Monthly Archives: November 2012

Do the laws of probability work?

In writing my last blog, I started to think about the laws of probability.  Having done A level Maths with Statistics at Sixth Form College, I am familiar with the laws of probability but I have always been conscious that life does not seem to conform to these laws in practice.  However, when I began to really think about the laws of probability I began to see that they do not even stack up logically as a framework.  They purport to describe the way that life operates in terms of describing the likelihood of any given event.  They describe the likelihood of something happening and the average times that event will happen given any number of operations.  Take the situation of a die and the probability of rolling a six.  I have watched in many games that I have played that when I am most concerned or attached to rolling a six it does not happen.  I have watched the same happen to others, indeed when I began to record this phenomenon for me and for others I began to notice that some people would throw considerably more sixes when they needed them and others could go for sequences of up to 12 or more turns (in some cases it might have been more but for the fat the game ended) without rolling a six.  Now the laws of probability would say that chances like this can occur but over time these will average out.  Yet if this is the case, then what the laws of probability are really saying is that taken at a sufficiently large sample level this is how life is working, which means that at any smaller sample level it is not how life is working.  In this sense the laws of probability have to discount the reality that unusual and unexpected things happen which are counter to these averaging laws.  In effect it means that the laws of probability do not describe how life is working at all since there is no guarantee that even in large sample sizes they will fully conform to the average.  Indeed most statistics are expressed in the form of 95% or 99% confidence levels, ie. that we can be 95% confident that a particular outcome will fall with certain parameters.  Yet even here, I was conscious that completely anomalous data did occur which were completely outside these parameters but since they were the exception rather than the rule they were discounted.  From this perspective, the laws of probability are based on the assumption that life is dictated by random events and “chance”, further than this, it is an entirely hypothetical construct.  In life, a coin does not have a 50% chance of landing heads or tails, it is definitely going to land whichever way it is going to land.  Since the future is a construct of the human imagination (the only moment that actually exists is now), so is the idea of probability.

Taking two practical examples of this; the recent article in the New Scientist about the Financial Crisis described a network of relationships between key companies involved in the crisis which closely mirrored that found in natural biological systems.  It was this dependency on key companies which sat at the heart of the network which made the financial crisis possible, because this small group of companies was so disproportionately significant in the economic structure of the world.  Looking at probability, it would be clear that each individual involved in these companies.  The individuals operating within these organisations would no doubt suggest that their lives were governed by chance and a series of probabilities about which they made choices, yet the reality is that their actions collectively aligned to natural systems, ie. it was only going to play out that way and there wasn’t really choice. Now, I accept that it might be possible to construct the probabilities for their individual actions to create or mirror this eventuality but this feels like retro-fitting the maths to the facts.  Of course, this brings us into the realm of free will and fate.  Our probability construct assumes that our existence is predicated on free-will with a range of possible avenues available at any point in time.  I also recognise that at a broad general level, probability has it’s value as a model but only in so far as we recognise it is a construct based on certain assumptions and that these assumptions have limitations and may not be an accurate reflection of reality.

I remember a project that I undertook whilst studying a module for my Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development exams, itwas on regression analysis which takes trends and then applies them to data and smooths out anomalies.  I had decided to do my project on the link between unemployment and inflation.  It was a generally understood rule at the time that in order to control inflation one had to have high unemployment and similarly that lower unemployment came at the cost of high inflation.  Whilst there did seem to be some inverse correlation between the two there were certain spikes in the data where there was no correlation at all.  This troubled me at the time because I felt that this was indicative of the fact that there only appeared to be a correlation between them.  As it turned out, this later proved to be the case.

The laws of probability, it strikes me, are simply generalisations.  Most of us are aware that generalisations can be helpful but only to a limited extent and with many dangers if you think they apply to the individual or particular.  The famous notion that if you gave a group of monkeys a keyboard and infinite time the chances are that they would come up with the works of Shakespeare I do not believe to be true.  If we are not careful then Maths (in itself a construct for reality rather than reality itself) becomes like counting the number of angels on the head of pin.  The chance of any event in our lives happening is both infinitely improbable given the other possible alternatives and highly probable (given that we have to be or do something and it did happen).  Yet really there is no chance involved, it simply did happen.  In this sense, I suspect that we may well find that the laws governing quantum mechanics are not made up of uncertain, chance probabilities in the way modern physicists currently suppose, but rather that we do not have sufficient ability to see the detail which we currently generalise through probability.  I do not think that we will find that there are multiple other realities happening concurrently with our current one (this. for me, is a fallacy based on not separating imaginative constructs (chance and probability) from reality). In this sense I think Einstein’s famous quote that “God does not play dice” might yet prove to be true.  In fact, at a broader level, I’m not sure that God plays dice at all.  Most of our current models such as evolution are based on this notion that the universe is both random and dictated by chance.  These are interesting assumptions but we forget at our peril that they are not external objective (external) facts, but rather internal subjective constructs.

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Principles for life and coaching others

Over time and particularly as a student of Chrissy’s I have amassed certain principles to bear in mind when dealing with this experience of life and for coaching others.

  1. Keeping an open heart and mind.  This is our primary responsibility as far as I can see.  As long as these are open we can trust our intuition.  If they are not open, I’m afraid it is no-one’s responsibility but ours, no matter how awful other people are.
  2. Life is perfect.  This does not mean that life is nice or even fair.  It is perfect in that it is imperfect (typically paradoxical like most wisdom), ie. it is all the frustrations and black holes that we come across that provoke us to think more deeply and evolve.  When you look from this perspective all the suffering and chaos suddenly seems quite stunningly and brilliantly orchestrated for everyone to learn exactly what they need to learn.  It is also worth noting that this could be entirely untrue but it is still a good perspective nonetheless since it allows us to manage our own motivation and learn as much as we can.
  3. You are never in someone else’s black hole, if you are in a black hole, it is yours.  Much of the time we think that the problems we face and the black holes we are stuck in are caused by other people; that they are to blame for how we feel yet cf. 1 above.
  4. Trust other people to be who they are not what you want them to be.  Chogyam Trungpa had this one right.  Don’t give anyone else responsibility for your heart, expect them to be exactly as they are and you will be able to keep your heart open to them even if you don’t like what they do.  People often complain that this sounds as if you are letting other people get away with being terrible and condoning it, but it doesn’t.  It means that you are not shocked or offended by others actions even if you are hurt and this leads on to the next principle.
  5. The only thing you can control is you.  Indeed even here it is debatable how much of ourselves we control, certainly many things like our body, our personality and our fate seem beyond our control.  The main thing we seem to control is our attitude to things but this is much more powerful and important than most people are aware – in fact it is the key.
  6. You do not have to enjoy or like life as long as you are managing the five above.  Life is not always enjoyable or likeable, as long as you are not expecting it to be and you are not attached to being happy then you are not going to have an unrealistic picture which would cause you to suffer unnecessarily.
  7. You cannot lose what truly belongs to you even if you throw it away. This comes from the I-Ching and I have found it to be true.  Of course, this cuts both ways, in that if you are going to have a crap time you are going to have a crap time and there is no getting away from it.  Death truly belongs to us and there is no getting rid of that one.  At the same time, it is nice to know that we needn’t worry about losing other people or things, if they belong to us we can rest assured we won’t lose them.
  8. To go one’s own way with sincerity, how could there be blame in this? This also comes from the I-Ching.  Shakespeare said something similar – To thine own self be true.  If we follow our own hearts we will end up in a place which reflects our heart.  The rest is fear.
  9. Exercising controlled folly.  Don Juan in the Carlos Castaneda books points out that when we reach a certain level of wisdom we look around and see that we are surrounded by folly including our own.  He says that the only way to live when we see this is through exercising controlled folly.  That is we recognise that nothing we do will make any difference since we are infinitesimally small in the grand scale of life.  Therefore we live our lives with complete commitment and responsibility doing everything in our power but we are completely unattached to the outcome.  I often think of this in terms of living life as an experiment or a series of experiments.  Ghandi called his autobiography The Story Of My Experiments With Truth.
  10. You cannot avoid pain and suffering in life, only the indulging in it is what Don Juan taught in the Carlos Castaneda books.  We can try and live life serenely never feeling any fear, anxiety, neurosis etc. etc. but I haven’t found that it works.  We are human and we are going to experience the whole gamut of human experience and emotions, however, we can become less identified with these emotions so that we see them for what they are and have a sense of perspective and that brings me to the penultimate point.
  11. A sense of humour is imperative for playing the game of life.  If we take life or ourselves too seriously it just isn’t funny.  Life is not quite how it appears. In this respect it does not conform to the laws of physics, as most people believe.  For evidence of this just take the example of the Heathrow Express train which I frequently catch from Heathrow to Paddington, mostly late in the evening, when I am tired and have a connecting train to catch.  This train is officially timetabled to run every 15 mins but actually runs between 13 and 15 mins after I arrive on the platform and no matter which train I catch it will always arrive at Paddington at the same time that the hourly train to Kemble is just leaving.
  12. It’s ok to lose the plot, life isn’t easy.

What does this mean when coaching people?  What I notice is that coaching like any other subject of study is succumbing to the difficulty of being taken over by people who want to measure, quantify and apply rules to it.  With this it is losing its flexibility and applicability and becoming instead a set of rigid rules.  People are also contrasting it with other things like mentoring and counselling and appraising and saying that it must be different so applying rules to try and make it different.  Most religions fall into a similar trap of taking a valuable truth and turning it into a set of rules.  Therefore the principles above are just working guidelines and I am sure there will be exceptions to them.

When working coaching people I am most interested in helping them to see. That is, I am concerned with helping them understand the other people they describe in the context of being characters in their drama or evolution and looking at what they are learning from them.  I am not really interested in deciding what to do about these other people in the sense of changing them or how to succeed or win.  Most people present themselves as the victims of other people and situations.  The game is to get you to identify with their position that other people are awful and something must be done about them.  Now other people are frequently awful but since we are all “other people” that includes us too.  With this perspective we can have more tolerance and empathy for others rather than judging them.  People are very clever so they know how to present their situation in such a way that we rush in to protect and help them but re-inforcing them in the position of victim negates any possibility of them taking responsibility.  Having been taught according to these principles over the years has meant that I coach people from the position that the problems they face are entirely their conundrum to solve and I am not interested in trying to come up with strategies for how to manipulate these other people to be more the way the individual wants them to be.  As far as I can see the only issue is helping people to see, ie. to recognise and take responsibility for themselves and to understand their own journey of development so that the other people (particularly the ones they find difficult) become a rich source of learning.  Everything else follows from that.

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The moral of the Pluto-Uranus square

Reading Glenn Perry’s excellent article in the recent AA Journal about interpreting the chart as a story line with a moral challenge or conundrum (or multiple moral challenges or conundrums) at it’s core, prompted me to think about how our storylines converge or interplay with the greater storyline at a Cosmic level.  This notion of interpreting the chart in the light of being designed to create the conditions for a particular part of our evolutionary journey is not new to me, having been at the heart of my teaching from Chrissy on the Black Hole Game of Life.  In my own life, Astrology has provided the detail of the plot for the story and the I-Ching guidance on the moral conundrums that the storyline provides.  I have long been awe-struck by the way that the cosmic storyline so intricately weaves together individual storylines so that their plots are perfectly intermeshed to provide fuel for each others storyline and also for the collective one (at a family, group, organisational, national etc. etc. level).  We seem to all be part of a game designed to provoke evolution and each of us plays our small part in the greater process of evolution.

I was wondering therefore what the plot line and moral conundrum at the heart of the current Pluto-Uranus transit is?  Indeed I know there are multiple moral conundrums but they are meshed together within the archetypal parameters of Uranus in Aries and Pluto in Capricorn.  In turn these two giants play out a storyline with other characters in the plot in the form of the Neptune-Chiron conjunction and faster moving and more dynamic characters who pop up on the stage for more rapid cameos such as Mercury, Mars and Venus.

It strikes me that within business (since Capricorn rules business) there is a transformation taking place.  Within the legal profession, I am watching the fact that there is a breakdown in hierarchy and traditional modes of business bought about by innovations in technology.  Work is being outsourced to other countries at an ever increasing pace and what was once highly paid work being done by specialists is being commoditised and performed by lower paid workers.  Even the elite law firms are having to adapt to greater pressure on price and commoditisation and the entrance of new adaptable players on the market (firms like Axiom offer flexible models of working and interesting projects to bright young lawyers which challenge the traditional model of the “magic circle” firms).  The current financial crisis is adding impetus to this by focusing organisations on cost and efficiency with even greater ruthlessness.  Within the EU it is causing conflicts in terms of budgets and whether we want to continue to pay for expensive European administration.   Anything which has grown fat and decadent is the subject of pressure to be pruned back.

At the same time, there are programmes being instituted to breakdown the elitism of “The City”, to bring in people from less privileged backgrounds and to encourage a less “privileged” mindset. More than this, the normal parameters of business are shifting, with technology playing a greater and greater role in day-to-day business, perhaps on the scale of a new industrial revolution.  My father, currently suffering Uranus opposite his Mars and Pluto square it, who is no slouch in IT terms, feels distraught at being excluded from a whole world accessible only by the technologically savvy younger generations.

In the West, our companies are increasingly dependent on and starting to be underpinned by finance from Asia, as is the American economy.

Trying to look from a broader perspective, what is the moral conundrum that we are solving or being challenged to look at here?  What I see is that there are a number of threads to this.  Part of it, is the acceptance of change.  Pluto has always had the idea of “thy will not mine” to me.  The sense that we cannot fight with Life; it is ultimately far more powerful than us and while we might be sure that we have a better idea of how life should be, we are not in control and we have to sacrifice our most cherished notions to this reality.  While Pluto, in my view, often grinds us down over time like a relentless steamroller, Uranus in Aries brings quick, shocking and sudden changes.  Those in power, whether it be Assad in Syria, Gadafi before him or Angela Merkel in Europe are like King Canut trying to hold back the waves; you sense that their efforts are ultimately doomed because they are fighting a battle against forces beyond their power to control.

It is the same for my father who is struggling to come to terms with old age and the changes this is bringing.  Activities like looking after the lawn and clearing the garden of leaves have become symbolic of his inability to hold back the process of aging and the changes it is bringing in his ability to cope.

Glenn Perry described the moral conundrums or black holes that sit at the heart of our evolution as being “insoluble”.  Chrissy’s work on black holes suggests that the solution is always concerned with “giving up” or “letting go”.  What is it we are giving up?  We are giving up our attachment to a mind picture of how we want our lives or the world to be to accept the reality of the way that the world actually is or is changing to be.

In the case of Europe there is a very strongly held collective mind picture that Europe is important, that it must survive; that it is the only way the nations within it can survive.  Yesterday, in running a training programme in Frankfurt a German woman I was talking to, was horrified to hear that there were people in Britain who could consider leaving the European Union.  She was vehement that Britain could not possibly survive outside the EU, even when I pointed out that Norway and Switzerland have done so very successfully, she was horrified at such heretical thinking.  Yet there is something similar in the notion of Europe and what I am seeing in the law firms.  The old elite (Capricorn) is under threat.  Europe used to be the aristocracy of the world; wealthy, politically powerful and used to being at the centre of world affairs.  Yet now there are parvenus appearing at every corner.  The nouveau riche of China, Brazil and India threaten to overwhelm the established order and we are having to get used to our new role in the world and also to the economic pressures to compete that this will bring.  For many, our purses have tightened and the days of largesse feel behind us.  In business the wind of competition on price and value is blowing hard and most are having to cut their cloth accordingly.

At another level, there is little that is new in this cycle.  Life is manipulating us through fear and greed (another form of fear) to change.  We are caught by the fear that unless we develop our technology and find new ways to compete we will be left behind; that we must streamline our processes or jump on the bandwagon of outsourcing  or we will be shipwrecked by the economic times.  This is a con, we are being manipulated into change for life’s ulterior purposes of evolution.  Yes, it has its purpose in challenging where we have become flabby and decadent and at another level of evolution I can only speculate that this is part of the ongoing development of shedding unnecessary elements of our existence; more and more of the manual or routine in our lives is being mechanised or computerised.  Perhaps we have to feel we will be left behind or miss the boat or why would we bother to evolve?  Since this similar process has been going on for eons – the Normans defeated the Saxons largely due to their ability to harness horses in warfare, Stone Age man was outmoded by Iron Age Man and so on.  It is very much like Groundhog day, as Glen Perry noted in his article.

Yet, perhaps we are missing the point.  The point is not that we can control these events.  The point, as in our personal lives, is how we deal with these events, in our attitude or response to them.  I have always felt a certain sympathy for politicians, because it strikes me they are at the forefront of the con of life.  They are voted into power with the explicit expectation that they can do something about the mess, that they can influence, shape and change things.  Yet, as I notice in coaching leaders in large business, they find themselves powerless to control forces that everyone expects them to control.  So how do we deal with these forces?

The I-Ching talks about change in the hexagram Shock.  Its counsel is that such times of Shock are times when we “examine our heart lest it bear any secret opposition to the will of God”.  That is we have to embrace and open our mind and heart to the change, to accept it, no matter how much we may dislike it or it may not fit with our picture of how things should be.  Yet it also suggests that these external factors are not the key but rather our inner attitude; “When a man has learned within his heart what fear and trembling mean, he is safeguarded against any terror produced by outside influences. Let the thunder roll and spread terror a hundred miles around: he remains so composed and reverent in spirit that the sacrificial rite is not interrupted. This is the spirit that must animate leaders and rulers of men-a profound inner seriousness from which all terrors glance off harmlessly.   So the I-Ching is suggesting that we must develop our inner nature.  This is the message of the film Groundhog Day, that at first Bill Murray’s character rages against life and fate, trying to push against it and change it.  Yet as it repeats he comes to accept it and attends instead to what is important, his own attitude and the way he is treating others around him and the external events become less important to him than his own inner life and approach.

The I-Ching also says shock comes oh!oh! then laughing words, ha!ha!  The fear and trembling brought by shock have their value in waking our consciousness but once we see the game we can laugh and regain our perspective.  We can laugh at how Life is playing with us all.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all laugh at the current economic crisis and at the way we have all been conned?  We really thought we had broken the cycle of boom and recession – ha ha!  Look, we think Europe is so important – ha!ha!  We thought we were so brilliant as big law firms, or consultants – Ha! Ha! We bankers thought we ruled the world, ha ha!  The wonderful woman I met in Germany who was so horrified by the thought of leaving the European Union, had in general a very wise perspective.  She thought that life had a very British sense of humour, a sense of the absurd and an irreverent enjoyment of playing with our expectations and wishes.

Humour, I think, tells us that we are ok, no matter how bad the situation.  As the Irish rugby team always used to say “the situation is critical, but not serious!”.  It tell us that we can have the sense of perspective to see the game but not be caught in it and take it and ourselves too seriously.

I was talking to someone at one of the large firms I work for about the process of change going on and the need to be more efficient (they were a Capricorn).  Their perspective was that it was a good thing as everything had become too flabby and inefficient; it was a reassuring return to good business precepts.  My heart didn’t like this.  I could appreciate the truth in some of it, but it had no heart, no compassion for those around them who were being made redundant.  It was cold and uncaring.  Life is ruthless, there is no question about that, it wants evolution and it doesn’t care how it gets it; it is manipulative and brutal and whether we suffer or die does not appear to concern it; it is operating at a vastly greater scale.  However, I don’t think we have to be brutal or if we are, that it diminishes us.  I think we can care for each other.  The sort of humour I describe has warmth and connection in it.  It brings us all together.  The I-Ching says that “we are all one in our hearts”.  We might not be able to prevent the events of life or its demands but we can choose our attitude towards them and not lose sight of the hearts of those around us.  I wonder if Life is presenting an opportunity to bring us together;  it certainly seems that it is spreading organisations across the globe so that people from different cultures have to get to know each other and work together and with outsourcing and commoditisation it is bringing the mighty down to earth somewhat to remind them of their humanity.  This is not to say that new winners and elites will not form, that appears to be part of the cycle and parameters.  Yet we are now questioning these things, being forced to bring them to consciousness.  We are in a pruning phase of life and while painful, it is necessary.  We cannot avoid this cycle but we are responsible for our attitude and how we play it out.  Bashar Al-Assad is an example of this Groundhog Day phenomenon – it is another chance to decide how we play the same situation as Libya.  It appears insoluble.  That the current elite must fall and reconnect with the common humanity of the masses seems a given, yet how to do it?  It is Groundhog Day, in that this was also the situation with Saddam Hussein.  I wonder how many times we will need to repeat this plot before we evolve to playing it with real compassion and consciousness?  At the moment, there is a stalemate and it appears insoluble.  No-one wants to allow a peaceful transition where Assad leaves because we want him to be punished for his sins.  Yet what is more important, that he is punished or that the violence and deaths stop and Syria can make a peaceful transition?  We like to think it is not really our moral conundrum but it is.

We can deal with these situations more consciously; we did it in South Africa, we did it in India and in Northern Ireland, but we had to let go each time, of the desire for revenge or retribution, of violence as the means for achieving transition.  I wonder how we will play it this time?  Can we bring Neptune-Chiron compassion for the mess and suffering to bear in this situation and in the economic mess we find ourselves in or will Neptune-Chiron play out in an orgy of avoidance of responsibility, dissolution, scapegoating and suffering?  Do the changes in power (Pluto) lead to a deeper understanding of life and a recognition of what we truly control?  Is Uranus played out with cold brutality and violence or its higher level of enlightened consciousness and a break with old approaches? The parameters of the plot or storyline are clearly delineated by the planets and their aspects but we can choose how consciously we play and do we bring the best of the planets or the worst?  That is our moral conundrum to solve.

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Jimmy Saville and John Terry

These two names might seem odd bed fellows but they share a connection in being the object of much hot debate in the media currently.  The two are connected for me because they are reflective of issues going on currently in terms of those thorny subjects of racial prejudice and sexual abuse.  With Saturn moving into Scorpio and forming a trine to the Neptune-Chiron conjunction in Pisces it is not altogether unexpected that taboo areas of race and sex are prominent.  The Sun-Moon trine across this aspect on 24th October seemed to bring these issues into the full glare of the public consciousness; there were reports on Saturday of Rio Ferdinand, whose brother was the subject of the racism issue with John Terry refusing to wear a t-shirt advocating the kick-it-out campaign for getting rid of racism in football and Jimmy Saville revelations popping out left right and centre.  At the same time, at a personal level, I was dealing with two issues in separate client situations relating to women’s issues.  It was a full week in terms of prejudices!  I was reminded of the lecture that Lynn Bell gave at the Astrological Conference about Saturn in Scorpio and in particular those people she quoted as having Saturn in Scorpio prominent in their chart.  One of these was J Edgar Hoover.

J Edgar Hoover’s wikipedia entry says:

John Edgar Hoover (January 1, 1895 – May 2, 1972) was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972 aged 77. Hoover is credited with building the FBI into a large and efficient crime-fighting agency, and with instituting a number of modernizations to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories.

Late in life and after his death Hoover became a controversial figure, as evidence of his secretive actions became known. His critics have accused him of exceeding the jurisdiction of the FBI.[1] He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders,[2] and to collect evidence using illegal methods.[3] Hoover consequently amassed a great deal of power. Said one journalist in the 1960s, “Hoover does not have to exert pressure, he is pressure”.[4]

Pluto has the densest mass of all the planets, Saturn is associated with lead, another very dense material.  It is a lovely image for someone with Saturn in Scorpio to describe them as pressure.  Saturn in Scorpio holds back dense and powerful forces.  Anyone who has put a lid on a pressure cooker or held on to someone transported with rage will know what this feels like!  Dealing with issues like sexual abuse, abuse of power and fame, racism and sexism is like handling very dangerous nuclear forces – one false step and you are splattered all over the place.  I wonder why these issues are so dangerous for us?  What is it that makes them nuclear?

Going back to my client situations, one of the things I was doing was running a programme about coaching.  As we went round the room doing introductions, one of the women said that she was very interested in women’s issues and wanted to focus her time on supporting female colleagues in being successful in the workplace and dealing with prejudice.  As she said this I was just playing in my mind to see how this would sound if it were reversed, if a man were saying I’m very interested in men’s issues and I want to support male colleagues in being successful in the workplace and dealing with prejudice.  I could not help laughing at the thought of the reaction it would get.  When we were later involved in a coaching session she described the issue she had at work.  It was with a male colleague, this colleague she found overbearing and dictatorial, constantly interfering and telling her what to do.  What emerged further was that she was determined not to report to this man and that there was a power struggle going on over who had control.  I asked her to describe what she really felt about him and she explained that she thought he was an anachronism, someone hopelessly out of touch, arrogant and old school.  She felt that he was counter-cultural and did not fit with the E&Y values and that the firm should get rid of him.  Her solution was that she should just give him the feedback very bluntly and not worry about him since he was not the way forward for the firm and didn’t fit with the firm’s values.  I asked her what the firm’s values were and she told me that they were about diversity, inclusiveness and respect for people.  I then asked her to score her respect for this man on a scale of 1-10 and being wonderfully open and honest (she was a pleasure to work with because she was so open) she admitted it was in minus figures.  Her conclusion at this point was since she did not respect him, why bother concerning herself with how he felt?  I then asked her whether the values applied only in cases where people were worthy of the values or whether they applied in all cases.  She thought deeply about this and you could see that her perspective was shifting.  As an interesting side point here, her background was as a qualified psychotherapist, which made it surprising for me that she should not see such an obvious projection or shadow.  We talked further about shadows and particularly the Karpman Drama Triangle of Victim, Persecutor, Rescuer.  She particularly liked this and we had great fun and a source of entertainment for the rest of the course with her pointing out whenever we talked about the triangle that she did not like the word “persecutor” but preferred the word “assertive” for her approach!  What was clear in her situation and she was good at seeing was that because she felt like a victim of this man, she felt justified in persecuting him and treating him ruthlessly as if he did not deserve any care or empathy. He was very clear in being a reflection of her own shadow and prejudice.

J Edgar Hoover felt that the forces he was dealing with were evil, that he was the last bastion in defending the good of America against the threat of communism and the forces of evil with which they were identified.  Arthur Miller’s Crucible chillingly recreates this rampant pressure of accusation, blame and scapegoating.  A crucible seems such a fitting image for Saturn in Scorpio, containing heat and pressure with no release possible.  Yet the idea of a crucible is inherent in the process of alchemy.  Here the role of the pressure and heat of the crucible is to transform lead (Saturn) into Gold (the Sun – clarity, understanding).  So what is really going on and what is being transformed?

What makes us most frightened and angry in this situation is our own impotence, our own identity and our own fear.  Taking impotence first, we are outraged and angry that things such as the accusations against Jimmy Saville could take place; it rocks our sense of control and free will; somehow we should have been able to prevent these things happening.  Our rage and indignation reflects our feelings of impotence and anger that the world has managed to perpetrate such atrocities right under our noses and we could do nothing to prevent it, indeed we were entirely hoodwinked.  It is a cry of unfairness and hurt at the painfulness of the world.  Yet, we have to find some legitimisation of this anger and so we look for someone to blame, to pass responsibility to.  If only we can find who was to blame, we can prevent this ever happening again by eradicating them and all they represent.  And here we come to the issue of identity, who among us wants to be identified as the perpetrator?  Who would wish to be seen as the holder of socially unacceptable qualities that might be vilified by the herd (the rest of society)?  We must dis-identify from these uncomfortable feelings, we must identify with the good and to do that we must condemn the bad.  The harder we condemn the bad, the “gooder” we know we must be!  It must not, in any way be something that we could identify with because then, horror of horror we could identify with the monster and we could be subject to the wrath of the mob. And here, lastly we have the fear which causes us to join with the mob in vilifying the perpetrator.  Yet as Stephen Karpman was so adept at pointing out with his triangle, the three roles of victim, persecutor and rescuer are interchangeable, once we play one, we play all three.  So in coming in to rescue the victims of Jimmy Saville, we must become the persecutors attacking him and anyone else in anyway associated with him; we justify this by also seeing ourselves as victims of those who told us he was a hero.  In turn we then make them the victims, blaming the BBC and everyone associated with this time.  Thus the cycle shifts through all roles.

So how could we approach Jimmy Saville?  I suspect the real issue at the heart of the Saturn in Scorpio trine Neptune-Chiron is how we transform ourselves and our own emotions into a vehicle for deep understanding and compassion.  I remember some years back a conversation with my friend Sam where we were considering the concepts of heroes and what really took courage in Life.  It was at the time of the ship that sank off the coast of Italy where the captain fled to shore.  I have a memory I even wrote a blog at the time about it prompted by an article looking at the fact that our moral outrage was based on the assumption that we would have done the right thing and questioning on how many small occasions we fail to live up to our own standards, or avoid responsibility.  In the case of Jimmy Saville, was he a fantastic hero before for all the charitable work he did on behalf of children or the programmes like Jim’ll Fix it?  With hindsight we now say no, he was a monster, it was all a sham.  Yet, the danger is that our black and white picture previously was just as inaccurate as our black and white picture now.  Which of us is completely black or white?  All of us contain shades of grey.  Which of us has not given into compulsive feelings only to be riddled with guilt and then tried to make atonement only to be overwhelmed by them again.  The internet figures for porn would suggest that there are very few men who are not subject to the temptation of strong sexual feelings.  Who knows what it was like to be Jimmy Saville?  Perhaps we can have compassion for someone who had such strong sexual urges.  Our compulsions and obsessions are not easy to deal with and whilst for many of us they do not extend to paedophilia, how would we feel and cope with it if they did?  None of us consciously choose such feelings and which of us would like to struggle with them?  So we need a response based on empathy for Jimmy Saville.  This is not to condone his actions – whatever they turn out to actually have been.  In the Crucible, the key to the story is that John Proctor was guilty of giving in to his sexual urges in having an affair with Abby yet this did not make him a bad man in total or worthy of persecution and execution.  It made him human.  It does not help Saville’s victims to cast him as a monster.  When bullied at school and beaten up it did not help me to see the perpetrators as monsters or label or vilify them, putting myself in the role of victim.  I wanted to understand what caused them to bully me, to understand them more deeply so that I could make sense of it.  Once I understood the feelings that were driving them and could make sense of them, I felt differently about the situation and I no longer felt like a victim.  The real emotion sitting behind a trine like Saturn in Scorpio trine Neptune-Chiron is grief; grief that the world could be so painful, grief for those people abused by Saville and grief for the man himself and the tortured life he must actually have led that would have caused him to act as he did.  This is not to condone his actions or even understand how we allowed them to take place, but to do this in order to understand and learn to prevent, as far as we are able, such events in the future, not to be stirred into a vengeful wrath that seeks to destroy everyone and everything associated with him.

At the beginning, I linked John Terry and Jimmy Saville together because they both seem to be vehicles at the moment for carrying the collective projections and being scapegoats.  John Terry’s case has intrigued me for different reasons in terms of this debate about prejudice.  The court case brought against him rested on whether he abused Anton Ferdinand racially.  What was interesting about the case is that it was not in dispute as part of the case that Anton Ferdinand had been abusing John Terry and trying to provoke him.  Nor was it in dispute that John Terry has black friends and colleagues as part of the Chelsea team who were willing to testify for him.  What was isolated as the key point was whether his response contained the word “black”.  I was thinking about this from the point of view of resolving issues between children or between adults.  Each time, the key has been to listen carefully to the full context.  If we took race out of this equation we would probably decide that Anton Ferdinand abusing John Terry and John Terry responding and abusing him back didn’t reflect terribly well on either of them.  Yet start to  look through the lens of race and divide people on that basis and we see instead Anton Ferdinand as a victim and John Terry as a persecutor.  Yet which of us can reflect back on no situations where we have been deliberately and continuously provoked and lashed out saying things we might later regret?  And did we feel the recipient was a poor victim after having provoked us so mercilessly?

How we look is the interesting part for me.  My second female client had been invited to be part of a process to promote female partners and wanted to know what her approach should be and how I would deal with it.  My own personal experience is that I am confused by the identification with culture, race, gender etc.  These are all veneers, like the clothes we are wearing.  I don’t see them as any more fundamental to human nature than veneers.  Once we identify with them then they separate us into different species.  Women talk about men as if they are an alien species and men about women in the same way.  I was taught that two wrongs do not make a right so I struggle to understand how “positive” discrimination is any different to discrimination full stop.  Fortunately my client agreed with me, but then she is very wise! When we separate people out on the basis of their race, sex, culture we re-inforce their identification with it and so re-inforce pre-judice and separation, the very thing we wish to overcome.  For me, the only way to deal with prejudice and the separation it brings is to come from a position of “us”, a deeper level where these distinctions are not important, where we are all one.

I am told constantly that the Chinese are different from “us” and do not think like “us”.  Were this the case I would be at a loss as to how to coach my many Chinese coachees.  Seeing them as fellow human beings, I don’t notice any difference between us, I feel no closer to my friends in Britain than I do to them.  Whilst I recognise that these veneers exist I do not think they are terribly deep or profound and I think we share so much in common that I find it hard to remember that we are supposed to be different. I think Jimmy Saville and John Terry are just as much “us” and I don’t liked to be judged without empathy and understanding or to be scapegoated so I don’t think I want to do it to them either.

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