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Pleasure and pain

In their simplest form values move us toward pleasure and away from pain. Plants have values at this level. It is widely reported that the deepest and most profound pleasure comes through spiritual awakening. The highest forms of pleasure or peak experiences seem to involve a deeply felt connection to the creative process. For me these have come either through insights that seem important or through moments of personal growth and transformation. This makes evolutionary sense. We understand the connection with creativity in the profound feelings that parents have for their children. But our impact on future generations is not limited to passing on our genes. How we live our lives influences others. Culture and technology are creative human products that will determine if we survive as a species and evolve to something higher.

The conscious experience of pain and pleasure is associated with brain structures. Things we are designed to avoid are painful and those we are designed to move toward are pleasurable. The more subtle and complex these systems and the overall structure they are embedded in, the more profound the experience may be. Instincts and archetypal forces that connect us to the creative evolutionary process seem to be capable of generating the deepest and most profound experiences. This is compatible with our sense that subtlety of structure is subtlety of consciousness.

Our valuing system is complicated by our often contradictory motivations. Spiritual experience may involve a sense of transcending these contradictions. Conflict is a central element in our valuing system because it is essential for creativity. We can never escape this reality, but we can be at peace with it. Fundamental to this conflict in ourselves and in the wider culture is the inherent conflict in attitude and function types described by Carl Jung.


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