How synchronicity can destroy you

The Greek hero Orestes was not present when, having returned from the Trojan War, his father Agamemnon is slain by his wife’s lover Aegisthus. Seven years later, Orestes returns to Mycenae and avenges his father’s death by slaying both Aegisthus and his own mother Clytemnestra. As a result he is persecuted by the Furies and Apollo, who ordered him to kill his mother, is powerless to stop the consequences.

This story illustrates the point that synchronicitous experiences can lead you to carry out actions which you will regret, without any forewarning.

Another example of this is found in Buddhist culture. Having found out that the world was full of suffering, disease and death, and not like his father wanted him to imagine, the young Siddhartha set out to discover the roots of suffering and overcome them. For six years he practiced severe asceticism, eating almost nothing, repressing anger, not washing himself and practicing extreme seclusion.

In the “Maha-sihanada Sutra” it is described how for a time the Buddha lived on one rice grain a day until his body became completely emaciatied:

Because of eating so little my limbs became like the jointed segments of vine stems or bamboo stems. Because of eating so little my backside became like a camel’s hoof. Because of eating so little the projections on my spine stood forth like corded beads. Because of eating so little my ribs jutted out as gaunt as the crazy rafters of an old roofless barn. Because of eating so little the gleam of my eyes sank far down in their sockets, looking like a gleam of water which has sunk far down in a deep well. Because of eating so little my scalp shriveled and withered as a green bitter gourd shrivels and withers in the wind and sun. Because of eating so little my belly skin adhered to my backbone; thus if I touched my belly skin I encountered my backbone, and if I touched my backbone I encountered my belly skin. Because of eating so little, if I tried to ease my body by rubbing my limbs with my hands, the hair, rotted at its roots, fell from my body as I rubbed.

He even fed on feces and urine:

I would go on all fours to the cow-pens when the cattle had gone out and the cowherd had left them, and I would feed on the dung of the young suckling calves. As long as my own excrement and urine lasted, I fed on my own excrement and urine. Such was my great distortion in feeding.

At the end of the six years the Buddha heard an old musician talking to his pupil on a passing boat:

If you tighten the string too much, it will snap, and if you leave it too slack, it won’t play.

That’s it. Not “What were you doing?!”, not “Why would you hate yourself like that?!” and not “I cannot believe you would do this for me. Please be gentle to yourself. Never ever torture yourself like that”.

Another example can be found in Viktor Frankl’s experience. After Hitler had occupied Austria, he received an invitation to come to the American embassy to receive his immigration visa. His parents were overjoyed, however, a doubt beset him. Should he really emigrate into a rich intellectual milieu and concentrate on writing his books or should he remain and take care of his parents? Leaving would mean abandoning his duty as a responsible child and facing the prospect of his parents being sent to a concentration camp, so he wished for “a hint from Heaven”.

Frankl describes his experience thus:

It was then that I noticed a piece of marble lying on a table at home. When I asked my father about it, he explained that he had found it on the site where the National Socialists had burned down the largest Viennese synagogue. He had taken the piece home because it was a part of the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. One gilded Hebrew letter was engraved on the piece; my father explained that this letter stood for one of the Commandments. Eagerly I asked, “Which one is it?” He answered, “Honour thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land.”

This made him stay but also condemned him to being imprisoned in a concentration camp. Whatever the messages that synchronicity sends us are, this shows that they are sometimes indifferent to suffering.

The unconscious is God

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.
Richard P. Feynman

Attempts to define religion often situate it in relation to some other reality – variously termed the sacred versus the profane, the supernatural, the universe, a spiritual realm, metaphysical reality, transcendence, mystery, cosmic consciousness etc. – yet science denies such reality. It becomes, however, much clearer what is meant by these terms when one conceptualizes religion in psychological terms – “man” is the ego and “universe”, “transcendence” and the “supernatural” is his or her unconscious. Even though it is rarely defined in such a way in contemporary sociology of religion, religion expresses the relationship of the ego to the unconscious mind.

Thought of this way arguments between believers and their scientifically-minded detractors become much more comprehensible. Believers often base their faith on supernatural experiences – meaningful coincidences, talking with dead spirits, smelling your mother’s favorite flowers before she dies, seeing ghosts, having prophetic dreams etc. – while skeptics deny any otherworldly reality with which such experiences can be associated and consider them random. But if supernatural phenomena are seen in relation not to the external world but to the unconscious mind, they become explainable. Ghosts, spirits and God can be explained by the workings of the unconscious mind and can be interpreted as its – and not otherworldly beings’ – attempts to communicate with the conscious.

In his 1948 book “The Unconscious God” Victor E. Frankl wrote:

Not only is the unconscious not divine, but furthermore, it does not possess any attribute of the divine, and thus lacks divine omniscience as well.

However, if you think that the unconscious has no power, consider the fact that the numbers 4 and 7 appear two times in the number of people who voted leave in the Brexit referendum and that Britain left the EU after 47 years of membership.

Anyway, in this short essay I want to look into theories of religion that hold that it is nothing but the external projection of man’s inner nature.

One of the earliest exponents of this theory is the ancient Greek poet-philosopher Xenophanes, who famously argued:

But mortals suppose that gods are born,
wear their own clothes and have a voice and body.
Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and black;
Thracians that theirs are blue-eyed and red-haired.
But if horses or oxen or lions had hands
or could draw with their hands and accomplish such works as men,
horses would draw the figures of the gods as similar to horses, and the oxen as similar to oxen,
and they would make the bodies
of the sort which each of them had.

In the 17th century Benedict de Spinoza expressed a similar view, writing that the biblical authors

imagined God as ruler, legislator, king, merciful, just, etc., despite the fact that all the latter are merely attributes of human nature and far removed from the divine nature.

The main proponent of the projection theory of religion in the modern period, however, is Ludwig Feuerbach. In his 1841 book “The Essence of Christianity” Feuerbach wrote that properly understood, religious claims express anthropological rather than theological truths. The qualities of God such as love, justice and wisdom refer to deep-seated human nature of which God is an imaginary representation.

In 1886 Friedrich Engels wrote of the book:

One must oneself have experienced the liberating effect of this book to get an idea of it. Enthusiasm was general; we all became at once Feuerbachians.

Writing that the ancient Greeks deified virtues, states of mind and passions as independent beings and that in Rome even the passions of fear and terror had their temples, Feuerbach notes the same thing about Christianity:

The Christians also made mental phenomena into independent beings, their own feelings into qualities of things, the passions which governed them into powers which governed the world, in short, predicates of their own nature, whether recognised as such or not, into independent subjective existences. Devils, cobolds, witches, ghosts, angels, were sacred truths as long as the religious spirit held undivided sway over mankind.

According to Feuerbach, religion is humankind’s earliest form of self-knowledge. That is why it precedes philosophy as societies develop.

Man first of all sees his nature as if out of himself, before he finds it in himself. His own nature is in the first instance contemplated by him as that of another being. Religion is the childlike condition of humanity; but the child sees his nature—man—out of himself

This external view of God throws a person’s own morality into light – if God is a perfect being then man is condemned to tremble before him, for he is conscious of his failings. To escape the wrath of God, people invent God’s love as one of his own attributes – he no longer only “hates and curses sinners, and excludes them from his grace, the source of all salvation and happiness” but is also a “loving, tender, even subjective […] being (that is, [has] sympathy with individual man).”

Such a reading of religion casts it as a device to make life more bearable:

It is pleasanter to be passive than to act, to be redeemed and made free by another than to free oneself; pleasanter to make one’s salvation dependent on a person than on the force of one’s own spontaneity; pleasanter to set before oneself an object of love than an object of effort; pleasanter to know oneself beloved by God than merely to have that simple, natural self-love which is innate in all beings; pleasanter to see oneself imaged in the love-beaming eyes of another personal being than to look into the concave mirror of self or into the cold depths of the ocean of Nature; pleasanter, in short, to allow oneself to be acted on by one’s own feeling, as by another, but yet fundamentally identical being, than to regulate oneself by reason.

However, for Feuerbach, religion is ultimately alienating, since it is a form of self-consciousness that involves a relation to ourselves as though to a different being.

And then, finally, we come to Freud. In his 1901 “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life” he wrote:

a large portion of the mythological conception of the world which reaches far into the most modern religions is nothing but psychology projected into the outer world… We venture to explain in this way the myths of paradise and the fall of man, of God, of good and evil, of immortality and the like—that is, to transform metaphysics into meta-psychology” (italics in original)

God, For Freud, is nothing but an introjected image of the father which resides in the unconscious. In his 1913 “Totem and Taboo” he wrote that psychoanalysis of individual human beings

teaches us with quite special insistence that the god of each of them is formed in the likeness of his father, that his personal relation to God depends on his relation to his father in the flesh and oscillates and changes along with that relation, and that at bottom God is nothing other than an exalted father

The view that religion is the outside projection of the unconscious might provide the grounding for a more common-sense place for it in society. A person is bound to forever have a relation to his or her unconscious and so long as the “ever-present causes” of religion, according to Durkheim, operate in society, religion will be with us. It might, then, make sense to replace it instead of something archaic and naive into a more mature version such as science, which Freud regarded as a marker of the maturity of a civilization.

The fact that God is unconscious, for some, does not necessarily mean that he does not exist. Frankl, for example, defended the view that while the conscience is unconscious, it has a transcendental origin. It is a feature of the mind but arose only because there is some supreme reality – for Frankl, God – to which it is in relation. A similar argument was made by the Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga, of whom Stephen Thornton writes:

Plantinga contends—at least for those who believe in God—that humans have been so constituted by the creator to have a deeply-felt need and wish to believe in him. On this view, the very existence of the wish for a transcendent Father may be taken as evidence for the truth rather than the falsity of the beliefs which it inspires: “Perhaps God has designed us to know that he is present and loves us by way of creating us with a strong desire for him, a desire that leads to the belief that in fact he is there” (Plantinga 2000, 165).

Given the long history of human self-deception, I would not bet on it.

In “The Unconscious God”, for example, Frankl argues that an irreligious person does not seek beyond his or her conscience as a psychological entity, “because he does not want to lose the ‘firm ground under his feet’. The true summit is barred from his vision; it is hidden in the fog, and he does not risk venturing into it, into this uncertainty.” Nothing could be further from the truth, though – it is the religious person who cannot tolerate the absurdity of existence and his or her mortality, not the atheist.

As Alice Miller has argued:

Religions were obviously created not by people respected in childhood but by adults starved of respect from childhood on and brought up to obey their parents unswervingly. They have learned to live with the compulsive self-deception forced on them in their earlier years. Many impressive rituals have been devised to make children ignore their true feelings and accept the cruelties of their parents without demur. They are forced to suppress their anger, their TRUE feelings and honor parents who do not deserve such reverential treatment, otherwise they will be doomed to intolerable feelings of guilt all their lives.

I will end this essay by an observation by Feuerbach that, even if we do not believe in religion, it is worthwhile to harbour values such as love and kindness. Only he to whom such values are nothing is an atheist:

Hence he alone is the true atheist to whom the predicates of the Divine Being — for example, love, wisdom, justice,—are nothing; not he to whom merely the subject of these predicates is nothing.

Reflections on postmodernism

In a review of “Intellectual Impostures”, a book by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, Richard Dawkins quotes the following line of reasoning by French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan:

“S (signifier) = s (the statement),
s (signified)
With S = (-1), produces: s = sqrt(-1)”

This is typical of Lacan’s simulation of an understanding of mathematics, Dawkins maintains. It appears significant but is not much more than a jumbling up of fancy mathematical symbols. Based on the above reasoning, however, Lacan concludes that the male erectile organ:

“… is equivalent to the sqrt(-1) of the signification produced above, of the jouissance that it restores by the coefficient of its statement to the function of lack of signifier (-1).”

This is ridiculous. Yet Lacan is nevertheless highly revered in many humanities departments in the West. As Josh Jones of Open Culture observes:

“Mandarins of French thought like Jean-Francois Lyotard, Jacques Lacan, and Jean Baudrillard have been accused for decades, and not without merit, of knowingly peddling bullshit to a French readership that expects, as Michel Foucault once admitted, a mandatory “ten percent incomprehensible.”

A well-known event within the history of postmodernism is the Sokal affair. Sokal, who is a physicist, wrote a deliberately nonsensical article and succeeded in getting it published in “Social Text”, a then not-peer-reviewed postmodern journal. Titled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”, the article argued that quantum gravity was the result of language and discourse. Sokal claims that postmodernists often utilize science in their arguments without fully understanding what they are saying and attempt to misrepresent science. Commenting on the Sokal affair, Dawkins observed:

“Sokal’s paper must have seemed a gift to the editors because this was a physicist saying all the right-on things they wanted to hear, attacking the ‘post-Enlightenment hegemony’ and such uncool notions as the existence of the real world.”

Postmodernism is often criticized for its use of obscure language. For example, Noam Chomsky pointed to the “three-syllable words, incoherent sentences, inflated rhetoric that (to me, at least) is largely meaningless”. Not everything is based on bad intent though. One can sympathize with certain thinkers who, it seems, were keen to fashion their words so as to accurately grasp new forms of collectivity and consciousness that were a product of late capitalist societies.

Still, critics insist that postmodernism’s use of complicated language conceals a lack of content. Consider, for example, the following sentence:

“What we have here in effect, as noted earlier, is a further challenge to medicine involving not simply a `debunking’ of medical `truth’ claims, but a more or less wholesale crediting to the socio-cultural side of the balance sheet of the body and disease qua fabricated or discursive entities: a paradoxical `inversion’ rather than a `resolution’, in other words, of the problems of strong essentialism/biological reductionism.”

It is hard to see how this sentence means anything more than “social aspects of illness should be attended to”. Nevertheless, the author uses complicated language and complex constructions to make his point. An even more controversial example is given by Dawkins, who quotes the psychotherapist Félix Guattari:

“We can clearly see that there is no bi-univocal correspondence between linear signifying links or archi-writing, depending on the author, and this multireferential, multi-dimensional machinic catalysis.”

A matter of fact tone and no unnecessary obfuscations would go a long way in upholding scientific integrity. However, as Dawkins notes, obscure language serves a certain purpose:

“Suppose you are an intellectual impostor with nothing to say, but with strong ambitions to succeed in academic life, collect a coterie of reverent disciples and have students around the world anoint your pages with respectful yellow highlighter. What kind of literary style would you cultivate? Not a lucid one, surely, for clarity would expose your lack of content.”

This is characteristic of certain trends in academia in the late twentieth century. For example, Dan Dennett once recalled how a colleague, an eminent and fashionable literary theorist from the Comparative Literature Department, once visited him asking for help. For a while they got nowhere,

“until finally he managed to make clear to me what he had come for. He wanted “an epistemology,” he said. An epistemology. Every self-respecting literary theorist had to sport an epistemology that season, it seems, and without one he felt naked, so he had come to me for an epistemology to wear–it was the very next fashion, he was sure, and he wanted the dernier cri in epistemologies. It didn’t matter to him that it be sound, or defensible, or (as one might as well say) true; it just had to be new and different and stylish. Accessorize, my good fellow, or be overlooked at the party.”

Such attitudes are prevalent in academia, Dennett maintains. Furthermore, some of these scholars do not recognize the difference between their activities and serious science, holding the latter to be just another noodle in the postmodern soup of epistemological relativism. As Dennett notes:

“Like many another naif, these thinkers, reflecting on the manifest inability of their methods of truth-seeking to achieve stable and valuable results, innocently generalize from their own cases and conclude that nobody else knows how to discover the truth either.”

Buddhism and psychosis

It would not perhaps be fair to say that Buddhism is entirely destructive. It can teach generosity, moderation and patience. But at its core lie a set of beliefs and practices which bring an individual closer and closer to the state of mind of an infant.

For example, a psychiatry textbook states:

“The obvious similarities between schizophrenic regressions and the practices of yoga and Zen merely indicate that the general trend in oriental cultures is to withdraw into the self from an overbearingly difficult physical and social reality.”

Trouble in Buddhism is encountered as soon as the Second Noble Truth which identifies desire as the cause of suffering. This is a psychologization of a material problem. It reverses natural human development, namely that to a self-sufficient hunter or gatherer or productive artisan who can provide for him or herself and their family.

One can see how such a belief might be useful in a culture struggling with material scarcity, but it is hardly a “truth”. It runs counter to elementary facets of human nature.

What is one to do with desire, if it causes suffering? One has to relinquish it, as the “Third Noble Truth” states. The webpage quoted at the top of this post explains:

“The full realization of the third Noble Truth paves the way for Awakening: the end of ignorance, craving, suffering, and karma itself; the direct penetration to the transcendent freedom and supreme happiness that stands as the final goal of all the Buddha’s teachings; the Unconditioned, the Deathless, Unbinding — Nirvana.”

This is characteristic of Buddhism’s insidious inversions. Individuation and a healthy attitude are termed “ignorance”, while developmental regression is “transcendent freedom” and “supreme happiness”.

It is as though the Buddha was so scared to live he gave it up entirely. Fear of death seems to feature prominently in Buddhism. As Ajahn Chah, a Theravadin Buddhist monk, said: “Death is the most important thing in the world.”

The meditative practice of jhana involves a psychotic regression. In its fourth stage, the monk:

“… sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. Just as if a man were sitting covered from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; even so, the monk sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by pure, bright awareness.”

This “pure, bright awareness” is the twilight zone described by sufferers of psychosis.

It is helped, to be sure, by practices which emaciate the body and mind. One cannot become psychotic at will. But if one is ground into the ground, one’s psyche frustrated by relentless restrictions, it becomes easier.

„… some days I would sit alone and just dream of food. I’d want to eat bananas in syrup, or papaya salad, and my saliva would start to run.”

Thus Ajahn Chah recollected his early days of monkhood. He wanted to eat very badly, but thought it was “bad karma” to do so. Once he is fully indoctrinated, though, the monastic expectations become fully internalized:

“Sometimes, when you come back from almsround and you’re contemplating the food before eating, you can’t settle down, your mind is like a mad dog. The saliva flows, you’re so hungry. Sometimes you may not even bother to contemplate, you just dig in. That’s a disaster. If the mind won’t calm down and be patient then just push your bowl away and don’t eat. Train yourself, drill yourself, that’s practice. Don’t just keep on following your mind. Push your bowl away, get up and leave, don’t allow yourself to eat. If it really wants to eat so much and acts so stubborn then don’t let it eat. The saliva will stop flowing. If the defilements know that they won’t get anything to eat they’ll get scared. They won’t dare bother you next day, they’ll be afraid they won’t get anything to eat. Try it out if you don’t believe me.”

Finally, a collection of Zen teachings called “Writings from the Zen Masters” tells the story of Shoichi, a Zen teacher:

“Shoichi was a one-eyed teacher of Zen, sparkling with enlightenment. He taught his disciples in Tofuku temple.
Day and night the whole temple stood in silence. There was no sound at all.
Even the reciting of sutras was abolished by the teacher. His pupils had nothing to do but meditate.”

Thus the human being is stripped of all his or her attributes like creativity and freedom, and a profound nothingness takes its place.

The cockroach that turned left

A New York Times interviewer once asked Noam Chomsky whether he was ever psychoanalyzed. Chomsky replied:

“I do not think psychoanalysis has a scientific basis. If we can’t explain why a cockroach decides to turn left, how can we explain why a human being decides to do something?”

Such statements have more than one meaning. Jung famously conceptualized an interaction between two people as occurring on two levels:

Source.

First, let’s consider why Chomsky uses the metaphor of the cockroach. The reason for this is an unequal relationship – one person is so high up that the other starts feeling like a cockroach. In this example Chomsky is the cockroach and his father the one looking down on him.

The words cock and roach also point to a fear that his father might castrate him.

The cockroach’s movement will become clear once we consider a further observation. The observation is that the political left-right divide reflects a deeper difference between incest and matricide. Carried to their extremes, leftists would rape their mothers and kill their fathers, while right-wingers would kill their mothers and castrate themselves.

What Chomsky is communicating in this highly original way is that, even though my father was very strict, I still choose to be close to my mother (“turn left”).

Which is worthy of sympathy given his difficult situation. It may be added that this is a particular answer to the problem of the Oedipus complex.

Numerology

4 – Artemis’s number
5 – undeservedness
8 – the number of the Firebird
11 – broken spine
15-16 – a special sequence
21 – louse
22 – togetherness
23 – Sai Baba’s birthday
24 – clean number
32 – unfulfilled opportunity
33 – psychosis
37 – won’t go through
40 – dead family
42 – the answer to life, the universe and everything
43 – Phaedra’s number
45 – worst number
46 – the middle path
47 – Ananke’s number
50 – a major favor
51 – ugliest number
53 – negation of the mother
59 – ugly, but will go through
62 – creativity
68 – paternal relationship
69 – mutual aid
77 – murder
88 – destroy everything now. A special note is warranted here. „Destroy everything now“ is a skateboarding film by the shoe company „88“. But the meaning of the number is such not because of the skatefilm. The name of the skatefilm is because of the meaning of the number.
89 – sex
100 – way out
111 – work more
999 – schizophrenia
1234 – colourfulness

Cancer as debt suppressed and its trajectory in family and society

This essay was originally posted sometime in late 2016. I no longer hold these views, so this is for historical interest only.

In an article published on Human Rights Watch’s website on April 20, 2016 Diederik Lohman, HRW’s associate director for health and human rights, wrote of the requirements necessary to meet in order to get pain reducing substances in Guatemala:

“Doctors must write prescriptions on special forms, which can only be obtained from a single office in Guatemala City, 25 at a time, and each prescription must be approved by the Ministry of Health. Imagine: each time someone needs an opioid prescription filled they must travel to the ministry office in Guatemala City – often hundreds of miles away – during business hours and obtain a validation stamp. Only then can they go to a pharmacy to fill it.”

Another article, published on July 14, 2015, describes a similar situation in Armenia.

“Oncologists can prescribe opioids only after multiple doctors have visited the patient at home and signed off on the decision”. For every prescription, the person or his or her family member or relative must then get a further 3 signatures and 4 stamps.

“After opioid analgesics are prescribed, cancer patients or their caregivers must collect the prescription at their local polyclinic, fill it at large regional medical centers or, in Yerevan, at the only pharmacy that carries it, and return the empty ampoules before a new prescription is issued. They must repeat the process every other day or in some cases every day because in practice doctors will prescribe only enough strong opioids to last 24 or 48 hours.”

Another article gives the latter duration as up to three days, nevertheless it is clear that numerous requirements must be fulfilled before a person is allowed to acquire pain reducing substances.

The articles, however, reflect a poor understanding of the situation with the changes the authors are calling for – such as requiring the governments to ease access to pain relieving substances – being extremely misguided.

A person develops cancer as a response to a complex set of interactions. The person is both indebted, to a family member or someone else to whom he or she is significantly attached, and, at the same time, due to some other influence severely restricted in opportunities to repay the debt.

The person incurs the debt – and in practice this is likely a common event – every time he or she receives something of value from the family member. Reception of any thing the acquirement of which depended on the family member having earned it results in the person becoming, to a smaller or greater degree, indebted. This applies not only to being given things like food or money, but also to any instance where a person uses something which was provided by another (such as using a lighting device or trash bin once, if they, or some other thing necessary for their use such as electricity or garbage bags, were paid for or maintained in some way by another person), although it is only in severely strained situations that a person starts attending to receiving things of comparatively little value.

Any such exchange of objects or other kinds of help is also a transfer of wishes from the benefactor to the receiver, wishes being constituent elements of the total debt. If a person gives money then one way in which he or she might have obtained it is by exchange for some activity whereby he or she transformed an amount of libido into some socially desired result. A person might be paid for weaving baskets out of twig, for example. When he or she weaves, he or she uses incremental amounts of libido for the occurrence and carrying out of a large number of, some of which are marked by a rather high degree of complexity, inner and outer processes and actions. All of them require a renunciation of the wish to experience pleasure at present and a postponement of it till later. As a person weaves, libidinal energy is transformed into an inner representation of what is being created. Since libido arises out of responses of the nervous system to cellular disturbances elsewhere in the body and is experienced by the person as a need in his or her psyche, the representation into which it was transformed is a kind of container in which a person’s wishes are stored for future fulfillment. If the person loses what he or she created, the wishes in its inner representation can no longer be fulfilled which leads to the person experiencing a feeling of loss. If someone uses the creation, or money received in exchange for it such as a part of a person’s monthly salary for basket weaving, then the person expects to have his or her wishes met in return. He or she need not communicate this directly or verbally, but in some way, perhaps even among people interacting for the first time and not having spoken with or seen each other before, it is communicated. A person who receives the result of another’s effort therefore acquires the latter’s wishes.

If a person is significantly restricted in opportunities to fulfill the wishes acquired during an exchange with another, he or she might respond to them in a way which causes cancer to arise. A response which leads to cancer is one where a person attempts to oppose the wishes, not expressing them in almost any socially desirable and individually acceptable way. An inner interaction of such nature shows that the person might interact towards the family member in actual reality in a similar way, that is, to attempt to oppose the family member. If the person does this and is at the same time indebted, it is likely to cause affliction to him or her, cancer being a bodily form of it of a severe degree, and also harm to the family member.

Any interaction with a person in such a situation – as with any other person – requires deciding what rights to pass the debt on or duties not to do so the person has. Permitting the person to acquire substances for pain relief with easy to meet conditions or no conditions at all means incurring part of his or her debt on oneself, which, given that cancer is a problem of a severe degree and, therefore, reflective of a large amount of debt not hitherto repaid, is a source of significant tension for the person lessening any existing requirements. To the extent that people working in the governments of Armenia and Guatemala allow any pain relief at all, except for cases where the seriousness of the situation is such that pain relief can be shown to be a necessity, they incur some amount of debt and the requirements they pose onto others are an attempt to pass it over or back. Requirements to frequently travel away from home and engage in interaction with people working in hospitals, pharmacies, ministry of health offices and so on have the effect of, on the one hand, decreasing – even if temporarily – the probability of the person who is affected by cancer accruing more debt and, on the other, impelling him or her to repay some of it him or herself (although he or she will incur more of it if it is the family member who travels and carries out other requirements). What the people who wrote the HRW articles are calling for is something to require which is to go in the extreme wrong direction, attempting to get the people working in Guatemalan and Armenian governments to facilitate access to pain relief equal an effort to a request for them to take on part of the debt – debt of the person affected by cancer – on themselves, which, if experienced on the level of the psyche, would be felt as a tension of a high degree.