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(editor's note: Nonduality Salon email list is an open community which allows all styles of communication, short of personal attack, without moderation. At times there are contributors who engage a challenging style of communication which has been identified as double-binding.)


by Gene Poole with Dan Berkow

Benevolent vs. Wrathful Deities: Understanding the Double Bind

Double-binding as control-conditioning

Benevolent vs. Wrathful Deities: Understanding the Double Bind

by Gene Poole, with additional material by Dan Berkow

In my practices, I have noted the clever use of helpful metaphor, especially in the task of describing the undescribable, or at least what is difficult to describe to those of limited experience.

One such 'metaphor system' is found in Vajrayana (Tibetan Buddhism). I refer to the statements which refer to various 'Deities', most of which are classified as either 'benevolent' or 'wrathful'.

(Our beloved "Jehovah" is course, both benevolent AND wrathful; and he is the source of the crazymaking 'double-bind' which is so pervasive in our history and our world-dream culture; I hold that without His 'help', there would be little problem with schizophrenia, bipolar, etc. )

Eventually, the practitioner of Vajrayana will eventually 'tumble to' (realize) that what is being discussed, in the topic of Deities, has a lot to do with how we perceive 'ordinary people'; the realization is that it is humans (among other entities) who are being discussed as being either benevolent or wrathful.

This realization is usually held in denial, the expectation being that there 'really are (invisible spiritual) Deities' which become visible as a result of long and dedicated practice. What happens instead, is shocking, a real hair-raiser; the practitioner sees these entities, these Deities, as dwelling in and Being human individuals. This includes everyone; your mother, child, wife, friend, etc.

This perception, if it comes unbidden or unexpectedly, can result in major 'freaking out' of the perceiver; a person suddenly SEES a 'demonic' or 'angelic' aspect/presence in the person to whom they are relating. This event does occur, and is one of the compassionate reasons why the Tibetan Buddhists include this information in their cosmological teachings.

I offer this information as compassionate caution to all readers.

Beware of the impulse to react to perceived 'evil', and equally, beware of the impulse to follow perceived 'good'. A deep study of the universe as seen by Vajrayana will fully inform you of the inherent traps and hazards to be found in our basic spiritual infrastructure; specifically, the impulses of AVERSION and its polar opposite, DESIRE.

You may note, if you look carefully and dispassionately, that among the population of self-identified followers of various spiritual paths, that there is shame attached to desire, and yet VIRTUE is attached to aversion. People speak with pride and passion, of what they 'abhor', and yet they speak little of what they desire, having accepted that desire is a flaw.

In the universe of living humans, life is movement, and all movement has momentum. Given this state of given movement (the gift of life itself), reactions and choices result in changes of direction of movement, at a given momentum.

True and factual spiritual teachings take these factors into account. Given our pre-existing movement and momentum, we are always 'going to somewhere' and 'going away from somewhere'. Skillfully transmitted (shared) teachings point to this movement as the chief factor of WHY we should beware of both aversion and desire.

The aversive impulse is to move _away_, while the desire impulse is to move _toward_. Persons who are unconscious of this basic reality of human design principle, are very easy to manipulate; simply present them with a symbol which is aversive, and they will move away from it. If at the same time, a symbol of desire is presented, they will move toward it. It is quite easy to manipulate most people in this way; this is how the entire world-dream system of governance/control is enacted.

Wrathful Deities are generally considered to be symbols of aversion, and Benevolent Deities are considered to be attractive (desirous). According to Vajrayana, we have little choice but to continue to inhabit realms shared by deities of both natures, but also, we have the choice to react to them, or not.

'Not-reacting' to Deities is difficult, but it can be done, and is called 'abiding'.

The textbook teaching example of this human dilemma is found in the so-called 'Tibetan Book of the Dead', which (in proper translation!) leads us to understand that the dilemma of the newly-dead person, is not at all different than our dilemma as living persons; that being, the never-seized choice to abide, rather than react, to perceived 'good and evil'.

One who seizes this choice of abiding, will perceive the whole universe swirling about them, each particle DEMANDING recognition, respect, worship, fear, or desire. The cacophony of contradictory voices will become overwhelming, the impulse to move will become very powerful. The choice to abide, must be long-cultivated and firmly in place, to survive this powerful challenge. That is why, in Vajrayana, the teachings are presented early and in digestible metaphorical form; it is to give children the chance to learn abiding (non-reaction) as a major, life-enhancing choice.

In the inner teachings of Vajrayana, it is stated that the reactive movement is what keys into existence, the very reality which is the perfect outpicturing of the inner assumptions of the person reacting. That is to say, that as the universe of attractive and repulsive Deities swirl about us, that we will inevitably 'see' a familiar moment, and it is that tiny 'snapshot' which becomes the seed from which our entire reality grows. In this way, it is said, we are able to materialize our personal universe, and then to begin seeking 'good' and avoiding 'evil' in that self-created reality. And make no mistake; this self-created reality is as 'real' as real can ever be. It is not a shimmering, self-evident mirage. It is as real as anything can seem, to a human Being.

Of note among 'wrathful Deities' is the bleeding control-artist known as the 'Double-Binder'; it seems that a majority of people are helpless against this form of temptation. However, there is no compelling reason to leave abiding and enter reaction. For this purpose, I present the following...


Here are common examples;

"You are an idiot."

"You are an idiot :)"

Note your reaction to each statement.

"Shut up and go away."

"Shut up and go away :)"

Note your reaction to each statement.

The 'Double-Bind' is applied for several reasons, and is blatantly manipulative behaviour:

_1 Overt hostile acts or speech automatically expose the motives and nature of the one acting-out; to disguise, one pastes a smile. "Smile when you say that".

_2 Double-binding is ruthless control; it inflicts paralysis by trapping between aversion and desire, but is only effective against the inexperienced and unsophisticated. A threat delivered with a smile, is still a threat. When one is confronted with a threat, one wishes to run away, but if at the same time, there is a smile, even a mock-smile, one may be undecided as to what course of action to take.

_3 Double-binding is done by those who have no other alternative; double-binders, as a broad class of people, were raised via double-bind control tactics, and thus know no other way of behaving. Such individuals are to be pitied, but also carefully avoided until the skill of abiding is firmly in place.

_4 Individuals who apply double-bind control to others, are desperately lonely, yet in terror of actual human contact; typically, intense drama follows such individuals, and they bring it with them always. Violent events occur; fire, flood, injury, and other 'acts of God' are regular events in the lives of those who practice this ruthless form of fear-based bondage.

_5 Double-binders, living exclusively in an self-created universe of CONTROL, inevitably struggle with others for control and dominance; there are precious few moments of equanimity, to be found in continual power-struggle. The double-binder has a ready menu of blame close at hand; no act which they commit, can be classified as 'wrong', for all of their acts are done 'for the good of others'.

_6 Sentimental mock-love replaces actual empathy and compassion, as the expression of the double-binder; love becomes a veritable fetish, rather than a literal reality. Because it is inherently false, sentimentality cannot be maintained without constant reinforcement, and the best 'source' of reinforcement is found in power-conflict with others. Living a lifestyle of control is guaranteed to be a rich source of conflict, and each conflict is exploited to reinforce the identity of the double-binder as 'good'. This is of course done by the method of making the other 'bad'.

_7 The double-bind control artist will always avert attention away from what they are really doing, by donning the mantle of virtue, as they aggress upon others. In the private logic of the control artist, it is plain that those who offer opposition, are 'against what is good' and thus 'deserver what they get'.

It is up to everyone to simply avoid playing the game of the double-binding control artist; if ignored, they will protest that they are unappreciated for the good that they do, and will also point with alarm to those who oppose them, to rouse the 'rabble' to actions against those who are the targets of control. If ignored, they will begin to tearfully protest, to ask if their good is not seen, and to be understood to be active agents of 'good', striking fear into the closed hearts of those who would get away with being 'out of control'.

Overall, the double-binder NEEDS opposition, and they are sure to arouse it by their words and acts. This need is really for the purpose of maintaining an identity of 'virtuous', while indulging in blatant aggressive acts of paralysis and control over others. Predictably, words are spoken which point to the evil of others, and how the existence of those 'evil others' stands as justification for 'strong action'.

Double-binding is, in a sense, the ultimate test of our ability to abide. On the face of it, it is silly, the acts of a stupid person who cannot see; yet, by sheer persistence, it is itself a thorn in the side of everyone. To learn how to abide the persistent presence of the double-binding control-artist is indeed a high calling!

Now, back to the Vajrayana ideal of the wrathful Deity. In the inner teachings, wrathful Deities are to be seen as the same as benevolent ones, all Beings being the same Being. But, until this is an ongoing practice, it is only an idea. Firm abiding is the place between aversion and desire, and is also the place of choice. Reaction is the incessant movement between aversion and desire, and is the realm of hell.

The double-binder is one who lives in hell; as such, they perform a certain service, as do other criminals, in that we are invited to live in hell with them, or to choose otherwise. The criminal craft of the double-binder is the art of camouflage, but for those with penetrating insight, 'good' is not an effective disguise for 'evil'. Neither good nor evil are sufficient reasons for moving out of abidance; yet, the choice to do so is always available.

If one who is subject to the chaotic fires of hell wishes to boil the pot, it is simply their choice to do so; it is also choice to allow that swirl of the universe to keep right on swirling, as it always has and always will. From this chaotic brew will emerge those who can abide the boiling, no matter the constant admonitions of those who would have us set ourselves against those identified as 'evil'.

"Resist not evil".

Commentary by Dan Berkow:

The prevalence of psychotic disorders is approximately the same across cultures, a finding that intrigued me many years ago when I ran across those statistics. And depression is considered to be a world-wide epidemic, according to the U.N.

Conceptualizable as an interaction of genes, biology, family, culture, and thought-forms that is transcultural; disorder within order, order with disorder, our human condition.

Thanks, Gene, for your insightful comments about aversion/desire and the use of double binds.

How about these double-binds: you're organized (to be disorganized). you're alive (to be dead). you're here (you ain't). you've a body (you're bodiless).

Yes, LIFE destroys me with a smiley face, "gives" to "take away" with a smile.

Call it YHVH, call it Mandala, the wheel turns; I'm strengthened to be destroyed; the attempt to destroy me, awakens me.

If I *am* both apparent sides of all double-binds, no double-bind holds me.

I awake - my double vision has led to dissolution of the prison with no sides. The benevolent and wrathful dieties are shining.

Speaking (further) to the topic of double-binds ...

The double-bind was considered by Bateson as a relationship pattern that assisted development of schizophrenia.

The double-bind is considered to assist development of hypnotic trance by hypnotherapists of the Ericksonian persuasion.

So: If I'm good at double-binding, I maintain control, you become uncertain, open to suggestion and, if it's strong enough, paralyzed (entranced, bewildered, or catatonic).

The double-bind can involve discounting a meaning via a meta-meaning, as:

I harm you, because I love you.


Because I love you, you disgust me.

or Bateson's famous example of a hug that is given stiffly with distance, the nonverbal double-bind.

or, related, and a bit more subtle:

Your feelings are unreal, my ideas are what you feel.

Now, there's a certain double-bind that is popular among sorcerers, magicians, and some spiritual types:

Because I know nothing is real, whatever I say is real is so.

Who is being hypnotized by that one? The sorcerer, the universe, or the imagined audience?

How about in military campaigns: Create disorder for the sake of order. Hate for the sake of love.

In spiritual circles, an excellent double-binding technique:

People who attack are egoic. I attack your ego because I'm nonegoic.

Now, *that's* a pretty mesmerizing technique. No wonder it's so popular with so many "enlightened" controllers.

No doubt I can benefit by understanding the double-bind. I can learn to handle those who use such techniques in interaction with me. Additionally, I can learn that the double-bind I've used on myself allowed me the impression that I took a form (and led to the impression that I then could be involved with other forms that attempted to double-bind me).

Intriguing that I would double-bind myself with the formula:

I am aware of myself being

The essential double-bind that allows the construction of myself as self-contructing is the situation in which I notice myself objectifying myself by noticing myself.

Yes, it's all magic, all a double-bind, all a show without an audience.

Even awareness is a double-bind: I am aware because my awareness tells me I'm aware.

Even no-thingness is a double-bind: No-thingness is what is, because no one knows that no-thing is.

I love learning this, because the show is awesome and intriguing. Now, I don't have to be caught by it.

Double-binding as control-conditioning

by Gene Poole

We may be dealing with deeply disturbed individuals, who have only a dim awareness of their dilemmas. They are reaching out for help, and their words are actually an explication of their deeply buried traumas. When seen this way, it all makes sense. But that does not make the delivery of 'help' any easier. Only if they can develop the ability to listen internally, will they be able to understand the nature of the transaction which they themselves initiate and then kill, over and over.

This is called 'paradoxical communication' and is central to certain forms or manifestations of 'schizophrenia'.

It is the explicit attempt to implant double-binding, which is the tip-off. Look for it. This is how victims replicate the actions of 'their' victimizers, a cycle which is difficult to perceive, let alone interrupt.

The lengthy quote below, which is relevant to understanding of this perplexing 'paradoxical communication', is from:
(possibly no longer functioning)

And clearly portrays the dynamic now in question, here in NDS: "The role of paradoxical interspecific communication in the development of family-pack hierarchical instabilities"

JoŽl Dehasse, DVM, Brussels, Belgium

"A hierarchical instability in a family-pack with the production of canine competitive, irritation and territorial aggression and the dog having access to dominance privileges has been called in France and French-speaking Belgium a "sociopathy". This is a pathology of the communications inside an interspecific system consisting of the family members and the dog (hence the name family-pack). The paradoxical communication (double bind) is emitted by the owners. The paradox resides in the opposition of cognitive and affective communications, for example an order to be obeyed asked with an expression of fear (like the upper part of the body bending slightly backward). The two communications are expressed in the verbal conditioning queries and the affective involuntary paraverbal attitudes in the same person. The communication is losing sense. The dog is more sensitive to analogical communication and is not fooled by the verbal orders. The communication is not or badly ritualised and causes anxiety. The double-bind may also be triggered by a false belief or a misunderstanding of the communication proposal by the dog: a lying-down-on-the-back posture to ask for caresses is misunderstood for submission when the dog is expressing a dominant behaviour; if still caressed after a misunderstood demand to stop the contact (tense posture) the dog may express irritation aggression that is once again misunderstood as unpredictable voluntary hostile behaviour. The double bind may be emitted by the same person or by two separate owners (split up double bind). The double bind is causing intermittent anxiety. The tolerance for the dog having dominant privileges may lead to partial unstable dominance. The continual challenge of the dog's dominant privileges may lead to aggression. The rewarding effects of aggression may lead to hyperaggression. The treatment is global (systemic): clarification and ritualisation of the communications - suppression of the access to dominant privileges - use of drugs able to alleviate anxiety, reduce aggression and facilitate learning: mood regulatory drugs like selegiline or carbamazepine, anti-anxiety drugs like clomipramine, anti-aggressive drugs like risperidone. "

Above, the '... suppression of the access to dominant privileges...' refers to the inevitability of social or 'parental' control, always elicited by this sort of behaviour. This is 'why' the 'hatred' of 'authority'.

Also, notice the specific mention of 'anxiety', which is a prime symptom of 'double-bound' individuals.

And the entire reference is to point out, the similarities between canine (pack) and hominid/human (tribal) behaviour. Identifying 'as the body and the animal' is indeed appropriate to such individuals; it is only to be understood just how the current degree of successful compensation has been achieved, which would call for congratulations, if not medications.

Here you will find a fascinating discussion of this 'dilemma', from the POV of 'hypnotherapy':

Gene Poole's Home Page