Science, and reflections triggered by Tony’s Book

Having posted all this science related stuff I really feel the need to comment on my understanding of the limits and power of science, as well as on the relation between and science and spirituality in general, and science and Siloism in particular. However, even more than I want to do that I want to tell you about a friend’s new book and why it got me really a bit pissed off (because of something it put me in mind of, not because of the book). But first let me just say that, it seems some people are dubious when it comes to certain kinds of experiments especially those in the “soft” fields like sociology and psychology (the kinds of things I’ve been referencing here). And I must admit I’m one of them. Questionable experimental design, over interpretation of results based on small sample size, etc. etc. often lead to highly questionable results even when dressed up in their scientific best.

I recently had the, almost unmitigated, pleasure of reading Tony Robinson’s new autobiography, Coffee with Silo: and the quest for meaning in life (Tony has generously made it freely available and you can get a copy here).

No, not this Tony Robinson, even though they are both Brits.

Tony's Book

I think that even for those of us who feel we know Tony pretty well, perhaps having worked with him over the years in various situations; the book will be something of a revelation. In a very casual and accessible fashion Tony takes us from his earliest years on the small island of Guernsey – one of the Channel Islands sitting off the coast of France to a childhood in Oakham, an education at Cambridge, and his life centered in London, then Krakow and currently Budapest.

I’m not surprised by the differences in my life experiences and Tony’s, after all I’m old enough to be his dad, (Tony was raised by a single-woman his “fiercely independent” mother who gave birth to him when she was a very young woman), I was born and raised in different time and place. Technically some would say we are not coetaneans but contemporaries. In any case Tony’s relationship with the Siloist movement was of course very different from mine — different landscapes of formation and all that.

By the way, that’s a small “m” movement – I just mean all the Siloist activities, Siloism, our thing, not the Movement as a particular organization.

None of the differences in our perspective is surprising and in fact it was a key factor in making the book so enjoyable for me, getting a glimpse of a very different take on a vision and history we both share. Having said that I’m left with the one odd thing that disturbed my enjoyment of Tony’s narrative. I was really troubled by the impression I gathered that a young Tony, still coming to terms with his sexuality, gained the impression that from a Siloist perspective his sexual preferences were a problem. I’ve got to admit I was shocked, and slightly saddened by all this.

It’s not that Tony understood that the tools of internal work could be used to fix(?) this problem(?), and not just that he thought this was a problem from a Siloist perspective, or even that he was using Silo’s teaching to (in an odd way) affirm his own cultural and ideological prejudices. The real problem is that many others, with much more exposure to Silo’s teaching, did exactly the same kind of thing. And while their “innovative” interpretations have ranged from an assumption that violence by their particular faction is somehow OK, or that their goals are so important that they must ignore the principles of valid action in their pursuit, to a more general idea that the principles are something that demand lip service but not comittment. But very often they revolve around — not surprisingly all things considered issues explicitly or implicitly about sex. See Chapter XVII and related comments in the Inner Look.

I have, for example, heard people justify their sexual prejudices by turning to the section of the Inner Look titled, Loss and Repression of the Force, and ripping an isolated phrase from a text use it to promote a goal very different from Silo’s clearly stated intention.

I wouldn’t normally be comfortable claiming to understand the real intent of things anyone says (not me and certainly not Silo) however in this case he discussed it repeatedly and directly. I remember an occasion when someone quoted part of paragraph 6 from this chapter which reads: “If you ask me to explain further, I will tell you that in reality sex is sacred, and it is the center from which all life and creativity springs, just as it is from there that all destruction arises when issues about its functioning are not resolved.” They went on with a discourse based on their interpretation (with the logical error of begging the question) that since their own sexual orientation was “erroneous” (they were gay and obviously less than comfortable with this predilection) it was necessary to “resolve” it (i.e. change it). What confusion! Silo responded kindly but very clearly and firmly, that this was a very forced misreading of what he said and that it wasn’t a question of whether our friend preferred men or women or had even more unusual tastes, that — along as you didn’t harm anyone — it was a matter of coming to peace with your own tendencies.

Oh well. In all matters we project our own presuppositions, our pre-dialogical determinations, or if you prefer we translate through our filters our personal, cultural, social, and human mental forms, our landscape of formation, etc. The thing is that if you have passed through kindergarten level Siloism you have to at least know this and try to take it into account.

Many haven’t with much less justification than young As for the idea that sexual orientation can be changed using tools of internal work – a culturally unpopular proposition now abandoned by psychologists in the civilized world – that ain’t nothin. My sexual orientation may be absolutely fundamental to “who I am” but our works aim at modifying the “I” transforming the “I” and definitely displacing the “I” so as to become something else (see for example, Psychology Four in Psychology Notes).

The point as Tony discovered is that so what, maybe I can transform my sexual preference but why would I? No one is going to heterosexuals saying, “you can use these tools to become gay”. Though that’s not a half bad idea really, at least it might get everyone’s sense of themselves a little more flexible. Still what if your orientation wasn’t so simplistic to begin with? It could be pretty time consuming working through all the variations.

It would perhaps do much more good to, not only remember the principle that says: “When you harm others you remain enchained, but if you do not harm anyone you can freely do whatever you want” but at long last to really acknowledge the radical nature of the proposal it is making. “If you do not harm anyone you can freely do whatever you want.”