Saturday, 6 January 2018

Philosophy & Magical Thinking

The philosopher R. G Collingwood took magic seriously as something that was inappropriately judged in scientific terms. It was best judged alongside art as a craft with ends in view that involved the arousing of emotion. He was deriving his notion of magic from the anthropology of his day but what he was trying to say in the round was that magical thinking and practice were not 'primitive'. It was just another way of seeing the world and engaging with it that was perfectly functional within its own cultural frame of reference. It is on emotion that he is most interesting:
" ... although magic arouses emotion, it does this in quite another way than amusement [which Collingwood associates with Art]. Emotions aroused by magical acts are not discharged by those acts. It is important for the practical life of the people concerned that this should not happen; and magical practices are magical precisely because they have been so designed that it shall not happen. The contrary is what happens: these emotions are focused and crystallized, consolidated into effective agents in practical life. The process is the exact opposite of a catharsis. There the emotion is discharged so that it shall not interfere with practical life; here it is canalized and directed upon practical life." [R.G. Collingwood, The Principles of Art, Oxford, 1938, p.67]
This is interesting because we see this contrast all the time in observing people in their relations with significant others. We also note what happens when emotion is stunted and people are trapped in an addiction to emotional states (the weekly marital argument, the addiction to the state of love, anger at the same thing every time without moving forward).

High emotions seem best directed as either catharsis (an explosion that rewires the brain or moves a person on from one state to another) or channeled, within a context often ritualised in all but obvious name, in order to let the emotion change the world in which the person lives by permitting the conditions for action or change.

One model changes the person (or forces behavioural change on the target of the emotion which may, of course, be mere bullying) and the other transforms the social and cultural, possibly material (but the jury is out on that one) world in which the person has to survive. Both are evolutionarily honed on organism survival. The explosion of emotion forces change in the world in others or in oneself while the sublimation or channeling of emotions manipulates others or one's sub-conscious into desired outcomes.

From this perspective, magic (the channeling process) is as efficacious in its way as doing art, experiencing art or undertaking psychotherapy or religious practice and more effective than science in some contexts (changing the social and cultural conditions we live in) while less effective than science in others (changing the material conditions in which we live).

Science-based politics always fails because magic-based politics will always beat it in an open struggle for hearts and minds as much as magic-based construction will see buildings fall and planes drop out of the sky. Magic will certainly not allow a man to fly despite the claims of yogis and certainly not with the efficiency of modern technologists but it will allow him to cope with, manage or exploit the social and cultural changes created by a world in which people can fly by other means.

Collingwood is not advocating that magic is real insofar as some claim that it can change material reality - there is still no evidence for this and unlikely to be any evidence at any time soon. Magic is only real insofar as it affects psychological reality which is, in fact, the reality that most accords with the really lived lives of most people in the world. Most people use technology and take it for granted but few understand it. It may as well be magical for all the actual comprehension of the science behind it.

At the outer reaches of physics and cosmology, science goes so far beyond perceived reality that its reality looks a lot more magical (although ultimately based on logic, mathematics and observational experiments) than magic does to the mind who has not simply decided to 'believe' in science (a most reasonable belief but still, for most people, a matter of faith rather than knowledge).

Magical thinking is anti-thinking from the inside outwards, constructing reality from the self, the consciousness that is embedded in material reality and is capable of flying shaman-like at any time it wishes. This is opposed to scientific thinking which is reasoning of the outwards world undertaken inwardly.

Eventually scientific thinking ends up following its own logic into mysteries that bend reality and magical thinking ends up following its own logic into realities that bend if not materiality, then society and its workings on materiality.

Science gives us the tools but magic enables us to use the tools by triggering our emotional commitment to a purpose for which the tools have a use. The magical process is an operation on 'morale' - one's own and that of others as manipulation. It is why propaganda, PR and the totalitarian cultural forms of late capitalism are 'magical'.

It is also why magical operations can construct true selves (despite the post-modern nonsense that there are no selves because rational thinking says there are no selves) that flourish regardless of social norms, far more effectively that psychotherapy's attempt to adapt the individual to society and creating a working norm that is healthy within that framework.

The shaman is often indistinguishable from the modern psychopath but his context makes him different. Our 'normal' magical rituals often have a social context that removes their efficacy because the total system disrespects the mobilising power of emotion except as manipulation from above (which has incidentally 'conceptualised' and commercialised art, its sibling, out of existence).

When the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia can buy Da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' for $450m simply to establish his modernising credentials and shock his culture into compliance with a new ideology, then art is effectively dead and magical thinking rules.

Magical operations are all around us, operating every day in our lives. The late Marxist attempt to theorise rationally about these operations in nonsense terms such as 'objectification' and 'commodification' utterly misses the point that rational, political manipulation of emotional content must always result in a logical dark magic to maintain emotional balance. Populism's rise was inherent in the manipulations of late liberal capitalism and predictable.

Earlier Marxists would not have used this language but they would have understood the point better ... the decadence of Marxism as it got captured by the middle classes is one of the tragedies of our time. Early Marxists would have seen each magical operation in society as a thesis calling forth by its very nature its own antithesis. Successful magical operations incorporate their own antithesis into their workings to that synthesis is part of what the operation is intended to effect.

A true magician would have understood Newton's "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction" to be as applicable to his world as that of the physicist - a lesson not understood by the dark master magician Adolf Hitler and certainly not understood by contemporary pseudo-scientific materialists who take no account of a huge swathe of matter that is ignored because it cannot yet be weighed - the magical minds of men and women.

The human mind is essentially magical. Rationalist liberals hate this and want our minds to be scientific but, if they were, we would not then be human. Just as the fact of a rough 15% of the population (like me) being completely irreligious does not remove the fact of the species being, on balance, religious in its spiritual or communitarian senses (horrified as I am by what this means) so only a minority of humans are purely rational actors and there is no earthly reason why they should expect to rule over others who think in different and equally efficacious ways.

Indeed, just as the fanatically religious and the atheist, the asexual and the polyamorous, have more adjustment problems with social reality than the general majority of humanity, so the radical rationalism of futurist technologists and the lifestyle magicians are faced with the same near-outsider status. Fortunately, most people are sufficiently rational to have faith in science and sufficiently magical to run their own lives effectively in the world the scientists have made.

Anyone who wants to understand themselves and the world and to know how to manipulate the reality created by the rationalists has to learn to become a magician. This does not mean dressing up in a dark cloak and leaping naked on the Seal of Solomon shouting the names of 10,000 demons. That's just fun but probably a bit of a waste of time magically speaking.

It simply means isolating the will from the world and applying it to what you want rather than what other people have told you that you must want and then finding the techniques that tap into the enabling (usually emotional) sub-conscious, stripping away layers of social patterning in order to find out what is under there, how it can relate most effectively to 'reality' and then bending self and reality through will to create a new functional reality within oneself or as a re-patterning one's relationship with others.

The supernatural does not need to exist to make magic work but its pretend existence itself can become a tool or weapon in the process of self and social construction. But bear in mind that you are always up against 6 billion or so other natural magicians, all creating their own reality out of the material to hand. Some of those will be your enemy (snowflakes, religious fundamentalists and radical feminists are mine) because their reality must place constraints on yours.

In practice, all magical thinking is struggle for social and personal survival in which the dangers are obvious - you lose or, worse, you win, and don't stop there but try to go beyond survival to domination. And that is where every action having its own reaction comes in. The Wiccans have it right with 'Do What Thou Wilt an Harm No One' since 'bad magic' (as one A. Hitler found it) will come back to bite you because of the eventual opposition it creates. To live long and prosper, there is only ever 'white magic' ...

Sunday, 24 December 2017

On Religion At Yule-Tide

Some social scientific estimates suggest that up to 84% of the world’s population are members of religious groups or claim that religion is important in their lives (two very different things). We can draw three general conclusions from this: 

  • A very large number of people are 'stuck' in religion because of inherited religious structures even when religion is not actually important in their lives. Some might actively do with some support in becoming liberated from the communitarian power of religion and it is ironic that right-wing Christians often want to 'liberate' Muslims without seeing the mote in their Southern Baptist eye.
  • A very large number of people have unstable 'selves' (we explain this further below) or are hard wired into a faith-based view of the world: the rest of us are going to have to contain (preferably) or accommodate such people from a position of relative cultural weakness.
  • Those who are both free of religion and free from religion are a minority about the size of (say) other 'historically deviant' minorities such as the gay community, once violently oppressed (we think of Giordano Bruno), then pushed to the margins and then having to put up with the dead weight of a past dominated by the narratives of their former persecutors.

The logic of all this is that those who are free in both senses (free of religion and free from religion) might need not to be so soft in accommodating an unstable, hard-wired bunch of true believers. The latter hold the high ground here, despite over three centuries of steady scientific and political progress, and are quite capable of misusing their position given half a chance.

Accommodation really ought to be replaced with containment. Those of our 'brothers and sisters' who are not hard-wired to faith and don't think religion is important may need to be actively liberated through propaganda and perhaps political action given the dominance of the hard-wired believer and the religious conformist.

A tougher stand on accommodation does not mean the counter-oppression of soft or different minds, just a re-balancing of culture so that people can choose what they need for their own psychic security completely free from enforced and historic social and cultural pressures or the need for order as some theocratic-backed ruling caste defines matters. Another corollary of a tougher stand is support for the idea that education should be about encouraging internally resourced psychic security and so have this taken out of the hands of those offering only external psychic security and, so, psychic dependency. 

And here we have a secularist action plan of sorts - a dismantling of communitarian religio-cultural structures, containment of spiritual and ideological types (both those advocating our beholdness to the external and those advocating the non-existence of the personality or self) and a shift of education back to the centre ground between faith-based and non-faith-based personalities ... so that young people (as well as those engaged in life-long learning) are enabled to make private choices about their own best bet psychic survival mechanisms. 

Such mechanisms may reasonably include belief (assuming a state of freedom to choose beliefs consciously or sub-consciously) in any sort of nonsense that serves a personality's purpose. The strong-minded, those grounded in material reality, have perhaps become too soft in their instinctive tolerance.

Obedience & Marginality

This matters because psychological research shows that if you remind someone (most people) of 'God' then that person tends to become more socially obedient. It is pointed out in favour of religion that this orientation towards obedience is so great that, when religion is disposed of, it is simply replaced by cults of the State and the Leader (conformitarian constitutionalism as in the US and EU, fascism and Stalinism). 

There is some truth in this but only because religion is removed suddenly without the prior work required to undermine the culture of obedience through practice, persuasion, example and education. It is, therefore and against the prevailing narrative of liberal intellectuals, not an argument for religion but an argument against religion for having permitted the culture of obedience to embed itself in the social in the first place - understandable perhaps in managing resource-poor societies but scarcely justifiable today.

The fact that social and economic instability inclines people much more towards faith-based analyses tells us that religion is very much associated with social and economic anxiety. The best way ((in theory) to eliminate faith's hold on people is not only to educate but to educate within a context of order and economic prosperity. 

Secularists' primary concern should be to resist the religious moral praise for poverty and community and drive society forwards towards maximum satisfaction of needs and (within reason) wants whether in capitalist or socialist terms (the method is irrelevant so long as total prosperity is enhanced and order maintained). Low growth 'green' politics is, for example, a natural vector for the introduction of faith-based solutions to problems and is deeply conservative.

The same applies to 'marginality'. Religion has always provided security to marginal communities and it gets reintroduced in more fundamentalist and despairing ways (as in the Ghost Dance phenomenon amongst the defeated Sioux) under extreme stress. It could be argued that radical Islamism arises out of marginalisation, defeat and relative poverty as much as ideology, an ideology actually not really any more irrational in itself than evangelical Christianity and Eretz Israel. 

If we want to weaken religion's hold on free people, we have to deal with these marginal cases which have a dangerous tendency to embed their survival models in later and more prosperous generations, albeit in an attenuated form. There are people still 'religiously' and without serious internalised faith going to mass on Sundays because Irish famine refugees in their family pasts brought a strengthened peasant Catholicism into host countries that allows even today Cardinals to claim informal powers over education and social mores. 

Any strategy of reason is going to have to deal with marginality as soon as it appears - either by keeping marginality out of the main community in the first place (so as not to have Islamist and Pentecostalist problems in the future) or requiring conformity with host values as a condition for inclusion (I can hear the rage of post-modern liberals mounting at that suggestion). We must ensure that such people (especially the young) do not remain marginal for long and can escape from their communities of that is what they want.

The Psychology of God-Things & Wobbly Minds

But it is the psychology of the God-thing (and the God-thing is, of course not the only manifestation of religion) that is most interesting because even if we had absolute prosperity and no marginality, religion would always reappear because of something we can do nothing about - which is the fragility of some people's relationship to other minds and their wobbly inability to see a clear distinction between their own subjectivity and that of others and then that of all others to all other others. 

This wobbliness results in the imputation of mind to things (in fact, for all the protestations to the contrary, other humans become just other things and, if so, so why should not non-human things have minds). This can then proceed to an unwarranted imputation of mind to all-things taken as a whole (that is, universally). 

The religious person is not interested in general in the alternative subjectivity of the other. They ask no questions of the other except within a framework of conformity to pre-set narratives and codes. The other becomes a person only insofar as they are defined as a person (in a way that invents an equality of all non-subjectivities) within a particular pre-set narrative. 

This mind-set has transferred itself to contemporary non-religious ideology and created revealing paradoxes so that, for example, the feminist who targets fellow human beings as objectified and objectifiers has actually objectified both herself or himself instead of allowing both the dignity of speaking for themselves and being permitted free choices. Religion is derivative of the psychological problem rather than cause of it.

There is little that can be done about this because having wobbly minds is embedded in all humanity. There are, of course, degrees of wobbliness and none of us is free of it. It was inherent in the evolutionary process itself. Anyone who would seek to make the human mind universally un-wobbly is really asking for us to cease to be human which is neither necessary nor helpful. 

Indeed, radical negativity towards the wobbliness of human minds is always a form of radical wobbliness in its own right - an inability to accept human reality, a drift towards an abstract universalism as absurd as the God-thing. It is yet another form of mental instability arising out of personalities disconnected from observable material reality (worse, when, from purely intellectual speculation, such mental instability denies the very existence of personality).

The projection of mind onto a social world of resource scarcity is the source code of religion. Removing resource scarcity and the culture of obedience that derives from it can only culturally re-balance humanity towards liberation from the irrational as part of our social and material condition but the projection of mind onto materiality itself is not a solvable issue. It is not even necessarily desirable (for the bulk of humanity) since the projection is an intrinsic part of many people's ability to survive in the world.

Brain and Religion

Increasingly neuroscientists are accepting that this projection function is hard-wired into the brain, whether genetically predetermined or emergent from social interaction with others predisposed to belief. The genetic component is anecdotally confirmed by the many testimonies of totally atheist persons whose atheism was recognised as an absolute personal fact on the ground (a disposition) early in life despite highly religious family environments - the reverse is likely to be the case with 'spiritual' types emerging regardless of rationalist and pragmatic parents. 

It is just as grim for deeply religious parents to have an atheist child as it is for atheists to find that their son or daughter believes in the Second Coming. The trauma can be greater than for parents who find their child is gay or transgender because a sexual disposition is less threatening to their own identity.

The genetic component may make having rational or faith-based children a bit of a lottery with a consequent tendency to try to force such children into communitarian modes of being that are grossly unfair and limiting (on both sides). The point here is not whether there is a God or not but how a belief in God (or not) represents the true inner nature of a person as a function of their brain structures. 

Few modern religious people would make the claim today that they can prove the existence of God on material evidence. Even reliance on revealed texts is fairly lightly held among the majority. Yet that does not stop belief despite believers often being highly educated, intelligent and functionally effective in every other way ... so long as they are allowed their belief. People will die for their beliefs because the belief is who they are. 

The negative detached view of this as a 'mere' psychic survival mechanism (to the extent that bodily survival may be abandoned if the psyche is threatened) is irrelevant and circular. If believing a non-provable proposition ensures psychic survival and affirms identity, then it is functionally useful. End of argument.

However, it is important to understand that there is no actual God-spot in the brain ... this capacity for belief or faith arises out of a general perception of reality, of the relationship between mind and matter. Let us take brain aspects of the case ...

  • The medial prefrontal cortex-together with the temporopolar region, temporoparietal junction and precuneus are strongly associated with our ability and tendency to figure out other people’s thoughts and feelings. These regions of the brain are particularly active among religious believers, especially when they are praying. This suggests that religious activities involve processes related to the 'flow' of managing the difficulty of dealing with other minds. It is as if other minds cannot be seen as separated but must be integrated into the observing mind in some way. This would accord with the religious person's tendency to be more communitarian in general.
  • There seems to be some connection between temporal lobe epilepsy and religious experiences. A few controversial attempts have been made to stimulate this part of the brain to generate religious experiences artificially but they have been inconclusive. Ecstatic religious experience (which is different from the communitarian normality involved in social religion) would seem to have its origins in the brains of some people. Non-believers in general find this (unless induced by drugs) either incomprehensible or find it rationally contained within artistic, creative or emotional experiences that are not presumed to have a meaning beyond the expression of the Self in the world.
  • And an odd one - neuro-imaging studies and studies with brain damaged patients indicate that decreased activation of the parietal cortex – particularly the right side – may be involved in religious experiences. These seem to be linked to the dissolution of the self which, of course, is also a consequence of some drug experiences and it may be at the basis of the experienced rather than rational interest in dissolution of the self in post-Wittgensteinian and post-modern philosophy. 

This last is of great cultural importance because as formal religion declines and religious ecstatic experience is marginalised, the discourse of dissolution of the self has become more salient - to the point where it is having the precisely opposite social effect to that of communitarian 'pre-frontal cortex' shared experience. The dissolution model, rationalised for this type much as Scholastics rationalised the first type, has fragmented the social and not in ways appreciated by the rational or Enlightenment atheist.

Ritual and Anxiety
This brings us on to ritual where there are highly variable approaches to its importance and necessity. Some individuals have private habits (which may have ritualistic aspects, even to the point of being clinical as in OCD cases) but no interest in social rituals - they may not even see the point of Christmas or only see its point in restricted family contexts. Others crave mass social rituals, ranging from the comfort of Mass on Sundays to engagement with national funerals and royal weddings. 

This is just how it is but the need for private and social rituals has become embedded, perhaps appropriated by religious structures. It is these rituals that ensure that religion remains extremely 'sticky' in terms of its social survival. Ritual, also often embedded in brain structures, whether a genetic propensity or environmentally determined, also arises from deep within our evolutionary heritage. 

Ritual ensures that religion can never die but can only be contained. Once the Mexican revolutionaries and Soviets departed, the rituals, far from forgotten, returned. Any aspiration to do otherwise than contain religion is doomed to failure. Ritual is the primary mechanism for many human beings (possibly, if we include private ritual, all human beings) in dealing with a fundamental human issue - anxiety.

Anxiety is central to being human for evolutionary reasons. Again, this is totally regardless of truth propositions about religion. Psychologically, religion deals primarily with anxiety (rather than, say, depression). This deals with the 'straw god' point (that many religions have no God-thing) because this anxiety-relieving function has no requirement for the God-thing in itself. The ideology and ritual are sufficient.

We can simply replace the God-Thing with a Universal whether Tao or Buddha-hood, and the same mechanism starts to emerge. It would emerge with a theoretical form of organised Atheism or Existentialism. The Satanists consciously invented a Satan in order to have ritual although this is probably more for fun and self-expression than in order to relieve any direct anxiety. If anything the Satanists are 'detourning' religion by denying completely the motivational force for anxiety.

Since human anxiety cannot ever be truly extirpated by even the most enlightened form of social action and only with great difficulty by individual action (since not everyone has a desire to buy tranquillity at the cost of serving an imagined Satan), religion provides a relatively cheap and effective form of mass psychotherapy for minds otherwise unable to cope with circumstances or even reality itself, even if it exacts its high price in conformity and even oppression in other areas such as sexuality. 

It is all a trade-off but the restrictions placed on an anxious person by religion sometimes ensures that the anxiety can only be contained by containing the person. From this perspective, extirpating religion could represent a profound social bad. Religion may need to be contained but its psychotherapeutic function, for lack of anything better for a large portion of a distressed humanity is beneficial and vastly more cost-effective than trying to divert limited resources to some sort of state mental health operation. 

Indeed, it might be regarded as a cruelty if atheists with access to sufficient power removed this salve from such people. One thing we should not abide is ignorant cruelty to other human beings by fanatics of any type.

In addition to its anxiety-relieving function (which is simply a matter of ensuring that the world has sufficient meaning to give an individual sufficient security for the future aka 'hope'), the wider 'meaning function' of religion is what gives it its cultural power and strength. Again, the non-religious are going to find it thoroughly futile exercise (as the Soviet experiment demonstrated) to invest vast resources in providing a structure of alternative total meaning. 

This merely becomes, to all intents and purposes, a religion in all but the supernatural aspects. It requires brutal means to effect the transition and nothing is gained for anyone, especially as core surviving believers tend to have their beliefs strengthened rather weakened in the long run by outright repression. 

Strategies of Tolerant Containment

We are back to a strategy of containment and (qualified) respect, appropriating religious items (such as a baroque painting, Mozart mass or derelict monastery) as non-religious heritage items, in effect as part of a meaning structure that is cultural rather than religious. Of course, this could get us into a political discussion about who dictates cultural meaning and about multiculturalism and the collapse and fragmentation of national cultures under the combined effects of neo-liberalism, post-modern philosophy and so forth - but that is for another time.

Religion has thus emerged not only because of the manipulative operations of specialised classes or the needs of Power (though there is this element to the story that needs its own analysis) but because it has provided quite simple totalitarian means of dealing with psycho-biological realities for many people (albeit at the expense of a lot of other people). In short, religion is a manifestation of inter-personal and social power relations iltimately derived from biology, being useful and insidious at the same time. It can be false and yet still expressive of real human needs (though only of the needs of the weaker in terms of mental state). 

The problem of religion is, in effect, the problem of human weakness as vulnerable creatures surrounded by material uncertainty in permanent potential conflict with other persons (anxiety) and seeking to give order its world ('give it meaning') in order to limit personal vulnerability through the compromises of social cohesion and through shared ritual. Religion has its passive total withdrawal aspects or those associated with aggressive and violent proselytising but the core of religion is that it is a tool in the hands of a tool-using animal and a tool where those using it have been incorporated into the tool like the Borg.

Because the nature of such a tool is that it cannot be used except cynically (psychopathically) or by incorporation of the Self into it, then, as it develops, religion becomes a lived totality if not in terms always of actual belief, at least in terms of communitarian power relations. For the non-religious position, this is what makes it insidious because these communitarian power relations extend themselves beyond actual believers to demand conformity from non-believers. The attempted Borg-like incorporation of non-believers is either a matter of Power exercised in a struggle for control and resources (as in the Constantinian Settlement) or it is a case of believers actually being blind to the equal status and reality of non-belief. 

Non-belief represents a serious challenge to the anxiety-reducing belief system of the believer to the degree to which religion buttresses identity and community. Non-belief creates anxiety simply by existing. The non-believer is not, on the other hand, made at all anxious by belief. Unaware that his indifference creates such anxiety in the believer, his own lack of anxiety makes him complacent about the threat to his own integrity from what amounts to an 'enemy' (at the level of the fundamentalist or politically active religious interest). 

This is the central nature of our problem as people who have a balanced view of the separation of our own minds from other minds, of the equality of value of other minds (except when our own survival is at stake) and who cannot impute minds like ours to animals or any minds at all to vegetables and minerals. We are dealing, on the other side, with wobbly minds unable to understand the actual relationship of our minds to other minds and non-minds and there is no educational way of changing that perception in those hard-wired to believe. In the end, containment becomes the only option if the wholly rational person is himself or herself to be wholly secure.. 

Friday, 8 December 2017

The Polyamorous State - A Final Analysis

This is almost certainly the last time that I will write on monogamy and polyamory and associated sexual matters. The subject has fascinated partly for personal reasons but equally because it is central to how we view future social development in the liberal West as it comes under pressure from external communitarian pressures such as the emergence of Islam and a growing internal authoritarianism.

This internalised authoritarianism is chipping away at the margins of difference and freedom in order to create a new 'normality' that its proponents think might restore the order on which States and institutions thrive. But this is not a political paper. I am not interested here in that chipping away of freedom by a weakened authority or the challenge of organised political communitarianism. 

I am interested here in the liberation of that limited proportion of humanity capable of the emotional intelligence required to live beyond restrictive historical community constraints on sexual and emotional expression and how they can be protected from both the community-State and from a culture of anxiety where freedom's greatest enemy comes not from the Right but from the enemy within - the frightened neo-authoritarianism of the liberal left, the snowflakes intent on turning us into ice. 

Basically, how can these people be protected from the majority. There is no answer to that here, just a statement of that which must be protected. Having resolved and understood one aspect of freedom, I propose to move on over time to explore the broader framework necessary to preserve liberty.

A polyamorous orientation is just a state of being for an individual. Polyamory is the living out of that state of being in society. Contemporary Western society is definitely not accepting of polyamory. The polyamorous individual is forced into secrecy and stigma with his or her opportunities for self expression severely limited by the refusal of others to recognise that polyamory is a free and non-harmful individual choice which they have no right to condemn if it is between consenting adults (though they also certainly have the right not to accommodate automatically the polyamorous person within their own relationship situation). 

The internet has had the dramatic effect of 'sub-normalising' (that is, creating a different normality that works for a sub-set of those otherwise regarded as normal) minority sexualities of all types, bringing people with those orientations together and enabling discussion that reassures and encourages people who are questioning their own 'normality'. It is one of the reasons why the internet is so loathed by authoritarian personality types of both Left and Right. The new media landscape has enabled people starting out on their own journeys of self development to consider forms of behaviour and organisation that suit their true natures rather than simply accept pre-packaged models delivered by the past and by the community.

The current state of polyamory is defined by the social assumption that just one partner be recognised in law and social situations. This inhibits a secondary (or tertiary) partner so this has to change at some stage. Similarly, variation in polyamory needs to be more widely recognised - it is not a case of simple replacing a couple with a 'thruple', thereby merely expanding conventional forms. It is really about finding consensual arrangements that suit individuals, with very different psychologies, in their dealings with emotional need, sexual desire, economic relations and property holding and responsibility for child rearing and other dependents.

Far more common than the thruple is the 'vee', one person with a relationship to two people who are not involved with each other. And the 'vee' may have the two others become or be sustainable friends without any emotional or sexual content. Economic and social realities will tend to make one partner 'primary' in terms of household and property but this does not mean an incompatibility with equality in sexual or emotional terms or with equality in terms of intent to equality all things being equal, especially if the alleged 'secondary' actually has their own effective household or property arrangements with their 'primary' who may have nothing to do with anyone in the first 'vee' ... or may have everything to do with them - in theory, a chain of 'vees' could theoretically extend forever. Yes, it can be complicated.

The polyamorous personality may be fully (say) heterosexual but they strongly tend to tolerance of queerness and fluidity. They may participate in alternative sexualities at different times of their lives. The central aspect of polyamory here is its resistance to definition and to fixed identity, working against the prevailing identity politics of our time, a reason why it is clearly resented by the authoritarian Left. One reason that there is only a minimal polyamorous identity group presence is because polyamorists generally (except as psychological support) see little point in defining themselves as other sexual identity groups have done, precisely because it works against the instinct for fluidity and adaptability.

Polyamorous people tend to adopt the same fluidity towards friendship (avoiding closed groups and cults), business (avoiding corporate restrictions), politics (being wary of authoritarianism of both the Left and the Right and tending to left and right-libertarianism), culture (being open-minded, following a more tolerant, appropriative, hybridising and hedonist approach to art and popular culture) and religion (being either more atheist than average or, at least, more vaguely 'spiritual' without seeking fixed external moral frameworks). There will, of course, be exceptions to all these claims because difference and fluidity means being different from even the norm of the non-normal.

It is certainly no accident that the leading edges of polyamory were non-heterosexual and often pagan in orientation because 'normality' binds the heterosexual and the communitarian first before it binds anyone else. We are in a free society nominally and, in a free society, regulation does not bind our emotions and the vast majority of our sexual desires. What binds us are our own fears and circumstances. Our society is expressly designed to be constructed around a core of monogamy between heterosexuals sanctified if not always in a religious ceremony then by the State. The polyamorist is rarely a revolutionary as such but Church and State are not generally his friends.

Once the barrier to personal acceptance of polyamory is broken down, the tendency within the polyamorous personality is to see a breaking down of many other barriers and the creation of new boundaries that are personally-directed and not socially-directed. People are seen as relating to each other as complex and different so that it is recognised that it is rare and probably undesirable that one person should aim to meet all the needs of another person or that exclusivity necessarily be reciprocated.

Instead, the polyamorous personality sees the central aspects of his or her life as all potentially separate but equal, interdependent but each unique to its own needs. Economic security, cultural or sporting interests, intimacy, sexual expression and so forth are all separable and potentially identifiable with different people. 'Normality' recognises this to some degree with the bifurcation into life partners and friends but then limits friends considerably to friends of the same gender (for example) or limits the nature of the friendship if members of the opposite gender (in heterosexual relationships) enter into the 'household' or community circle.

'Polyamory' changes these boundaries so that perhaps fewer but deeper relationships are designated by the needs of the polyamorous person, under conditions where more than one person might even serve the same need - so one might see shared households (economic), group engagement in culture or interests (friendships), shared child-rearing or shared intimate and sexual bonding with more than one person consensually and transparently.

It is central at all times to polyamory that the participants who actually participate are aware of the relationships that exist even if (perhaps) one participant might have a partner in turn 'who does not want to know' but has released the person to be free to do what they want or need or the participant has claimed that right in general regardless of their own #primary' and stated their nature yet the partner on that side does not want to participate or engage. The model presupposes the freedom of the individual so long as they are prepared to be honest about their true nature.

Polyamorous people tend to have quite strong moral codes about transparency but also to vest the 'right of resistance' in the individual not to be bound by the codes of 'normals'. This can require immense courage on the part of the polyamorous person as well as some potential for misery. One partner may, for example, insist that they themselves cannot lie and that their partner cannot lie to others although, once the right to polyamory is asserted, there is no obligation to 'tell'. Truth-telling becomes bound into the group of those who tell the truth to each other and who tell no lies to others (but need not go around telling the truth to others outside their circle).

Above all, polyamorous relationships are coded to be unique. There is no standard format. 'Normality' can often result in compromises that mean the standardisation of social relationships into the necessary 'norms'. Some monogamies can be indistinguishable from other monogamies as all aspects of the individual's personality are shoe-horned into a pre-existing framework in order to meet essentially communitarian ends dictated by history, family and social convention. The polyamorist can have relations that are primarily directed at one aspect of themselves with one person and another aspect with another. Part of the early stress and pleasure of a polyamorous relationship is creating these private boundaries - emotional, sexual and practical.

One of the counter-intuitive (to 'normals') results of all this (as far as mature and experienced polyamorous set-ups are concerned) is that the addition of persons actually tends to relieve psychological pressure on the primaries (and there is generally a starting primary) because they are also no longer trapped in the need to be all things to one person and see their own personality limited and distorted.

Many polyamorous people coming to this late in life are faced with the potential for massive disruption if their primary has no understanding or liking for the change. This deters some who live, in effect, in private misery, unable to move forward, not only because they cannot afford at many levels to alienate a primary who 'holds all the cards' but also because a sexual and emotional life outside monogamy under conditions of secrecy is not tolerable to such people. They are not swingers and do not seek the frisson of illicit affairs. Indeed, the stress of illicit affairs is so great and sex without emotional commitment so miserable that polyamorists tend to prefer the private misery of the closed relationship. But eventually such people either snap and divorce at great cost or simply decline into a deathly acceptance of their fate.

However, for those primaries who are not themselves polyamorous but are open-minded and comprehend the truth-telling and trust aspects of the case - and make the effort to understand the situation - then the evidence indicates significant benefits after a period of adjustment and disruption. Certainly, the polyamorous person's commitment to a primary is usually strengthened and not weakened by the emergence of a secondary, possibly because he or she can concentrate on those aspects of the relationship that work instead of trying to make the aspects that do not work fit into some socially pre-set model.

It turns out that the pre-set model can often not work in terms of exclusivity because of circumstances or personality differences.  Secondary relationships can strengthen 'marriages' or at least whatever primary structure existed at the beginning of the process of creating a polyamorous situation or even household. Polyamorists, if they have a fault, tend to a certain neediness that places pressure on single partners so that relieving that pressure by 'spreading the love' enables a more direct dialogue on what really matters between the two primaries.

Under 5% of Americans are consciously polyamorous and seeking that lifestyle. The numbers are likely to be less, for cultural reasons, across the rest of the West. This far-flung community is not likely ever to overwhelm the wider instinct and cultural prejudice for monogamy if only because polyamory is stressful even if that stress might be regarded as 'good stress', creative and life-affirming. It is open-ended and fluid with no sense of absolute certainty for the future and so it appeals only to a certain personality type and this type is not going to be a majority in any society. Apart from anything else, most polyamorists are inveterate communicators and many people prefer silence in relationships.

What polyamorists want is just 'permission' from society to develop alternative lifestyles that offer no threat to 'normality'. Above all, the polyamorous person probably needs not to be locked in too early in life to a socially determined structure that will be next to impossible to climb out of without massive pain and disruption not only to himself or herself but others.

He or she just wants to associate with others like himself or herself and go with the flow of being as it changes with the coming and going of children, the acquisition and loss of property and the different needs of a personality at different life stages. At its best, it is a programme of self development and life management where command and control is in the hands of an individual negotiating directly with other individuals. It is fundamentally libertarian, unsuited to the authoritarian personality and probably with identity politics.

Research also shows that polyamorists tend to be far better educated than the general population. This may simply mean that education enables a person to engage in critical thinking about normality and abstracts them from communitarian contexts. Education may also be correlated with emotional intelligence which is definitely required to maintain a successful polyamorous relationship - without EQ things generally fall apart. Communitarian models are probably better for many people simply because people without adequate EQ may need external frameworks to ensure some degree of stability and decency in their lives. This need for adequate EQ alone probably dictates that, given the nature of our species, fully-functioning polyamory will never be the norm for more than 15% of the population at any given time.

This EQ aspect can be tiresome - polyamorists have a tendency to over-communicate and some even to over-think and privilege every passing feeling and anxiety although things eventually settle down. Psychologists who have studied polyamorous behaviour have, however, suggested that normally monogamous people might learn a great deal from this capacity to communicate and question given boundaries. The instinct of the polyamorous person, when faced by a troublesome emotion like jealousy or anger, is to go inward and question why they may be feeling that emotion before discussing it with a partner. Once having carefully considered the roots of the emotion, they then feel free to explore what was going on and come to a resolution through dialogue.

As for jealousy, it might not be the love or sex act that causes jealousy but something deeper, like a perceived 'being taken for granted' or failure to respect the aggrieved person. A few easy to manage and sensitive behavioural changes, usually with some sincere reassurance, can resolve the issue and adjust boundaries.

Commonly, many marriages that are monogamous are enhanced if one partner takes risks and expresses frustrations and feelings for resolution. Some marriages of course cannot be resolved and decline into negativity. A monogamous relationship often bottles up feeling in a model of mutual possession that ends up exploding in anger and recrimination, quarrels and eventually, after much misery, divorce.

The entire framework of honesty, transparency and respect is also more likely to encourage safe sex, according to University of Michigan research (2012). This is possibly because sexual activity is less likely to involve spur of the moment drink or drug-fuelled activity. It is 'timed' according to 'rules' which may be a bit of a passion killer for the impulsive but can work well for people who are not.

Polyamorists are not generally wealthier than average which is equally interesting because polyamory does incur expense in time as well as funds. Time is often essential to 'wealth creation'. Polyamorists tend to have priorities other than financial ones, yet need sufficient resources to be able to maintain their lifestyle. It could be argued that some of the time and financial costs arise out of the secrecy required by the dominant communitarian culture.

If there was sufficient cultural change to make polyamory more acceptable this problem might disappear as it has disappeared for the gay community. Polyamorists tend, however, to have an experiential rather than an acquisitive or materialist orientation - they may not necessarily be 'spiritual' but they do have a greater orientation towards the mind than the body in general or at least towards a balancing of emotion with reason.

There is also a misunderstanding about 'permission' because permission is not a matter of asking Mummy or Daddy if the polyamorist can go out to play but a more generalised 'permission' that really means just acceptance of the working out of difference within a framework of rules. Again, there is the potential for misunderstanding about rules - some relationships seem to require detailed rules because that is who the personalities are but others simply require an understanding of what could 'hurt' one of the parties through another being crass or negligent or lacking in basic respect for the individuality of another.

This latter form of rule-making is the more intelligent version (we can liken it to the preference for principles-based regulation in British culture over rules-based regulation in other cultures) because it abandons any attempt to command and control someone else instead of oneself. Self control is central to responsible polyamory as is adjustment to changed conditions and knowing precisely when someone is 'taking the mickey' or pushing a boundary too far. Such informal framework acceptance also permits improved communication, including communication about jealousy which may not at all be sexual or even emotional but simply of too much time spent in one place rather than another.

In other words, polyamory is the art of calibrating the needs, desires and circumstances of three or more individuals and their dependents so that all achieve the maximum reasonable state of happiness and self development that is possible under the available material conditions. In this form, polyamory is here to stay for a significant minority of the population alongside standard monogamous options with people phasing in and out of each as circumstances change. This fluidity, if well handled by mature people in consensual contexts, can only be beneficial to those people capable of dealing with its inherent stresses and negotiations and so to society.