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There is a potent source of conflict within each person. This is the black hole of nihilism. This is the bleakest region of consciousness, where hope does not exist. This nihilism is a well of ever- lasting pain, a well from which a person can only draw sorrow. Nihilism is a well of sorrow.
It is this pain that produces the sense of meaninglessness of life. Its potency depends upon the degree of sensitivity of the person.
The will to survive, (which I call the impersonal will ), is a lesser source of conflict in a person. [¹] This produces conflict within the person's code of morality or idealism; however it is not the subject of this article.
|Sub - Headings|
|Sexuality and Authority|
|Results of analysis|
|Meaning and Purpose|
To account for the pain of nihilism, I present my view of reincarnation. This view is different from traditional ideas on the subject, since I incorporate my understanding of the subconscious mind. [²]
The pain of nihilism is created by the cycles of reincarnation which include the Earth plane, that is, the pain is generated when an Earth life is featured as part of the whole process of reincarnation ; the other parts of each cycle feature lives in heaven, purgatory, etc. This pain arises from the process of making the ego subconscious when it leaves heaven for Earth again, at the moment of the ‘astral death’.
In a cycle of reincarnation there are two phases of change of consciousness that are called ‘death’.
When a person dies on Earth, this is his ‘first’ death, and represents just the death of the physical body ; the ego retains only the positive aspects of consciousness as it enters heaven. In heaven, the ego inhabits a psychic body (a body that vibrates at a much higher frequency than a material body does ; psychic frequencies are beyond the range of perception of the physical eye and so cannot usually be seen by a person on Earth, unless he is clairvoyant).
When a person leaves heaven to reincarnate on Earth, this is the ‘second’ death (or astral death), and represents the death of the psychic body ; the ego becomes subconscious. All bodies, whether physical, psychic, or spiritual, are nothing more than vehicles for consciousness, and so they have a limited time span.
When the new infant is born on Earth it has no conscious ego, only a subconscious one. It has to create a new ego, and the primary agents responsible for this are the previous ego, now subconscious, plus the new parents. This process enables the ego to change with each new incarnation, yet still maintain continuities with the previous achievements and previous characters of past lives. Since each person evolves only a little with each lifetime, so the process of human evolution requires a multitude of incarnations. The result of this long process is that the subconscious mind of each person becomes the final resting-place of all the previous egos, now rendered subconscious and amalgamated together. [³]
This process enables each new ego to change. But this flexibility has its dark side. As each new infant is born on Earth it carries within it the pain of the previous egos (the egos of past lives), now locked into the state of subconsciousness. Though a previous ego, now subconscious, can make its influence felt to the child, nevertheless it can never again achieve full consciousness. This is its pain. This pain cannot be shared with anyone. I feel this pain as though it were the anguish of a child that can never be born. I carry a child within me, a child that is locked into eternal pain.
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As a person evolves over countless lifetimes and refines his character, so the pain of subconsciousness becomes ever greater. And it is this pain that drives the evolved person into the desire for solitude.
This pain is caused by the process of reincarnation. It is not caused by any individual person, and so there is no one to blame for it. This pain produces two opposite consequences for a seeker who has developed sensitivity. It either drives the seeker onto his spiritual quest, the quest for meaning ; or it destroys the sense of the sacred. In this latter case, no thing has any more meaning than any other thing – hence meaning effectively evaporates. I experienced the former consequence first and then the latter one. As a result I changed many of my ideas about spirituality ; and I lost the sense of wonder.
This pain can cause several
beliefs to arise.
Nothing is sacred.
There is nothing to have faith in, except to have faith in oneself.
There is nothing to believe in, except the pursuit of justice and the removal of injustice. Justice is the compensation for one’s pain.
There is no sense in relationships, since the pain cannot be shared. Loneliness becomes a part of one’s destiny.
Happiness is sought as the eternal panacea and soporific. Happiness is valued since it can counteract nihilistic moods.
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Nihilism is the effect of the pain of the previous egos, now rendered permanently subconscious. The new ego can embrace nihilism in two ways.
It can be one with the pain, experiencing the sadness, and thus identify with the traditional spiritual journey. The pain and the loneliness become the only companions to the seeker in the solitude of his solitary journey. Or it can accept the joy arising from the dissolution of all meaning, and thus the dissolution of all moral boundaries. The previous egos are locked into the rigid boundaries of subconsciousness ; as a compensation, the new ego escapes into the joy of fewer boundaries.
These two ways of embracing nihilism give rise to two permanent effects, two permanent mental structures.
Sadness leads to the containment of the pain: the fundamental manifestation of this containment is the creation of sexual structure.
The joy of amorality leads to the expression of the pain: the fundamental manifestation of this expression is the creation of attitudes to authority and to the political manner of understanding life. Call this authority structure.
Both these effects require power for their creation, and this power is supplied by the impersonal will (the will of the impersonal god that is immanent in all creation). 
These two effects, these two structures, are the primary derivatives of nihilism. After their creation, then these derivatives are developed and expanded to give rise to secondary derivatives, those of religion, culture, ethics, science, etc.
In the sequence below, I use
’ to mean
So the combination of nihilism and power leads to the primary derivatives of sexuality and politics, which in turn lead to the secondary derivatives.
The sequence of effects that nihilism generates is :
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Can it be verified that the two primary structures are indeed primary? To be able to do this, the person has to develop an acute degree of sensitivity to his subconscious mind and be willing to develop a level of self-awareness that is far in advance of contemporary levels. This is only likely to occur after the practice of psychoanalysis over many years. I indicate my analytical results.
When an adult person is under deep distress (being emotionally upset at the subconscious level of mind, that is, being strongly influenced by aspects of determinism, or childhood trauma, or confusion, or psycho-somatic illness), then if he keeps himself emotionally neutral (at the conscious level of mind) he can observe all his repertoire of standard responses.
First may come fear, or resentment or anger ; acknowledging this response and putting it to one side, other responses come. Soon he will feel some form of mental violence and self-pity, often allied with hostile attitudes towards authority. The mental violence, as an unskilful form of self-assertion, is often a response to self-pity. Patterns of violence create volatile, unsteady structures in the mind, whereas attitudes to authority form steady, dynamic structures.
When these structures, whether unstable or dynamic, are probed deeply enough then sexual patterns are found to lie underneath. Hence when the person has rejected all his usual responses of violence, self-pity and attitudes to authority then his sexual responses appear. Sexual patterns are more stable than patterns of either violence or authority.
Then when sexual patterns are probed deeply enough, nothing is found to lie underneath except the pain and the nothingness of nihilism.
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First of all, most emotions form into complementary pairs. I label these emotions ‘binary ’ ones. 
The generation of the two primary derivatives can be viewed from the perspective of belief systems. As the newly-created ego emerges from the nihilism within its core, its future character rests upon the primary beliefs that it creates for itself as its response to that nihilism. All major beliefs in the adult must rest upon a foundation of primary beliefs. These primary beliefs will be unknown to the conscious mind of the adult, and are so powerful that they can only be identified (and possibly changed) during a time of deep crisis, when the person becomes engulfed by nihilism once more.
these primary beliefs ?
There are two of them, and they give rise to the responses of the sadness and the joy. The two beliefs have opposite effects and so the emotions that drive them must form a binary relation. One belief emphasises weakness, and hence the ego requires support. The other belief emphasises strength, and hence the ego acquires importance. The emotions that underlie the beliefs are self-pity and vanity. The two primary beliefs are:
Support is needed.
Importance is good.
Weakness has to be supported ; this leads the self-pity to transform into the self-pity mode of jealousy (since neither self-pity alone nor the self-pity mode of guilt can act as a support). The jealousy enables the ego to focus on sensuality, which is now felt to be exciting. And the most exciting form of sensuality is sexuality. Sexuality becomes the support that the ego is searching for. 
Importance has to be displayed and proved. The underlying vanity transforms into the vanity mode of pride. Now the ego focuses on control and domination ; this accentuates its importance into greatness.
These beliefs enable the ego to base its character on the twin pursuits of sensuality and greatness. In this way, nihilism is buried and the adult ego can plead ignorance of its existence within him. The themes of sensuality and greatness facilitate the development of the primary derivatives into the secondary derivatives.
Sexuality and politics are necessary forms of human life, since from them all else flows. They are complementary ways of handling the unknown.
Sexuality is created as stable structure in order to contain nihilism.
Politics is created as dynamic structure in order to express nihilism.
The egos of the past have learned to handle nihilism by splitting it into two departments, those of sexuality and politics. This method is a way of providing a dialogue between stability and change, a dialogue between a stable structure and a dynamic one. In this dialogue, sexuality and politics mix together, yet are still separate. This method enables the ego to meet the reality of Earth life, a reality that mixes stability and change.
Both structures are necessary. If the ego focused solely on dynamism, then if it lost the power struggle it would lose everything. If the ego focused solely on stability then it would gain nothing when new opportunities arise. Hence the patterns of evolution are always dialogues between stability and change.
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Sexual structure has its variations, oscillating between traditional forms and ambiguous forms. In low-stress societies, a person can explore non-ambiguous sexuality by incarnating either as a man or a woman, depending on what kinds of experience are desired. In this traditional form of sexuality, man is masculine and woman is feminine, both being heterosexual. This form of sexuality does not often produce social conflict. In such societies, conflict is usually over forms of authority rather than forms of sexuality.
However, in high-stress societies, these choices are no longer sufficient. As the stress level rises, so correspondingly the subconscious nihilism within the person becomes more active, thereby energising all other subconscious discontents.
More choices are required in order that the person can continue to contain the rising nihilism. These traditional sexual choices have to be augmented. Now different permutations of sexual identity become available, even though they often cause social conflict. The man may want to be feminine, or the woman masculine. Again, either may want to be homosexual, or bisexual, or transvestite, or trans-sexual. The orientation that is subconsciously selected by any person is that one which will best contain the nihilism for him or her. 
Once society passes the crises that face it, and gradually returns to being a low-stress society once again, so eventually tradition (even though it is now a new tradition) returns to its central position of influence. Sexual identities may return to being traditional ones.
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Nihilism brings with it the questions of meaning and purpose. Sexuality contains nihilism since it usually directs the person outside of himself to other people. Meaning is sought within social groupings instead of within oneself. Politics expresses nihilism through the doctrine of ‘might is right’. The powerlessness of oneself is hidden from view by seeking to establish power over others. The first refinement of this doctrine produces chivalry, or the belief that ‘nobility is right’.
Sexuality creates meaning. Politics creates purpose. But as the pain of nihilism intensifies its grip over the mature person, so sexuality and politics lose their power over him. Meaning and purpose are sought elsewhere. Up to the twentieth century, ‘elsewhere’ usually meant the traditions of religions and meditation. However, this will change from the twenty-first century onwards as new ideas about human evolution emerge.
Nihilism represents the dark side of consciousness, and yet it contains nuggets of truth within it. Truth about reality can never be complete if only the nice aspects of it are analysed. My understanding of nihilism is my own perspective, based on my own experience. My views are the result of analysing deep sorrow over a period of many years.
The number in brackets at the end of each reference takes you back to the paragraph that featured it. For the addresses of my websites, see the Links page.
[¹]. For a description of the impersonal will (which is a blind striving for expression and manifestation within the material world, as portrayed by Schopenhauer), see the article Survival on my website A Modern Thinker.
In addition, I view reality as a two-fold process. The impersonal god controls the evolution of physical reality, such as solar systems, galaxies, universes. And personal gods control the evolution of consciousness in the multitudes of worlds that have life on them. For a description of my views, see the article Monism and Dualism on my site A Modern Thinker. 
[²]. Most of my ideas on reincarnation are on my website Patterns of Spirituality. 
Some psychological features of
creating a new ego, plus some more ideas on nihilism, are
described in the article Vulnerability
of the Ego on my website Patterns
A more metaphysical approach to these aspects of reincarnation are explored in the article Psychological Mechanics on my website Patterns of Spirituality. In addition, the same article has more ideas on nihilism. 
. see note 1. 
. The binary nature of emotions is described in the first article on Emotion. 
. My definitions, descriptions, and analysis of emotions are given in the three articles on Emotion. See home page. 
. For a personal example, see the article TV/TS, sub-heading Origins. 
Additional Ideas on Nihilism
The Psychology of Nihilism is an article on my website Patterns of Confusion.
There are more ideas on nihilism in the article End States, on my website A Modern Thinker.
The articles in this section are :
Sublimation - deriving good attitudes from distressful beliefs.
Faith - completes the patterns of bonding ; three forms of faith.
Morality - a look at origins and terminology.
Sexuality and Ethics - how sexuality affects ethics.
Personal Evolution - practising ethics, and negotiating goodness.
Nihilism - static and dynamic structures ; sexuality and authority.
The copyright is mine, and the articles are free to use. They can be reproduced anywhere, so long as the source is acknowledged.
© 2002 Ian Heath
All Rights Reserved
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