitless hunger for acquiring more things and even more free time — has become apparently essential to our way of life. This way of life has created enormous disconnection. This is who we are today.

But how did we get here? It was, quite simply, a result of our getting even smarter and inventing modern science and philosophy.

MODERN SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY

It is generally accepted that modern philosophical/scientific thought owes its existence to the ancient Greeks, who actually invented the very idea of philosophy — pursuing knowledge for the sake of knowledge itself. The great Greek thinkers transcended the belief of a world controlled by mythical gods and goddesses, to conceive the idea that the universe was a kind of machine subject to rigid laws.

Aristotle, a student of Plato and one of the most famous of the ancient Greek philosophers, created a theory of universal structure based upon the idea of a hierarchy. In his model, everything in existence was ranked, from the "impermanent" creatures of Earth to the "permanent" heavenly bodies moving in eternal motion and controlled by God.

This hierarchical model of nature was later adopted by many Christian, Jewish, and Muslim theologians in the Middle Ages. Once religion assimilated a hierarchical, God-controlled system of nature's order and function, it assimilated science itself. "Science equals religion" became the core premise of a belief system that significantly clouded (and at times even forbade) rational thinking. This doctrine greatly impeded both scientific and philosophic exploration and progress well into the 16th century.

Fortunately, in 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus drove what has been termed the first stake into the heart of this dogma with his manuscript De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, or On the Revolution of Heavenly Spheres. This seminal work essentially debunked the then-accepted and Church-supported notion that the Earth was the center of the universe. Indeed, Copernicus's work is sometimes described as the trigger of the Scientific Revolution, a movement that would usher in a new worldview.

The Renaissance and Great Enlightenment were times of great upheaval and change. Science became a quest for uncovering and understanding the natural world based upon solid fact and experimental evidence. In Italy, physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei was of great importance to furthering this wave of new thinking. He created the science of mechanics, which applied the principles of geometry to the motions of bodies. The success of mechanics in discovering apparently reliable and useful laws of nature suggested a central premise: that all of nature is designed in accordance with mechanical laws.

In 1619, French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes set down four rules for applying his method for finding "truth," the most important of which was: Never accept anything as true or real which is not clearly known to be true. Descartes was also one of the first modern thinkers to consider the mind and body as separate and distinct, a model of thought called dualism. The body was considered akin to a machine that operated under the laws of physics. The mind — separate, invisible, and an ethereal entity — was therefore not subject to these same laws.

This concept of a mechanistic world consisting of independent bodies and systems that can and may interact with one another, but that are and always remain separate, continued to evolve to become the very core of Western philosophy and scientific method. Later, the work of Sir Isaac Newton, inarguably one of the greatest minds in human history, assured its permanence.

Newton's laws of motion confirmed many of Galileo's discoveries, and led directly to the development of contemporary or modern physics. Newton's model presented the elements and systems of the universe as divisible and wholly self-contained. His was a material world in which particles of matter follow certain laws of motion through both space and time. In other words, with Newtonian physics, the universe was officially defined as a big machine and "I'll believe it when I see it" became the official mantra of Western scientific method and thought.

Much later, in 1859, but following the by now well-established model of Newtonian, mechanistic science, Charles Darwin's theory of Natural Selection further cemented the notion of duality, separation, and isolation. Evolution through natural selection emphasizes separation and competition between and among species and biological systems. Thus, it not only fit in with but also strengthened the apparent veracity of the Newtonian model of nature as a collection of independent mechanistic systems — a paradigm that remains the mainstream view today.

THE GREAT SEPARATION

In terms of the advancement of knowledge, splitting science from religion was a major and necessary step forward; however, in doing so, we also inadvertently rejected the connection between the realms of the physical and the spiritual. It was an understandable but costly consequence, what I call the Great Separation.

In the days of Copernicus, spirituality and religion were considered synonymous; a misguided idea that still exists in many parts of society to this day. However, we must remember an important distinction: Religion is man-made; spirit — the essence of life itself — is not. Nonetheless, as science continued to evolve beyond religion, the requirement to stay independent of anything smacking of the intangible or metaphysical became paramount. The modern scientific paradigm became one of absolute mechanistic empiricism: Accept as science only that information supported by solid evidence and fact. Thus, the Great Separation proliferated into every area of mainstream thought.

That this occurred is even more understandable when we consider that as a direct result of this change in thinking, the modern sciences of physics, chemistry, biology, and so on, have allowed us to seemingly decipher many of the apparent mechanisms of the natural world, including ourselves. Moreover, no rational person would likely decry the fact that the technologies developed under the aegis of Western philosophy and science have, in many ways, proffered a better quality of life for most people and on many levels.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Synthesis Effect"
by .
Copyright © 2012 John McGrail.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface: Paradise Lost?,
Introduction: Life Is Supposed to Be Fun!,
Part I: Foundations,
Chapter 1: Who Are We and How Did We Get Here?,
Chapter 2: Looking Through the Looking Glass,
Part II: Getting to Know You,
Chapter 3: Are You for Real?,
Chapter 4: It's All in Your Mind,
Chapter 5: Magic Streams,
Part III: From Theory to Practice: Creating a Better You,
Chapter 6: The Rubber Meets the Road,
Chapter 7: Made With Only the Finest Ingredients,
Chapter 8: Alchemy,
Chapter 9: The Dance,
Chapter 10: Transcendence,
Appendix A: Hypnosis and Meditation Too,
Appendix B: Need a Hand?,
Appendix C: Additional Resources,
Notes,
Bibliography,
Index,
About the Author,

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