Your biological sex is a fact not just a feeling

Janice Turner

Published in the Times 19/8/17

Efforts to stamp out artificial gender distinctions shouldn’t get confused with real differences between men and women

Girls are good at “being pretty and wearing dresses”. Boys grow up to be presidents, “because they’re better at being in charge”. There’s nothing politically correct about seven-year-olds. The kids of Lanesend primary school in a BBC documentary just repeated, unfiltered, what they saw and heard from parents, books, teachers, adverts and TV.

The idea of creating a “gender-neutral” classroom in No More Boys and Girls sounds like some sinister feminist experiment. When in fact it was incredibly simple: challenge a few silly, life-limiting stereotypes and, as one excited boy put it, “everyone can choose to be anything they want”.

After six happy weeks in which they met male dancers and female mechanics, there was only one thing boys and girls loathed with equal passion: sharing a block of unisex toilets. Both felt invaded, vulnerable, embarrassed. “I try not to go at school,” says one girl (in next week’s episode). “I hold it in all day.”

It struck me that here was the heart of our current travails of confused teenagers, hormones and clinics: we have forgotten, or conflated, the difference between gender and biological sex. That the former is nonsense, the latter is real.

Gender is the story a society tells itself about the roles and status of men and women. Gender says boys don’t cry and assertive girls are “bossy”. Gender once declared women couldn’t vote, have a mortgage, fly a plane; that men couldn’t care for their own children, show tenderness or fear.

Gender has lately become an engine of enterprise: companies have learnt they can flog (particularly to women) products we never knew we needed. Like pink power-tools, razors or Bic lady pens. Lego is now seen as a boys’ toy, except sets which come in pink. The Lanesend girls, given a build-a-robot kit, were initially sceptical: this wasn’t for them, it was blue. The pink and blue theme park is so vivid teenagers think it’s real

Gender now starts in the womb: at “gender reveal” parties, prenatal scan results are celebrated in a glitter cannon of pink or blue. Muslim feminists are rightly appalled at hijabs imposed on little girls, but what about the stupid bows stuck on bald baby heads because God forbid anyone mistakes your daughter for a boy. Girls of eight have pampering parties and wear impractical Clarks shoes called Dolly Babe, while their brothers tear around in durable Leaders.

The ways in which young men and women present themselves has never been more crudely gendered. YouTube videos and Love Island parade the largely unattainable ideals of stubbly, muscled he-man and long-haired big-boobed Barbie. Gender has decreed human beings, in all their glorious variants, must resemble cartoons, avatars, porn stars.

Gender’s greatest trick is passing itself off as Nature. New Scientist this week reports a study of the cognitive abilities of men and women in 26 countries: it finds their variations were linked to each society’s attitude to gender roles. So if a society says spacial puzzles are for boys, girls will grow up with inferior spacial reasoning skills. But neuroscientists believe the brain is plastic: give both sexes equal practice and results will be similar. Tell that to Google’s James Damore.

And this pink and blue gender theme park is so vivid, its expectations so rigid, that no wonder teenagers think it is real. A friend’s daughter declared she was really a boy: after a long talk it transpired she loathed the dresses and flouncy hair she thought a prerequisite of girlhood. She cut her hair, wears jeans and is happy. Contrast with a mother featured in Radio 4’s iPM who believes her ten-year-old is “non-binary” because she chose a pirate not a princess-themed birthday party.

When I interviewed Maria Miller, who chairs the Commons women and equalities committee, she said “we’re not doing enough for people who have no gender at all”. She made it sound as if they were born without an organ or a chromosome. When in fact those declaring themselves “gender-fluid” or “gender non-binary” and demanding to be called the pronoun “they” don’t sit easily at the blue or pink gender poles but somewhere in between. But then don’t we all . . .

Rather than approving the right to put an X on your passport instead of F or M, we should aim to make the biological categories of men and women as big, generous and inclusive as possible. So men are still men if they wear dresses and “butch” girls don’t now feel they must take testosterone.

But biological sex itself is now controversial. The World Health Organisation has recently removed a page from its website explaining the difference between gender and sex, which said that women menstruate and men have testicles. These simple scientific facts are now unsayable.

The new orthodoxy is that whether you are a man or a woman is merely a feeling, an inner essence, which transcends biology. If Justine Greening’s proposals on the Gender Recognition Act are passed this will be enshrined in law.

While we should make better provision for the small number of people with gender dysphoria who wish to transition, biological sex cannot be erased. For women in particular, biology — contraception, childbirth, abortion, rape, menopause — shapes much of our destiny.

So while we need to challenge the phantasms of gender, we must respect biological sex. There are occasions when it matters for men and women to be separate so they feel dignified, private, safe. As shown by the furore this week that the government has not abolished the hated mixed-sex hospital wards. Or the horror shown by the seven-year-olds of Lanesend primary. Boys and girls can be equal without being forced to share loos.

Violent leftwingers are the alt-right’s useful idiots

Melanie Phillips

Published in the Times 15/8/17

It is a caricature of what happened in Charlottesville to call Trump and his supporters racists

President Trump has been on the defensive over his remarks about the disturbances in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the weekend. Clashes between fascist types and their opponents over the city’s removal of confederate monuments turned deadly when a presumed white supremacist drove a car into the counter-demonstrators, killing one person and injuring many others.

In response, Trump condemned the “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides”. His failure until yesterday to single out the white supremacists for censure has provoked a storm of criticism, not least from Republicans.

Trump’s response was indeed inadequate. Much more worrying, though, was what actually happened. For this was not, as widely portrayed, a clash between fascists and anti-fascists. It was between two groups each of which perpetrate hatred and intolerance, stand against freedom and seek to impose their views of society and human nature by force.

The “unite the right” demonstration brought on to the streets neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other racist extremists. The sight of them marching with swastika flags and flaming torches was stomach-turning. But ranged against them were the “Antifa”, self-designated anti-fascists who are anything but. They have a record of unprovoked violence, rioting and thuggery. Their Black Lives Matter offshoot includes racists who incite violence against white people.

Since Trump’s ascendancy, there have been repeated outbreaks of violence, mostly perpetrated by Antifa against ordinary Republicans and other conservatives, either at pro-Trump rallies or on other public platforms. These people have been either stopped from speaking or physically attacked by Antifa and other left-wing demonstrators.

In June the House Republican whip, Steve Scalise, was shot and almost killed by a Bernie Sanders-supporting Democrat who opened fire on a group of Republicans at a baseball practice. A New Jersey Democratic party activist, James Devine, posted on his Facebook page that he had “little sympathy” for Scalise because he opposed gun restriction policies. Another Democratic party official in Nebraska was fired after saying he was “glad” that Scalise had been shot.

The real target is mainstream American values and culture

The Democratic establishment dismisses such people as mavericks with no significance for the left-wing causes they support. Yet a double standard operates against President Trump, who is held to be personally defined by the unacceptable nature of a tiny minority of his supporters.

The fact that the former Ku Klux Klan “grand wizard” David Duke, who was at Charlottesville, claims to support Trump’s agenda (that is, when he’s not in the next breath condemning him) is being used to smear Trump himself as a white supremacist.

It is grotesque to equate Trump’s pledge to “make America great again”, which was endorsed by the 63 million Americans who voted for him, with the bigotry of white supremacism. The former is driven by people wanting to uphold core American values they deeply cherish and share with each other. The latter is driven by loathing of racial and ethnic groups deemed to be inferior.

In last year’s presidential campaign Hillary Clinton was endorsed by Will Quigg, “grand dragon” of the Ku Klux Klan’s California chapter. He claimed she had a “hidden agenda” and that if elected she would come out for gun ownership and sealing America’s borders. Quigg’s support of Clinton was rightly dismissed as either mischief-making or barking mad. Yet when such people support Trump, this is held to define him.

There are various possible reasons why initially Trump didn’t specifically condemn the far right in Charlottesville. He may resent being bullied into stating what he considers should be obvious: that he thinks such people are vicious extremists. He may believe that both warring sides had unconscionable agendas.

Whatever his reason, his generalised remarks were ill-judged. As US president, he inescapably delineates the contours of what is socially acceptable and what is beyond the pale. He should therefore have specifically denounced white supremacism as having no place in American society. At the same time, he should have specifically condemned the hatemongering ideology of left-wing identity politics.

Such a response was not just morally but politically necessary. For the left’s real target is not the far right but mainstream conservatives who want to uphold American values and culture: the people who brought Trump to power. Defending national identity, however, is denounced by western progressives as white racism.

The result is an unholy alliance between the left and the far right. A white supremacist called Richard Spencer invented the blanket term “alt-right” to associate his ilk with conservatives seeking merely to defend American identity and core values. Through this tactic, Spencer intended to boost the far right and simultaneously smear and thus destroy regular conservatives.

The left has seized upon this smear with unbridled joy, routinely using the “alt-right” term to try to destroy the national identity agenda by bracketing it with white supremacism. The result is a powerful boost for the far right. From deserved obscurity, they suddenly find the left are transmitting their every utterance to the world. The phrase “useful idiots” comes inescapably to mind.

Charlottesville was but the latest front in what has become America’s cultural civil war. It won’t, alas, be the last.

Corbynites don’t see this as real democracy


Labour’s leader and shadow chancellor believe the people’s will is expressed on the street and shopfloor more than parliament

‘Is democracy working? It didn’t work if you were a family
living on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower. Those families, those individuals, 79 so far and there will be more, were murdered by political decisions taken over recent decades”.

You know those police dramas, where the detective stares at a clue for ages before suddenly realising he was looking in the wrong place and missing the real story? I experienced just such a moment while pondering John McDonnell’s remarks at Glastonbury.

At first, like everyone else, I thought the most important part of his statement came at the end, with his use of the term “murder”. And then it came to me. The most important part of what he said was at the beginning.

The shadow chancellor didn’t question if austerity is working. Or if capitalism is working. Or if the government is working. His attack instead is on democracy. The deaths, the “murders”, happened because democracy isn’t working. This, I think, is the key to understanding his approach and that of Jeremy Corbyn.

Let’s begin at 12.15 on Thursday April 11, 1974, an important moment in the history of modern socialism. Sir Anthony Part, permanent secretary of the department of industry, has come to see his secretary of state, Tony Benn, relatively recently appointed to his post. In his diary, Benn records his version of their exchange. Part “hummed and hawed a bit and then said, ‘Minister, do you really intend to go ahead with your National Enterprise Board, public ownership and planning agreements?’.”

When Benn, who regarded himself as the author of these policies, responded “Of course”, Part pressed him on whether he was serious. Because if he was, he could count on a massive confrontation with business, a campaign of resistance. And with that, Part tabled a paper suggesting ways in which his policy might be relaxed.

The encounter took its place in the left’s mythology as Benn cited it in many speeches over the coming decades. It symbolised the way in which a socialist programme would be resisted by the establishment, by the institutions that controlled the system. Jeremy Corbyn, who regarded Tony Benn as his intellectual father and was one of his closest political friends, will have heard the tale many times.

The programme that Part, acting “simply as a mouthpiece for the CBI”, was attempting to obstruct was one that Benn regarded as truly democratic. At its core was control of industry by the people who work in it and the direction of strategic investment by the state, acting on behalf of the working class. The real expression of democratic will was not through parliament and the government but on the shopfloor and on the street.

The Bennite idea was to borrow to invest in the shares of strategic industries. The government would then use this ownership, and other laws, to conclude planning agreements between the state, the unions and management. These agreements would direct investment, and meanwhile government would assist those workers who wished to take over their companies, some of whom would simply occupy their workplaces.

The Bennites also advanced the notion of industrial democracy, going beyond the German model of participation on supervisory boards, insisting instead that executive boards should have more than 50 per cent worker representation.

Democracy is not parliament voting on laws after an election every few years, it is control by working people of their own lives, of the means of production, of the management of their workplaces and of the capital invested in businesses. It is always democratic to insist upon these rights, even if it involves breaking laws made by parliament.

So when John McDonnell calls on a million people to rise in protest on the streets and force Mrs May out of office, he regards it as baffling that anyone should suggest this is undemocratic. Because the demand by protesters that the establishment should yield power can never be undemocratic. And the idea that a government that controls central institutions and governs in the interests of capital can ever be truly democratic he regards as laughable.

It is wrong to argue that he wants violence. Violence is what he thinks the controllers of the state and capital use in order to enforce their domination. What he wants is a surrender to democratic ideas and forces, without anyone having to
use violence.

I don’t think this is a caricature of his position. It is not intended as such. It is an attempt to understand and explain the things that he and Jeremy Corbyn say and believe.

The support Mr Corbyn shows for people like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, his appearances hosting phone-ins on Iranian state television, or his dealings with Hamas and Hezbollah are much easier to understand when it is recognised that he doesn’t see Britain as a real democracy. The voices of protest and resistance are what he regards as really democratic.

This grassroots socialism was the brainchild of intellectuals of the New Left, people like Ralph Miliband and Robin Blackburn who linked up with Corbyn and Benn in the 1990s through the Independent Left Corresponding Society. It replaced the centralisation of orthodox communism — which they saw as leading to Stalinism — with a pluralistic society of street-level democracy.

What Labour is building now through a mass party and social media should be seen as much more than a formidable election machine. The New Left has always believed that the party should “pre-figure” the society it is trying to create. So the anarchism and equality of social media and the enthusiasm of crowds enjoying rock festivals is a model for the sort of society Jeremy Corbyn wants to create.

I can’t pretend that I see this as anything other than hopelessly naive. I believe it will impoverish us all, the vulnerable most of all. I think it will be more tyrannical than democratic. I think it would collapse in lawless chaos. But I also accept it as a powerful and radical idea that deserves to be explained and debated. And if Mr McDonnell and Mr Corbyn would rather not, we must demand that they do.

To consider Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge as being merely on the levels of spending or corporation tax is to miss the point entirely. As Mr Corbyn put it when speaking to his constituency party: “Our job is not
to reform capitalism, it’s to overthrow it.”

If we are going to have a big public argument about Corbynism let’s at least ensure it’s on the right topic.

Let’s stop treating the young as political sages

Clare Foges

We should be challenging the naive, unaffordable views of many under-25s, not kowtowing to them

‘Respect your youngers,” tweeted the pop star Lily Allen after the shock election result driven by a high youth turnout. But have we come to respect the youngers and their opinions too much?

Recent years have involved increasing youth worship in politics. Come election time, TV producers fall over themselves to put together panels of young people to offer up vacuities about “choosing hope over fear” and other quotes they may have spotted on Instagram. Grey-beard presenters nod deferentially at every complaint offered up by youthful contributors, however inane or ill-informed (the passion of youth requires no substantiation). Millennial mouthpieces on social media rouse the tribe with talk of reclaiming their future and how dreadfully they have been let down by older generations.

Then there are the politicians engaging in something akin to dad dancing; loosening the tie to get down with the kids. Ed Miliband making a midnight visit to be interviewed by Russell Brand, Corbyn shooting the breeze with a grime artist, Theresa May grimacing her way through a Snapchat interview. You’ve got to engage with the young, see, however unstatesmanlike the process.

And since Thursday people have been falling over themselves to congratulate the younger among us for doing their democratic duty; a five-minute detour to the polling station given the same weight as going over the top at Ypres. Young people posted selfies taken after the event and wore stickers saying “I voted!” Should they get lollipops too?

Yes, an increase in turnout at any age is to be welcomed. Only 43 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted in 2015. Although we are yet to see the hard data, the “youthquake” this time was doubtless real. And, of course, many people born post-1990 are spectacularly well-informed, public-spirited, energetic and the rest. Yet what is galling is the veneration of youthful opinion regardless of the sense it makes; this growing idea that being under 25 confers some special sagacity that the rest of us might benefit from. A generation reared to revere the words “empowerment” and “respect” is demanding that they are empowered and their views respected.

Last week’s election revealed the judgment of many young voters to be as we might expect of those with relatively limited experience: hopelessly naive. They turned out in their droves for a man who became a kind of millennials’ prophet; promising to lead them out of the badlands of austerity and towards a future where everything is nicer, cheaper, or indeed free. They voted for a man who would have endangered our economy, the whisper of whose name can send the pound on a swan-dive.

There is no wisdom here, no great lesson to be learnt; just the insight that many young people rather like being offered free stuff and ask few questions about how, ultimately, that stuff is funded. It has been suggested that the great turnout of the youth vote is an argument for lowering the voting age to 16. Given who they voted for en masse, I would say it’s an argument for raising it to at least 21.

This is not to suggest that the young have no cause to desire real change. It’s true that many have it hard: qualifications that don’t get you anywhere, work that is tenuous, homes that are impossible to afford. Serious action on these fronts would be welcome, within the constraints of our debt-laden public purse.

Yet the passionate sense of grievance among many young people — that theirs is a generation uniquely betrayed by the generations above — should not simply be “listened to” as though it were true; it must be robustly challenged. The phrase “intergenerational unfairness” has a lot to answer for, conjuring up a picture of the baby boomers and Generation Xers scrabbling up the ladder of opportunity and booting those below in the face. It hasn’t happened like that. Those older generations simply took whatever chances were on offer, from £50,000 family homes to university grants, and this does not make them the deniers of opportunity for young people today.

What should be challenged too is the youthful expectation of a free lunch. For instance, many 18 to 24-year-olds — reared on the language of rights — believe it their right to receive a free university education, as Corbyn exploited so successfully. What must be communicated to young people is not congratulations for backing wish-list politics but the reality that public resources are finite.

Wishing for a better world is nothing to be derided, and there is always something appealing about youthful enthusiasm. As Churchill reputedly said; “If you are not a liberal at 25 you have no heart.” But when it comes to the way we run our country, we have a duty not to kowtow to youthful dreaming but to confront some of the myths that underpin it. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Socialism is a proven disaster. These might not make for inspiring Facebook posts but they have the virtue of being the truth.

published in the Times 12/6/17

We can’t ignore the Islam in Islamism

Melanie Phillips

published in the Times 5/6/17

If jihadi terrorism is to be overcome, Muslims must take responsibility for the actions of all in their communities

The elephant is still in the room. Even now, with Theresa May saying “enough is enough” after the London Bridge atrocities, we are still refusing to identify correctly the threat that has already claimed so many lives.

These attackers are not “evil losers”. They are not “sick cowards”. They are not nihilists or psychiatric cases or lone wolves. They are devout and ecstatic Muslim fanatics who are waging a war of religion against us.

Mrs May correctly referred to “Islamist” terrorism. Yet she also said this was a “perversion of Islam”. How can it be a “perversion” when it is solidly rooted in religious texts and theological doctrine validated and endorsed by the world’s most powerful Islamic authorities?

In his article in The Times today, the communities secretary Sajid Javid tied himself up in knots. He rightly said it wasn’t enough for Muslims merely to condemn terror attacks; they must ask themselves “searching questions” and issue challenges.

Yet he also said the perpetrators were not “true Muslims” and it was right to say the attacks were “nothing to do with Islam”. Well if that’s so, why should Muslims need to do anything at all?


The West views Islam through its own cultural prism which equates religion with spirituality. The problem is that Islam is as much a political ideology as a source of spiritual guidance.

In 2010 a German study, which involved intensive questioning of 45,000 Muslim teenagers from 61 towns and regions across the country, found that the more religious they were the more likely they were to become violent.

In Australia a Shia cleric who campaigns against Sunni extremism, Sheikh Mohammad Tawhidi, has said: “The scriptures are exactly what is pushing these people to behead the infidel. Our books teach the beheading of people.”

Of course, millions of Muslims don’t subscribe to any of this. Some are merely cultural Muslims who observe no religious practices. Some, such as the Sufis or the Ahmadiyya sect, are pious Muslims who are truly peaceful (and are themselves victims of the Islamists).

But political, aggressive, jihadi Islam, constrained for so long by both the Ottoman empire and western colonialism, is now dominant once again in the Muslim world. Which is why in 2015 Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi remarkably told the imams of Al-Azhar university in Cairo – the epicentre of Islamic doctrinal edicts – that Islam’s corpus of sacred texts was “antagonising the entire world”, that it was “impossible” for 1.6 billion Muslims to “want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants” and so Islam had to have a “religious revolution”.

We should be promoting and defending such Muslim reformers in the desperate hope that they succeed. Instead we knock the ground from under their feet by saying Islamist attacks have nothing to do with Islam. Until and unless Islam is reformed, we need to treat its practices on a scale ranging from extreme caution to outlawing some of them altogether.

Mrs May said we need to make people understand that our “pluralistic British values” were “superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hatred”.

The problem is, though, that Islamists believe their values represent the literal word of God. So to them, no other values can possibly be superior. As a result, you can no more deradicalise them than you could have deradicalised the priests of the Inquisition.

We must require Muslims to take responsibility for the actions of all in their community. An ICM poll of British Muslims two years ago found that nearly a quarter wanted Sharia to replace British law in areas with large Muslim populations.

Four per cent – equivalent to more than 100,000 British Muslims — said they were sympathetic to suicide bombers fighting “injustice”.

In other words, we must see jihadi Islam as at the extreme end of a continuum of beliefs which are themselves incompatible with British society.

So we shouldn’t just be stopping people coming back to Britain from Syria or Libya, or detaining terrorist suspects through control orders. We should also be closing down radical mosques, deporting those born in other countries who are involved in extremism, stopping foreign funding for Muslim institutions and banning the Muslim Brotherhood.

We should also outlaw Sharia courts because, since Sharia does not accept the superior authority of secular legislation, it inescapably undermines the core British value of one law for all.

The message should be that British Muslims are welcome citizens but on the same basis as everyone else: that they subscribe to the binding nature of foundational British laws and values. If not, they will be treated as subversives.

The chances of any of these measures being taken, though, are slim. There will be inevitable claims that judge-made human rights law, which has often protected the “rights” of extremists rather than their victims, cannot be set aside without “destroying British values”.

Jihadi terrorists, however, are not trying to divide us, destroy our values or stop the general election. They are trying to kill us and conquer us.

If it is to defend itself, a liberal society may need to adopt illiberal measures. If we don’t do so now, we’ll be forced to eventually. The only question is how many will have to die before that happens.

Many Islams exist in the world — this death cult is one of them

Andrew Norfolk

published in Sunday Times 28/5/17

To say jihadist murders have nothing to do with their religion ignores a less comfortable truth

At first glance, it might seem difficult to imagine two groups of Muslims with so little in common.

Build a prison. In one wing, incarcerate those who serially abuse young girls in the back streets of English towns. In another, lock up the jihadist ideologues who plot mass slaughter in the name of God.

They all claim to be Muslim but while the adulterous, alcohol-swilling lowlifes of Rotherham and Rochdale betray multiple Islamic precepts on a daily basis, their fellow inmates view themselves as soldiers of the faith in its purest form.

Most Muslims would not rush to pay a prison visit. They routinely condemn both groups as despicable criminals whose conduct has nothing to do with Islam.

For Britons whose desire is for all who live on this island to somehow find a way to muddle along together, this is a reassuring thought, so comforting that it has almost become a commonplace. In recent years, no press conference after a sex-grooming trial has been complete without a police officer’s pronouncement that the perpetrators’ ethnicity and religion was utterly irrelevant to their crimes.


Islamist terror strikes are likewise met by politicians and community leaders with statements condemning the attack while stressing the falsity of perpetrators’ claim to have acted in the name of Allah. Monday’s Manchester atrocity was no exception.

Salman Abedi’s bomb brought carnage to a concert whose audience was predominantly young teenage girls. That anyone might view innocent children as legitimate targets intensified the need to distance the act from the teaching of one of the world’s great religions.

In the prison, different attitudes prevail. If they have nothing else in common, Pakistani child-sex groomers and Isis terrorists share at least one attribute. For them, no 13-year-old non-Muslim girl is innocent. Nor is she a child.

One group fails every test of what it means to be a good Muslim; the other finds such certainty in its literalist vision of the righteous path that it condemns most fellow Muslims as apostates. They unite in their contempt for white girls. One eyes an easy outlet for cheap lust. To jihadists, as a symbol of western decadence and immorality there could be no more suitable target than a venue packed with British girls worshipping a scantily clad young American singer.


Targeting children for sex or death is doubtless abhorrent to the vast majority of British Muslims, for whom a truer reflection of Islam was the kindness of fellow believers who came to the aid of the victims and who stood, in defiance of terrorism, in solidarity with fellow Mancunians.

Who, though, gets to define what is or is not Islam, who is or is not a Muslim? Who makes the rules?

How to pray, how to wash, what to wear; there seems barely any element of the faith that is not subject to furious debate long before bigger issues — such as the meaning of jihad and when it is permissible to wage war for the sake of Allah — are confronted.

Consider patriarchal attitudes towards women, however, within different Islamic sects and nations and in different centuries, and you will find a path well trodden. In all four schools of Islamic jurisprudence, girls become women — and eligible for marriage — at puberty. Women are either modest, housebound wives and mothers or Jezebel temptresses, shameless objects of sexual desire, born to lure men astray.

One need not travel far from Manchester to understand why some men, schooled in medieval theology or the conservative culture of homelands in south Asia, the Middle East or north Africa, struggle to treat western women with respect.

Near Bury, Greater Manchester, is a former sanatorium that since 1975 has been home to Britain’s leading Islamic boys’ seminary. In 2014, Ofsted hailed its production of “exemplary British citizens”. Its 21st-century perspective is instructive.

A website promoting the seminary’s teaching states that Satan uses women “as his avenue to create evil in society”. She should always remain in the home. If she must venture out, her clothing should conceal her entire body. Unless hidden from view, she will inevitably “attract men like swamps of flies are attracted to uncovered sweets”.

Befriending a non-Muslim invites corruption. To marry a Christian or Jewish woman risks the filtering of “their repulsive qualities into Muslim homes”. Singing and dancing is banned. The music industry is a Jewish-influenced means of “spreading the Satanic web”. We allow such values to be taught in 21st-century Britain.

Girls. Music. Danger. Pollution. In the early 1950s, Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian writer who played a pivotal role in the birth of supremacist Islamist ideology, studied briefly at a college in Colorado. His verdict on western women spat contempt. “The American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, in the expressive eyes and thirsty lips. [It] lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs — and she shows all this and does not hide it.”

American dance music was for Qutb, a hero of the Muslim Brotherhood, what “savage bushmen created to satisfy their primitive desires”. He described his visit to a church dance: “They danced to the tunes of the gramophone and the dancefloor was replete with tapping feet, enticing legs, arms wrapped around waists, lips pressed to lips and chests pressed to chests. The atmosphere was full of desire.”

Sexuality and freedom, in women, are to be stamped upon. An errant daughter or sister shames her entire family. Cue acid attacks and honour killings.

These are not fringe opinions. In 2013, a study of 38,000 Muslims by the Pew Research Centre found that 46 per cent of Pakistanis and 59 per cent of Bangladeshis believed it was sometimes justified for family members to kill women as a punishment for pre-marital sex or adultery.

More than 80 per cent of Muslims in Jordan, Egypt, and Pakistan said that a wife must always obey her husband. In Iraq, Morocco and Tunisia it was more than 90 per cent.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban outlawed music and the education of girls. There, child marriage flourishes as in so many Muslim nations including Iran, where women are banned from dancing and performing music on stage.

Religious laws that dictate the treatment of women in many Islamic states reached new levels of barbarity in 2014 when Islamic State seized huge swathes of Iraq and Syria and declared its own caliphate.

Its interpretation of God’s rules led to mass public beheadings and to the enslavement of more than 3,000 Yazidi girls and young women.

Rules published by Isis in December 2014 codified lawful conduct with slaves. They included a declaration that “it is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty, if she is fit for intercourse”.

For millions of Muslims worldwide who believe they follow a religion of peace, such crazed bloodlust is a monstrous perversion of Islam.

As the historian Tom Holland has noted, the truth is less comfortable. Isis argues that its killings and use of concubines is “sanctioned by the Koran and by the sayings and example of Muhammad”.

“To dismiss them as psychopaths is to ignore what is most truly terrifying about them — that their thuggery and greed coexist with a profound strain of religiosity. [Isis] propagandists present it as charged by God with restoring to the world the pristine Islam that existed back in the days of Muhammad and his immediate successors.”

Dewsbury is far from Sinjar but it was no surprise when Baroness Warsi suggested that in her West Yorkshire home town, some Pakistani men “see woman as second-class citizens and white women as third-class citizens”.

They “believe white girls are fair game”, she said. Shabir Ahmed, leader of the Rochdale grooming gang, would have agreed. The 59-year-old kebab shop worker told a 15-year-old girl that it was not wrong of him to deliver her to numerous Pakistani men for sex because in his homeland “you’re allowed to have sex with girls from the age of 11”.

Ahmed enjoyed having sex with children but worried they would make him impure. He forced girls to wash before he abused them. Afterwards he would “go home, have a shower, say two units of prayer and ask Allah for forgiveness”.

Muslim girls are saints or sinners who must be punished. Western girls are corrupt sluts. This is not an uncommon perspective in the Islamic world.

Ariana Grande, a 23-year-old singer from Florida, is a former children’s TV star whose global Dangerous Woman tour reached Manchester, 12 miles from Rochdale, on Monday. A year ago, she told Twitter critics that “expressing sexuality in art” was no more an invitation for disrespect than “wearing a short skirt is asking for assault”.

Girls the same age as those serially abused by Ahmed and his friends went to the city in their thousands to watch a mini-skirted, cat-eared woman dance and sing on stage in black thigh boots.

When it gleefully claimed responsibility for the slaughter of 22 “crusaders” by its “soldier of the caliphate”, Isis condemned the Arena event as “shameless”. It said that the bomb plot succeeded “with Allah’s grace and support”. There are many Islams in this world. This death cult is one of them.

Europe Signs its own Death Warrant

With the continent wrestling with mass immigration and losing faith in its traditions and beliefs, its civilisation faces collapse

Douglas Murray

April 30 2017, 12:01am, The Sunday Times

Europe is committing suicide. Or at least its leaders have decided to commit suicide. Whether the European people choose to go along with this is, naturally, another matter. When I say that Europe is in the process of killing itself, I do not mean that the burden of European Commission regulation has become overbearing or that the European Convention on Human Rights has not done enough to satisfy the demands of a particular community.

I mean that the civilisation we know as Europe is in the process of committing suicide and that neither Britain nor any other western European country can avoid that fate, because we all appear to suffer from the same symptoms and maladies.

As a result, by the end of the lifespans of most people currently alive, Europe will not be Europe and the peoples of Europe will have lost the only place in the world we had to call home.

Europe today has little desire to reproduce itself, fight for itself or even take its own side in an argument. Those in power seem persuaded that it would not matter if the people and culture of Europe were lost to the world.

There is no single cause of the present sickness. The culture produced by the tributaries of Judaeo-Christian culture, the ancient Greeks and Romans, and the discoveries of the Enlightenment has not been levelled by nothing. But the final act has come about because of two simultaneous concatenations — sets of linked events — from which it is now all but impossible to recover.

The first is the mass movement of peoples into Europe. In all western European countries this process began after the Second World War due to labour shortages. Soon Europe got hooked on the migration and could not stop the flow even if it had wanted to.

The result was that what had been Europe — the home of the European peoples — gradually became a home for the entire world. The places that had been European gradually became somewhere else.

All the time Europeans found ways to pretend this influx could work. By pretending, for instance, that such immigration was normal. Or that if integration did not happen with the first generation then it might happen with their children, grandchildren or another generation yet to come. Or that it didn’t matter whether people integrated or not.

All the time we waved away the greater likelihood that it just wouldn’t work. This is a conclusion that the migration crisis of recent years has simply accelerated.

Which brings me to the second concatenation. For even the mass movement of millions of people into Europe would not sound such a final note for the continent were it not for the fact that (coincidentally or otherwise) at the same time Europe lost faith in its beliefs, traditions and legitimacy.

More than any other continent or culture in the world today, Europe is deeply weighed down with guilt for its past. Alongside this outgoing version of self-distrust runs a more introverted version of the same guilt. For there is also the problem in Europe of an existential tiredness and a feeling that perhaps for Europe the story has run out and a new story must be allowed to begin.

Mass immigration — the replacement of large parts of the European populations by other people — is one way in which this new story has been imagined: a change, we seemed to think, was as good as a rest. Such existential civilisational tiredness is not a uniquely modern European phenomenon, but the fact that a society should feel like it has run out of steam at precisely the moment when a new society has begun to move in cannot help but lead to vast, epochal changes.

Had it been possible to discuss these matters, some solution might have been possible. Looking back, it is remarkable how restricted we made our discussion, even while we opened our home to the world.

A thousand years ago the peoples of Genoa and Florence were not as intermingled as they now are, but today they are all recognisably Italian, and tribal differences have tended to lessen rather than grow with time.

The current thinking appears to be that at some stage in the years ahead the peoples of Eritrea and Afghanistan too will be intermingled within Europe as the Genoans and Florentines are now melded into Italy. The skin colour of individuals from Eritrea and Afghanistan may be different, their ethnic origins may be further afield, but Europe will still be Europe and its people will continue to mingle in the spirit of Voltaire and St Paul, Dante, Goethe and Bach.

As with so many popular delusions, there is something in this. The nature of Europe has always shifted and — as trading cities such as Venice show — has included a grand and uncommon receptiveness to foreign ideas and influence. From the ancient Greeks and Romans onwards, the peoples of Europe sent out ships to scour the world and report back on what they found. Rarely, if ever, did the rest of the world return their curiosity in kind, but nevertheless the ships went out and returned with tales and discoveries that melded into the air of Europe. The receptivity was prodigious: it was not, however, boundless.

The question of where the boundaries of the culture lay is endlessly argued over by anthropologists and cannot be solved. But there were boundaries. Europe was never, for instance, a continent of Islam. Yet the awareness that our culture is constantly, subtly changing has deep European roots. We know that the Greeks today are not the same people as the ancient Greeks. We know that the English are not the same today as they were a millennium ago, nor the French the French. And yet they are recognisably Greek, English and French and all are European.

In these and other identities we recognise a degree of cultural succession: a tradition that remains with certain qualities (positive as well as negative), customs and behaviours. We recognise the great movements of the Normans, Franks and Gauls brought about great changes. And we know from history that some movements affect a culture relatively little in the long term, whereas others can change it irrevocably.

The problem comes not with an acceptance of change, but with the knowledge that when those changes come too fast or are too different we become something else, including something we may never have wanted to be.

At the same time we are confused over how this is meant to work. While generally agreeing that it is possible for an individual to absorb a particular culture (given the right degree of enthusiasm both from the individual and the culture) whatever their skin colour, we know that we Europeans cannot become whatever we like. We cannot become Indian or Chinese, for instance. And yet we are expected to believe that anyone in the world can move to Europe and become European.

If being “European” is not about race, then it is even more imperative that it is about “values”. This is what makes the question “What are European values?” so important. Yet this is another debate about which we are wholly confused.

Are we, for instance, Christian? In the 2000s this debate had a focal point in the row over the wording of the new EU constitution and the absence of any mention of the continent’s Christian heritage. The debate not only divided Europe geographically and politically, it also pointed to a glaring aspiration.

For religion had not only retreated in western Europe. In its wake there arose a desire to demonstrate that in the 21st century Europe had a self-supporting structure of rights, laws and institutions that could exist even without the source that had arguably given them life.

In the place of religion came the ever-inflating language of “human rights” (itself a concept of Christian origin). We left unresolved the question of whether or not our acquired rights were reliant on beliefs that the continent had ceased to hold, or whether they existed of their own accord. This was, at the very least, an extremely big question to have left unresolved while vast new populations were being expected to “integrate”.

An equally significant question erupted at the time around the position and purpose of the nation state. From the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 up to the late 20th century the nation state in Europe had generally been regarded not only as the best guarantor of constitutional order and liberal rights but the ultimate guarantor of peace.

Yet this certainty also eroded. European figures such as Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany in 1996 insisted that “The nation state . . . cannot solve the great problems of the 21st century.” Disintegration of the nation states of Europe into one large integrated political union was so important, Kohl insisted, that it was in fact “a question of war and peace in the 21st century”.

Others disagreed, and 20 years later just over half of British people who voted in the EU referendum demonstrated that they were unpersuaded by Kohl’s argument. But, once again, whatever one’s views on the matter, this was a huge question to leave unresolved at a time of vast population change.

While unsure of ourselves at home, we made final efforts at extending our values abroad. Yet whenever our governments and armies got involved in anything in the name of these “human rights” — Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011 — we seemed to make things worse and ended up in the wrong. When the Syrian civil war began, people cried for western nations to intervene in the name of the human rights that were undoubtedly being violated. But there was no appetite to protect such rights because whether or not we believed in them at home, we had certainly lost faith in an ability to advance them abroad.

At some stage it began to seem possible that what had been called “the last utopia” — the first universal system that divorced the rights of man from the say of gods or tyrants — might comprise a final failed European aspiration. If that is indeed the case, then it leaves Europeans in the 21st century without any unifying idea capable of ordering the present or approaching the future.

Europe has little desire to reproduce itself, fight for itself or even take its own side in an argument

At any time the loss of all unifying stories about our past or ideas about what to do with our present or future would be a serious conundrum. But during a time of momentous societal change and upheaval the results are proving fatal. The world is coming into Europe at precisely the moment that Europe has lost sight of what it is. And while the movement of millions of people from other cultures into a strong and assertive culture might have worked, the movement of millions of people into a guilty, jaded and dying culture cannot.

Even now Europe’s leaders talk of an invigorated effort to incorporate the millions of new arrivals. These efforts too will fail. If Europe is going to become a home for the world, it must search for a definition of itself that is wide enough to encompass the world. This means that in the period before this aspiration collapses our values become so wide as to become meaninglessly shallow.

So whereas European identity in the past could be attributed to highly specific, not to mention philosophically and historically deep foundations (the rule of law, the ethics derived from the continent’s history and philosophy), today the ethics and beliefs of Europe — indeed the identity and ideology of Europe — have become about “respect”, “tolerance” and (most self-abnegating of all) “diversity”.

Such shallow self-definitions may get us through a few more years, but they have no chance at all of being able to call on the deeper loyalties that societies must be able to reach if they are going to survive for long.

This is just one reason why it is likely that our European culture, which has lasted all these centuries and shared with the world such heights of human achievement, will not survive.

As recent elections in Austria and the rise of Alternative for Germany seem to prove, while the likelihood of cultural erosion remains irresistible, the options for cultural defence continue to be unacceptable. Even after the tumultuous years they have just had, the French electorate go to the polls next weekend to choose between more of a disastrous status quo or a member of the Le Pen family.

And all the time the flow into Europe continues. Over the Easter weekend alone European naval vessels collected more than 8,000 African migrants from the seas around Italy and brought them into Europe. Such a flow — which used to be unusual — is now routine, apparently unstoppable and also endless.

In The World of Yesterday, published in 1942, the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig wrote that in the years leading up to the Second World War, “I felt that Europe, in its state of derangement, had passed its own death sentence.” Only his timing was out. It would take several more decades before that death sentence was carried out — by ourselves on ourselves.

© Douglas Murray 2017

Extracted from The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray, which will be published by Bloomsbury on Thursday at £18.

What’s bad for white women is bad for all women

Louise Casey

I have spent the past year touring the country conducting a review into integration and opportunity in our most isolated communities. I have heard numerous personal accounts that have brought home to me the disadvantage still being suffered by some people, including those in white working-class communities.

But the inequality suffered by so many black and minority ethnic women has really stood out for me and this has been particularly apparent in some Muslim communities. I think it is time we talked about this in a more open and honest way.

From the outset I want to say that no culture or religion can ever excuse violence and oppression against women, but my review has caused me to reflect on whether we – myself included – have been as active in promoting opportunity and as vigilant and robust in calling out sexism, taking on patriarchy and standing up to misogyny in some minority communities, as we would have been for white women or girls.

Not because we thought that white women were more worthy of help, but because we thought we were less qualified to comment on cultures we didn’t understand. To be blunt, I wonder if our abhorrence of racism and fear of being called racist, along with our desire not to cause offence, has sometimes got in the way of our feminism.

Analysis of 2011 census data produced for my report shows that 44 per cent and 36 per cent of women born in Bangladesh and Pakistan but living in the UK were unable to speak English well or at all, compared to 20 per cent and 13 per cent of Bangladesh and Pakistan-born men.

And while 20 per cent of all British Pakistani and Bangladeshi men were economically inactive in 2015, the rate for British Pakistani and Bangladeshi women was nearly three times higher, at 57 per cent.

Not only are all those figures too high, they are shockingly gender unequal. Not enough of us have spoken out against this unfairness and/or supported those Muslim women, many who have been courageously fighting these battles and whose voices have not always been heard.

We should not think that this is a problem that affects only older women who arrived in Britain 30 or 40 years ago, as 44 per cent of non-UK born Pakistani and Bangladeshi women aged 16 to 24 are currently unemployed or inactive and not in full time education.

Some ongoing patterns of inter-cousin marriage and a custom of bringing in brides from “back home” have meant young women are continually arriving into patriarchal Muslim communities with a lack of English, a lack of education and a reliance on their husband for their income and immigration status.

This first generation in every generation can have knock-on effects in their ability to understand even basic legal rights, to access health or domestic abuse services freely, as well as for their children who may not speak English in the home and are less well prepared for school as a result.

I fear that we have been too afraid to talk about a lot of this, along with other issues of violence and abuse including female genital mutilation, forced marriage and so-called honour-based crimes, or the worrying prevalence of male-dominated Biraderi (meaning brotherhood) politics that has taken a hold in some councils and parts of our political parties and system.

We worry about lacking the understanding and confidence to confront such problems, unless laws are clearly contravened. It is more difficult to challenge or act on behaviours that fall into grey areas along this spectrum – where one person’s arranged marriage is another’s forced marriage; or where one person’s religious conservatism is another’s homophobia.

Those of us who regard ourselves as progressives rightly don’t want to be racist and hold back from calling out wrongdoing for what it is.

But the best case explanation for what happened in Rotherham is a lesson here too.

By failing to confront known child sexual exploitation because the majority of perpetrators were Pakistani-heritage men, for fear of upsetting race relations in the town, the council and police only made things worse: for the young women and girls who suffered the most appalling abuse and for race relations as well.

So I hope more resources can now go back into English language and domestic abuse services.

But we also have to be honest about abuse, discrimination and disadvantage wherever it occurs. If we wouldn’t stand for it with white women, we shouldn’t stand for it with any women.

I want to stress that feminists and those who have campaigned for women’s equality and against racism and discrimination down the years are not the enemy here.

They are, in so many ways, heroes who deserve our gratitude and respect. But I hope that the next wave of our fight for women’s equality is one that reaches far into all communities and not just those that we are most comfortable criticising.

By uniting around our common values in a way that allows for and celebrates our differences but also guarantees our fundamental rights, we can start to provide a route map through the difficulties as well as the opportunities of our increasingly diverse nation.

And, by unlocking the potential of all women, we can tackle both the gender and race inequalities that still persist in this country and that all progressives, of whatever political persuasion, should want to end.

This article is based on a chapter Dame Louise Casey wrote for the report A Sense of Belonging: Building a More Socially Integrated Society, published by the Fabian Society and Bright Blue, in partnership with The Challenge.

The left is creating a new kind of apartheid – Mat Ridley

Matt Ridley (published in the Times 28/11/16)

The student union at King’s College London will field a team in University Challenge that contains at least 50 per cent “self-defining women, trans or non-binary students”. The only bad thing Ken Livingstone could bring himself to say about the brutal dictator Fidel Castro was that “initially he wasn’t very good on lesbian and gay rights”. The first page of Hillary Clinton’s campaign website (still up) has links to “African Americans for Hillary, Latinos for Hillary, Asian Americans and Pacific islanders for Hillary, Women for Hillary, Millennials for Hillary”, but none to “men for Hillary”, let alone “white people for Hillary”.

Since when did the left insist on judging people by — to paraphrase Martin Luther King — the colour of their skin rather than the content of their character? The left once admirably championed the right of black people, women and gays to be treated the same as white, straight men. With only slightly less justification, it then moved on to pushing affirmative action to redress past prejudice. Now it has gone further, insisting everybody is defined by his or her identity and certain victim identities must be favoured.

Given the history of such stereotyping, it is baffling that politicians on the left cannot see where this leads. The prime exponents of identity politics in the past were the advocates of apartheid, of antisemitism, and of treating women as the legal chattels of men. “We are sleepwalking our way to segregation,” Trevor Phillips says.

Identity politics is thus very old-fashioned. Christina Hoff Sommers, author of Who Stole Feminism, says equality feminism — fair treatment, respect and dignity — is being eclipsed in universities by a Victorian “fainting couch feminism”, which views women as “fragile flowers who require safe spaces, trigger warnings and special protection from micro-invalidations”. Sure enough, when she said this at Oberlin College, Ohio, 35 students and a “therapy dog” sought refuge in a safe room.

It is just bad biology to focus on race, sex or sexual orientation as if they mattered most about people. We’ve known for decades — and Marxist biologists such as Dick Lewontin used to insist on this point — that the genetic differences between two human beings of the same race are maybe ten times as great as the average genetic difference between two races. Race really is skin deep. Sex goes deeper, for sure, because of developmental pathways, but still the individual differences between men and men, or women and women, or gays and gays, are far more salient than any similarities.

The Republican sweep in the American election cannot be blamed solely on the culture wars, but they surely played a part. Take the “bathroom wars” that broke out during the early stages of the campaign. North Carolina’s legislature heavy-handedly required citizens to use toilets that corresponded to their birth gender. The Obama administration heavy-handedly reacted by insisting that every school district in the country should do no such thing or lose its federal funding. This was a gift to conservatives: “Should a grown man pretending to be a woman be allowed to use . . . the same restroom used by your daughter? Your wife?,” asked Senator Ted Cruz.

White men played the identity card at the American ballot box

There is little doubt that to some extent white men played the identity card at the ballot box in reaction to the identity politics of the left. In a much-discussed essay for The New York Times after the election, Mark Lilla of Columbia University mused that Hillary Clinton’s tendency to “slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, LGBT and women voters at every stop” was a mistake: “If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them.”

He argues that “the fixation on diversity in our schools and the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life . . . By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good.” As many students woke up to discover on November 9, identity politics is “expressive, not persuasive”.

Last week, in an unbearably symbolic move, Hampshire College in Massachusetts removed the American flag — a symbol of unity if ever there was one — from campus in order to make students feel safer. The university president said the removal would “enable us to instead focus our efforts on racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviours”. There are such attitudes in America, for sure, but I am willing to bet they are not at their worst at Hampshire College, Massachusetts.

The one group that is increasingly excluded from campuses, with never a peep of complaint from activists, is conservatives. Data from the Higher Education Research Institute show the ratio of left-wing professors to right-wing professors went from 2:1 in 1995 to 6:1 today. The “1” is usually in something such as engineering and keeps his or her head down. Fashionable joke: what’s the opposite of diversity? University.

This is not a smug, anti-American argument. British universities are hurtling down the same divisive path. Feminists including Germaine Greer, Julie Bindel and Kate Smurthwaite have been “no-platformed” at British universities, along with speakers for Ukip and Israel, but not Islamic State. Universities are becoming like Victorian aunts, brooking no criticism of religion, treating women as delicate flowers and turning up their noses at Jews.

The government is conducting an “independent” review into Britain’s sharia courts, which effectively allow women to be treated differently if they are Muslim. The review is chaired by a Muslim and advised by two imams. And far too many government forms still insist on knowing whether the applicant is (I have taken the list from the Office for National Statistics guidance): “Gypsy or Irish Traveller, White and Black Caribbean, White and Black African, White and Asian, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, African, Caribbean, Arab, or any other ethnic group”. So bleeding what?

The left has vacated the moral high ground on which it won so many fine battles to treat human beings equally. The right must occupy that ground and stand for universal human values and equal treatment for all.

Who Am I? – An enquiry into identity

There is something that we all share…..

We all want to exist, to BE

To exist means to be something, defined and fixed, that continues through time (ie: it is in some way permanent).

In order to ‘be something’ we are compelled to define ourselves. That ‘something’ as defined is our identity.

Our identity is the primary factor that drives all of our psychological existence; who we believe ourselves to be. We all have a set of scripts, beliefs, maps and assumptions about what is ‘me’ at this present moment. For example:

I am an individual person defined in space by my skin boundary, who has thoughts, emotions, desires and dreams

I am known by such and such name

I am a son, brother, husband and uncle

I was born on such and such date

I am such and such nationality

I am a follower of such and such a religion

I am a success

I am highly competitive

I am a kind person

I am a good person

I am friendly and popular

I am not very good at maths

I am shy and introverted

I am good in a crisis

I am dependable

I am not selfish

I am not very pretty

I am pretty useless

I am damaged and repugnant

etc. etc.

Beliefs such as these make up our current self-identity. We can also include all our likes and dislikes, preferences and tastes as ‘junior’ aspects of our self-identity. The unique constellation of these identifications has been shaped by our particular life experiences and the meanings and interpretations we have taken from significant events in our lives. They are carried into the present moment by the wonderful mystery that is memory.

*(Let us note from the above list that these beliefs are not all equally accessible to being consciously articulated. Our scripts about who we are lie on a continuum of consciousness ranging from immediately accessible(‘my name is such and such’) to deeply unconscious and hidden (perhaps ‘I am damaged and repugnant’). Likewise the events and experiences that led to these identifications also lie on a continuum of conscious memory (ranging from fully remembered through simple forgetting to full on dynamic repression. The importance of these ideas will become apparent as we progress.)

So, we have an identity that we want to be permanent, so we EXIST.

This leads to inevitable consequences which seem to unfold as follows:

1. Everything that arises in our lives is perceived as either:

    • a potential threat to our identity that might undermine, contradict or dissolve who we are.
    • a potential support to our identity that might enhance, affirm or reinforce who we are.
    • rather uninteresting and dull that is simply neutral as it neither threatens or supports our ongoing ‘survival’.

2. We experience threats as painful and supports as pleasurable, that which is neutral as boring.

3. We therefore fear threats and desire supports, while generally ignoring that which is neutral.

4. Furthermore we defend ourselves from threats while enjoying supports.

5. We also try to reject threats and cling to supports.

6. If we are to grow (i.e. expand what is included within our self-identity) we must be able to feel safe enough to perceive potential threats as challenges and not let too many enjoyable supports lead to stagnation.

Such are the deep dynamics that I believe drive our lives. All fear is ultimately the fear of death, as having ones identity dissolved in any way is experienced as the agony of death. Likewise all desire is ultimately ‘selfish’ in that it aims at the pleasure of promoting, enhancing and ennobling the self (as currently identified).

Consider again our list of possible beliefs about what is ‘me’. Let us note that we could generate a mirrored list alongside the one above that contained all the opposites or the ‘not me’. It is a universal law that as soon as anything is defined as ‘X’, it is defined in contrast to ‘not X’. It is this ‘not me’ that we inevitably find so frightening and threatening, especially when it seems to arise within us and contradict who we believe ourselves to be. For example if I hold (identify with) the belief that ‘I am a nice person, nice people don’t get angry’ and I experience anger then this is experienced as a direct threat to my very survival and leads to the activation of psychological defence mechanisms (– which we shall be examining in depth as we progress).

This leads us into a crucial topic which deserves its own section – the Law of Opposites.

Before this we should make a brief digression: It may be objected at this point that, hang on, what you say may be so but we are not only selfish. We do genuinely care for and feel compassion and concern for others. Indeed this is true, and it in no way contradicts what has just been outlined. Lets follow it carefully.

We can see from our list of possible identifications of who we are that a number of them refer to being members of certain groups of people. We can note a simple point and that is that we can only be a member of a group that actually exists itself. Therefore we inevitably care about what happens to that group, which means caring about the other members of that group. Using the terminology of identification we can say:

  • I identify myself as a member of this group (family, community, ethnic, national, global).
  • I therefore identify myself with that group.
  • Hence To ensure my ‘survival’ I am compelled to promote and defend that group.
  • Which results in caring for and being concerned for the welfare of other members of that group (without whom there would be no group!).

The breadth and reach of our compassion is the breadth and reach of our identifications. This is one of the most useful ways to characterize psychological growth. We start life with a very narrow ‘egocentric’ identity (just us and close family). As what we include within our self-boundary grows and expands we identify with wider and wider groups of people (tribe, nationality, religion) and we grow to what can be termed an ‘ethnocentric’ identity. This can (unusually at this time in our collective history unfortunately) grow to a ‘worldcentric’ identity where we identify with all of humanity, as a global citizen. With every expansion of what is included inside our self-boundary there comes a corresponding expansion and widening of our circle of compassion. It is true that we are always selfish but the crucial point is that the self that we are ‘selfishly’ trying to promote, enhance and defend expands to include those with whom we identify.

It may seem awkward terminology but in a very real sense ‘I am a member of this community’ really means ‘I am this community’.

After this slight digression we can now return to examine a philosophical idea that is of profound significance:


Nothing exists by itself!

This statement may appear bold and radical but consider: Anything perceived, conceptualised, observed, defined or imagined can only exist in contrast to what it is not. As Nisargadatta states: “… to be is to be distinguishable, to be here and not there, to be now and not then, to be thus and not otherwise”.

A black picture on a black background is imperceivable. To exist it must be backgrounded with a contrasting colour. And the picture and the background are inseparable, they coexist as a single entity.

There can be no peaks without troughs, there can be no up without down, there can be no calm without turbulence, rough without smooth, wealth without poverty, good without bad, pain without pleasure and most fundamentally of all no I, me and mine without not I, not me and not mine.

This is the law of opposites and it implies that the observable universe (there is no other!) manifests in a state of profound duality and relativity. A corollary law is the law of balance which states that the opposites are always in a state of perfect balance, more of one – more of the other. The higher the peak the lower the trough. We can also note that if we add time into this law we generate the idea of cycles. This is simply the observation that the pairs of opposites cycle between each other. Pain ends in pleasure, pleasure ends in pain – endlessly. The circular Yin Yang symbol represents this beautifully and is at the heart of Daoist philosophy. When the black colour reaches its maximum breadth it contains the seed of the white, which then grows until it to turns back to black.

Furthermore the inevitable corollary from the cyclical nature of things is that all things are impermanent. They begin, last a while and then end. Nothing perceivable is permanent, for to be permanent is to be imperceivable.

Now if we recall the idea that our fundamental aim in life is to exist, to be a permanent ‘thing’ then we can start to get a glimpse of the fundamental bind that we are in.

Returning to our list of ‘I am this’ (and its implied counterpart: ‘I am not that’. The potential problems from these distinctions is not so much in acknowledging the contrast between the opposites (with no contrast nothing would or could be perceived at all!). The problem lies when we try to separate the opposites, when we try to cling to and promote a preferred ‘this’ and deny, refute and reject a despised ‘that’.

The implications of the law of opposites is far reaching and beyond this brief introduction. It will perhaps be a good start to a deeper investigation if we can start to see that many of our struggles to live a meaningful and fulfilling live are thwarted from the start as we are, in effect trying to create a beautiful wave that consists of all peaks and no troughs- an impossible task.

Our discussion can proceed in two direction from here. We can expand these fundamentals and explore how the great Wisdom traditions taught of the possibility of awakening to the fundamentally non-dual nature of reality (The ancient Hindu Upanishads describe Enlightenment as being ‘free of the pairs’). All fully developed spiritual paths of meditation and contemplation aim at this goal. Alternatively we can remain on a more mundane level and apply these ideas to an understanding of personal growth and psycho-therapy. It is always best to start a journey from where you are so we will focus on the latter. The fact is that, here and now, we believe ourselves to be a person, separate from the rest of the universe, and we must begin here. The lessons learnt will all help in understanding the non-dual teachings when we return to them by looking at what the great sages from all the different traditions have said on these matters at the end of this essay.

To this end I propose to now present an extended piece of writing from Ken Wilber. It is a chapter from the book Integral Spirituality and it is the clearest, most useful articulation of his model of psychological growth that I know. Implicit in his model are the ideas about identity that I have attempted to outline above and hopefully that introduction will provide a useful context for what follows. He has been developing these ideas throughout his thirty year career and in my view they find there most impressive formulation in this book. Wilber examines the implications of his model for psychotherapy and mindfulness meditation. I believe this is a very necessary analysis as these two worlds are increasingly drawing together as ‘mindfulness’ gains traction within Western psychology.

I have edited the chapter somewhat to ensure it stands alone (Wilber’s Integral terminology can be a little obscure to those who are unfamiliar with it) and added my own explanatory notes (in smaller font within the piece. If they disrupt the flow please just ignore them, they are meant to help not hinder!).



The Shadow and the Disowned Self:

(based on Chapter 6 of Ken Wilbers Integral Spirituality, 2006)

It’s astonishing that I can deny I. That I can take parts of my self, my I-ness, and push them on the other side of my self-boundary, attempting to deny ownership of those aspects of myself that are perhaps too negative, or perhaps too positive, to accept. Yet pushing them away does not actually get rid of them, but simply converts them into painful neurotic symptoms, shadows of a disowned self that come back to haunt me. As I look in the mirror of that which most disturbs me about the world out there, I see only the shadow of my disowned self…

This chapter is about that shadow, what it is, how it got started, and how to take it back. But one thing is certain: the great wisdom traditions, for all their wisdom, have absolutely nothing like this (the wisdom traditions refer to the meditative and contemplative paths present in all the great religions that aim at awakening the individual to a state of non-dual enlightenment. It includes Esoteric Christianity, the core teachings of the Buddha, Hindu Advaita, Sufi Islamic teachings and Jewish Kaballah to name a prominent few). I know, I’ve spent thirty years checking with students and teachers, and the conclusion is unanimous: an understanding of psycho-dynamic repression, as well as ways to cure it, is something contributed exclusively by modern Western psychology. Many meditation teachers claim that they offer something similar, but when you look closely at what they mean, it really isn’t this. Consequently even advanced meditators and spiritual teachers are often haunted by psychopathology, as their shadows chase them to Enlightenment and back, leaving road-kill all along the way.

The good news is that this is fairly easily remedied.

The Shadow: Dynamically Dissociated 1st -Person Impulses

One of the great discoveries of modern Western psychology is the fact that, under certain circumstances, 1st-person impulses, feelings, and qualities can become repressed, disowned, or dissociated, and when they do, they appear as 2nd-person or even 3rd-person events in my own 1st-person awareness. This is on of the half-dozen truly great discoveries of all time in psychology, East or West, ancient or modern.


To give a highly stylized example – and for this example ,understand that 1st-person is defined as the person speaking (e.g. “I”); 2nd-person is the person being spoken to (e.g. “you); and 3rd-person is the person being spoken about (e.g. “him”, “her”, “it”). There is also “case”, such as subjective, objective and possessive case, so that, for example, 1st-person subjective is “I”, 1st-person objective is “me”, and 1st-person possessive is “my” “mine” (try to get as familiar as you can with this terminology, as it is crucial to the following discussion). So here’s the stylized example of how repression or dissociation occurs:

If I become angry at my boss, but that feeling of anger is a threat to my self-sense or self-identity (I’m a nice person; nice people don’t get angry”), then I might dissociate or repress the anger. But simply denying the anger doesn’t get rid of it, it merely makes the angry feelings appear alien in my own awareness: I might be feeling anger, but it is not my anger. The angry feelings are put on the other side of the self-boundary (on the other side of the I-boundary, “not I”), at which point they appear as alien or foreign events in my own awareness, in my own self.

I might, for example, project my anger. The anger continues to arise, but since it cannot be me who is angry, it must be someone else. All of a sudden, the world appears full of people who seem to be very angry…, and usually at me! In fact, I think my boss wants to fire me. And this completely depresses me. Through the projection of my own anger “mad” has become “sad”. And I’m never going to get over that depression without first owning that anger.

Whenever I disown and project my own qualities, they appear “out there”, where they frighten me, irritate me, depress me, obsess me. And conversely in 9 out of 10 cases, those things in the world that most disturb and upset me about others are actually my own shadow qualities, which are now perceived as “out there”.

You might have seen the recent studies where men who were anti-gay-porn crusaders, and who had dedicated a large portion of their lives to aggressively fighting homosexual porn, were tested for their levels of sexual arousal when showed photos of gay sexual scenes. The crusaders evidenced substantially more sexual arousal than other males. In other words, they themselves were attracted to gay sex but, finding that unacceptable in themselves, spent their lives trying to eradicate it in others, while claiming they had no such nasty desires themselves. Yet all they were really doing was projecting their own despised shadows onto others, then scapegoating them (Shakespeare, as usual neatly captured this dynamic in “the lady doth protest too much methinks”).

This is why we are upset by those things, and only those things, that are reflections of our own shadows. This doesn’t mean that others do not possess the qualities that I happen to despise. My neighbour really is a control freak! But why does it bother me? It doesn’t seem to drive my wife nuts, or my other neighbours. Ah but if they could just see what a total control freak he is, they would loathe him too, like I do! But it’s my own shadow I loathe, my own shadow I crusade against. I myself am a little bit more of a control freak than I care to admit, and not acknowledging this despised quality in myself, I deny it and project it onto my neighbour – or any other hook I can find. I know somebody is a control freak, and since it simply cannot be me, it must be him, or her, or them, or it. If the despised person happens to actually possess the projected quality or drive, then that will act as a “hook” for my projected shadow, an inviting receptacle for my own similar, projected shadow (also known as “projecting into reality”). I’m saying that if you project your own shadow onto them, you will have two things you hate.

It’s that double dose of hatred that shows up as neurotic symptoms, the shadows of a disowned self. If the negative qualities of another person merely inform me, that’s one thing; but if they obsess me, infuriate me, inflame me, disturb me, then the chances are that I am caught in a serious case of shadow-boxing, pure and simple.

Those shadow elements can be positive as well as negative. We are not only a little bit nastier, but a little bit greater, than we often allow, and projecting our own positive virtues, potentials, and capacities onto others, we shadow-hug ourselves through life (where we typically admire, idolize and hero-worship those that embody our disowned positive qualities).

So here is what is happening when I dissociate and alienate my own shadow, such as my own anger. The moment I push the anger away from me, the moment I push the anger on the other side of my I-boundary, it becomes a 2nd-person occasion in my own 1st-person. That is, as I actively push the anger away from me, I am aware of the anger, but it has become a type of “you” in my own self. (As we said, 2nd-person means the person I am talking to, so 2nd -person anger means anger that I am still on speaking terms with, but it is no longer I or me or mine, it is no longer 1st-person). I might sense the angry feelings arising, but they arise in my awareness as if an angry neighbour were knocking on my door. I feel the anger, but in effect say to the anger: “what do you want?” – not “I am angry” but “Somebody else is angry, not me”.

If I continue to deny my anger, it can be completely dissociated or repressed into a 3rd-person occasion, which means I am no longer on speaking terms with it: my anger has finally become an “it” or a complete stranger in my own awareness, perhaps arising as the symptom of depression, perhaps displaced onto other people, perhaps projected onto my boss himself. My own “I”-anger has become a disowned “it”, haunting the halls of my own interiors, the ghost in the machine of my contracted self.

In short, in the course of a typical dissociation, when my angry feelings arise, they are converted from my 1st-person anger into a 2nd-or even 3rd person other in my own awareness: aspects of my “I” now appear as an “it” in my own “I”, and these “it” feelings and objects completely baffle me: this depression, IT just comes over me. This anxiety IT’s driving me crazy. These headaches, I don’t know where THEY come from, but I get them when I’m around my boss. Anything except “I am very angry”, because this anger, it is no longer mine. I am a nice person, I would never have anger – but these headaches are killing me.

That highly stylized example is meant to highlight a phenomenological train of events: certain “I-subjects” can arise in awareness (“I am f**king angry!”), be pushed away or denied, and the alienated feelings, impulses or qualities put on the other side of the I-boundary: I now feel them as other (“I’m a nice person, I’m not angry, but I know somebody is angry, and since it can’t be me, it must be him!”). Once that happens, the feeling or quality does not cease to exist, but ownership of it does. These dis-owned feelings or qualities can then appear as painful and baffling neurotic symptoms – as “shadow” elements in my own awareness.

The goal of psychotherapy, in this case, is to convert these “it feelings” into “I feelings”, and thus re-own the shadow. The act of re-owning the shadow (converting 3rd-person to 1st-person) removes the root cause of the painful symptoms (I.e: expanding one’s self-identity, “I am…”, to include that which was formerly deemed not I). The goal of psychotherapy, if you will, is to convert “it” into “I”


The entire notion of the psycho-dynamic unconscious actually comes from this type of experiential evidence and enquiry. It is not usually remembered that Freud, for example, was a brilliant phenomenologist who, in many of works, was doing exactly this type of interior phenomenology and hermeneutics (phenomenology in my own 1st-person and hermeneutics when my own 1st– person impulses become 2nd or 3rd -person impulses and symbols in my own awareness that require hermeneutic interpretation as if I were talking to someone else: These symptoms, what do they mean?).

This is not a far-fetched reading of Freud, but it is a reading obscured by the standard James Strachey English translation of Freud. Not many people know that Freud never – not once – used the terms “ego” or “id”. When Freud wrote he used the actual pronouns “the I” (das Ich) and “the it” (das Es). Strachey decided to use the Latin words, ego and id, to make Freud sound more scientific. In the Strachey translation, a sentence might be: “Thus looking into awareness, I see that the ego has certain id impulses that distress and upset it”. Translated that way, it sounds like a bunch of theoretical speculation. But Freud’s actual sentence is: “Looking into my awareness, I find that my I has certain it impulses that distress and upset the I”. As I said Strachey uses the Latin terms because he thought it made Freud look more scientific, whereas all it did is completely obscure Freud, the brilliant phenomenologist of the dis-owned self.

Perhaps Freud’s best known summary of the goal of psychotherapy is: “Where id was, there ego shall become”. What Freud actually said was: “Where it was, there I shall become”.

Isn’t that beautiful? “Where it was, there I shall become”. I must find the alienated parts f myself – the its – and re-own them into I. It’s hard to find a better summary, even to this day, of what psychotherapeutic shadow work is all about.

The approach we use in Integral Training (Wilber is here referring to the practices and therapeutic tools developed by the Integral Community, a term used to describe the researchers and practitioners who affiliate themselves with the general inclusive approach to consciousness studies pioneered by Ken Wilber) is not specifically Freudian or Jungian – we don’t use “psycho-dynamic” exactly as Freud did, and we don’t use “shadow” the way that Jung did – but I want to briefly touch bases with what that original psycho-dynamic research was doing, because that methodology itself is still as valid today as ever, even more so, now that it is rapidly being forgotten in the rush to take a pill instead (referring to the colonization of this field by the medical model of mental health), or try to meditate (by mindfully detaching) the shadow away, neither of which will get at it.

So let’s take a quick tour here, and I’ll share with you how we have updated this absolutely essential practice of finding, facing and re-owning the most feared and resisted aspects of ourselves…


There are a million interesting ways to go with the discussion, but I would like to emphasize just a few short summary points.

The essential discovery of Freud and an entire lineage of what might be called psycho-dynamic phenomenology is that certain experiential I-occasions can become you, he, she, them, it or its within my own I-space. Certain I-impulses can be dis-owned, and there is a felt resistance to re-owning these feelings (“All of psychoanalysis is built upon the fact of resistance”). In other words, feelings and resistance to feelings are the central realities here – they are 1st-person experiential realities about “I” and “it”, not theoretical speculations about egos and ids, whatever those are!

The discovery of this specific type of resistance to certain present feelings of my I-sense is indeed one of the great discoveries of the modern West. As we will continue to see, there really is nothing like this particular shadow-understanding anywhere else.

Around those experiential phenomena, various theoretical scaffoldings can be built. Freud of course, had his own theories about why his patients resisted their feelings. Today not many of his theoretical speculations hold up well (especially unfortunate being perhaps Freud’s emphasis on the causal role of sexual impulses and his woeful mis-understanding of female sexuality), but his theoretical speculations should not obscure the central experiential issue, which Freud absolutely nailed: I can deny my own feelings, impulses, thoughts and desires. There is a phenomenology about all of that – about how I resist my own feelings and deny my own self – a phenomenology that needs to be continually refined and included in any integral psychology.


“Not through introspection but only through history do we come to know ourselves”. This quote from Dilthey is a superb summary of the West’s second great contribution to self-understanding – namely; Genealogy (or historical consciousness), by whatever name. Freud is also in this general lineage. He points out that although we may discover shadow-resistance by introspecting in a certain way our own present experience, this gives way very soon to the further secrets unmasked by genealogy (i.e. the secrets of the memory of our life experiences to date).

Freud is only one of a very large number of Western researchers who attempted not only a phenomenology of present I-symptoms, but a rather extraordinary type of phenomenology of the early stages of I-development – the first weeks, months, and years of life. These investigators were looking at how these early stages of I-development might be conceptualized and researched from without, but also what they might feel like from within: how, in the early stages of the I, various aspects of my felt-I might actually be pushed away and denied – alienated, dissociated, broken, and fractured – leaving an entire developmental trail of tears. Viewed from without this is the standard, psycho-dynamic, developmental hierarchy of defences, which is certainly important (I have found the wonderful book Why Do I Do That by Joseph Burgo to be a fantastic practical introduction to the range of defence mechanisms that we all use in everyday life). But viewed from within, it is also the story of the self’s journey – the felt story of my I’s journey – it’s hopes and fears and self-contractions during the course of my I’s growth and development. To expand on that somewhat – from without, defences can indeed be conceptualized as a hierarchy of defences, running developmentally from fusion to splitting to dispacement to repression to inauthenticity to systematization and so on. But from within, this is felt as a threat zone, a defensive boundary that is experienced as fear, not as a hierarchy of defenses (this refers directly back to the fundamentals outlined in the opening section of this presentation). From within, the hierarchy of defences is just the many ways that fear can be felt, the many ways that I can contract in the face of that fear, and the many aspects of my felt-self that I can consequently deny, displace, repress, project, and alienate, resulting in psychological miscarriages, malformations, pain, and suffering.

Both of these views – from within and without – need to be kept in mind for an integral approach, and although few theorists would see it in exactly those terms, that development includes the essential inside story of the growth – and dysfunctions – of my “I”. The essential point here is that, especially in it’s early stages, the 1st-person I can be damaged, showing up later as 3rd-person symptoms and shadows within my 1st-person awareness.

This view of the early stages of I formation – this phenomenological history of the damaged-I (especially during the first few years of life) – is part of the entire movement to understand the shadow, to understand the shadow, to understand false consciousness in its many forms (and in this case, it is the shadow that is created in the history or the genealogy of my own self). This overall shadow-understanding is indeed one of the great contributions of Western psychology, a specific contribution we find nowhere else in the world.


Here is where the story collides with meditation and contemplation (specifically Wilber is referring largely to the various schools of mindfulness meditation where a stance of detached witnessing is taken as the key formal practice. The following discussion equally applies to the rapidly developing field of generic ‘mindfulness practices’ being applied by modern Western therapeutic practitioners). What those Western “shadow researchers” discovered, as we began to note, is that in the early stages of development, parts of the self (parts of the “I”) can be split off or dissociated, whereupon parts of the self appear as shadow and symptom, both of which are “its” (i.e. aspects of I appear as it). Once the repression occurs, it is still possible to experience the anger, but no longer the ownership of the anger.

The anger, starting as an “I”, is now an “it” in my awareness, and I can practice vipassana meditation (or any generic detached witnessing mindfulness meditation) on that it-anger as long as I want, where I use “bare attention” in my meditation and simply note that “there is anger arising, there is anger arising” – but all that will do is refine and heighten my awareness of anger as an it. Meditative and contemplative endeavours simply do not get at the original problem, which is that there is a fundamental ownership-boundary problem. Getting rid of the boundary, as meditation might, simply denies and suspends the problem on the plane that it is real. Painful experience has demonstrated time and again that meditation simply will not get at the original shadow, and can, in fact often exacerbate it.

Amidst all the wonderful benefits of meditation and contemplation, it is still hard to miss the fact that even long-time meditators still have considerable shadow elements (or put another way: deeply neurotic personalities!). And after 20 years of meditation, they still have those shadow elements. Maybe it is, as they claim, that they just haven’t meditated long enough. Perhaps another 20 years? Maybe it’s that meditation just doesn’t get at this problem…

Here is how general developmental theory conceptualises this important issue. Start with normal or healthy development. Robert Kegan, echoing developmentalists in general, has pointed out that the fundamental process of psychological development (or growth) itself can be stated as: the subject of one stage becomes the object of the subject of the next stage.

Thus, for example (and to speak in very generalized terms), if I am at a certain stage of development (Wilber has written extensively on what these ‘stages’ are and how they can be understood and defined. For the purpose of this piece standing alone I am not going to use standard Integral terminology here as it will confuse and obscure the main theme), that means my I – that my subject – is completely identified with that level (call it level 1 for simplicity), so much so that I cannot see the structures of level 1 as object, but instead use it as subject with which and through which I see the world. But when I move to the next stage (say level 2) then level 1 becomes an object in my awareness, which itself is now identified with the structures of level 2 – thus my level 2-subject now sees level 1-objects, but cannot itself be seen (i.e. level 2 is now the embedded unconscious of the self, as opposed to the submerged unconscious which refers to the denied and repressed material. The identification of these two distinct types of unconscious process are one of Wilbers great contributions: see The Atman Project)). If level 1 thoughts or impulses arise in my I-space, I will see them as the objects of my (now level 2) self. Thus, the subject of one stage becomes the object of the subject of the next stage, and that is indeed the fundamental process of developmental growth. As Gebser puts it, the self of one stage becomes the tool of the next.

As generically true as that is, it doesn’t yet tell the full story. That is a 3rd– person way of conceptualizing the process; but in direct 1st– person terms, it is not simply that the subject of one stage becomes the object of the subject at the next stage, but that the I of one stage becomes the me of the I of the next stage.

That is, with each stage of healthy I-development, 1st-person subjective becomes 1st-person objective (or possessive) in my I-space: “I” becomes “me” (or “mine”). The “level 1” subject becomes the object of the “level 2” subject, which in turn becomes the object of the “leve 3” subject and so on – but objects that are owned – not just “objects of a subject” but my objects of my subject (i.e., I becomes me or mine).

Thus for example, a person might say, “I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts, I have feelings but am not my feelings” – the person is no longer identified with them as a subject, but still owns them as an object – which is indeed healthy, because they are still owned as my “my thoughts”. That ownership is crucial. If I actually thought that the thoughts in my head were somebody else’s thoughts, that is not transcendence, but severe pathology. So healthy development is the conversion of 1st-person subjective (“I”) to 1st-person objective or possessive (“me” or “mine”) within the I-stream. This is the very form of healthy transcendence and transformation: the I of one stage becomes the me of the I of the next.


(This section is probably the most important of this whole chapter)

Whereas healthy development converts I into me, unhealthy development converts I into it. This is one of the most significant disclosures of this Integral approach. Those studying the psychology of meditation (again, including all mindfulness based paths) have long been aware of two important facts that appear completely contradictory. The first is that in meditation, the goal is to detach or dis-identify from whatever arises (this is indeed the very definition of mindfulness practice). Transcendence has long been defined as a process of dis-identification. And meditation students were actually taught to dis-identify with any I or me or mine that showed up.

But the second fact is that in pathology, there is a dis-identification or dissociation of parts of the self, so dis-identify is the problem, not the cure. So, should I identify with my anger, or dis-identify with it? (this is the million dollar question that Wilber has been driving towards!).

BOTH, but timing is crucial – developmental timing in this case. If my anger arises in awareness, and it is authentically experienced and owned as my anger, then the goal is to continue dis-identification (let go of the anger and the self experiencing it – thus converting that “I” into a “me”, which is healthy). But if my anger arises in awareness and is experienced as your anger or his anger or an it anger – but not my anger – the goal is to first identify with and re-own the anger (converting that 3rd-person “it anger” or “his anger” or “her anger” to 1st-person “my anger” – and REALLY own the bloody anger) – and then one can dis-identify with the anger and the self experiencing it (converting 1st-person subjective “I” into 1st-person objective “me” – which is the definition of healthy “transcend and include”). But if that re-ownership of the shadow is not first undertaken, then meditation on anger simply increases the alienation – meditation becomes “transcend and deny”, which is exactly the definition of pathological development.

This is why indeed even advanced meditators often have so much shadow material that just won’t seem to go away. And absolutely everyone can see it except them. The recent twist in the Oprahization of America is that meditation teachers get together and talk endlessly about all their shadow issues, demonstrating that they can bring enormous mindfulness to their shadows, just not cure them! (for more juicy polemic on the topic of what is going a bit wrong in the Western meditation culture I highly recommend Daniel Ingram’s “Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha”).

The point is that these two facts about “detachment” or “dis-identification” that were so puzzling can now be stated fairly succinctly: Healthy development converts I into me; pathological development converts I into it. The former is healthy dis-identification or healthy detachment or healthy transcendence, the latter is unhealthy dis-identification or pathological dissociation or pathological transcendence or repression.

It thus appears – if we may summarize the discussion this way – that healthy development and healthy transcendence are the same thing, since development is “transcend and include”. The subject of one stage becomes the object of the subject of the next , thus owning but transcending that subject, until – in an idealized sequence – all relative subjects and selves (i’e. all limited self-identifications) have been transcended and there is only the Pure Witness or the Pure Self, the empty opening in which Spirit speaks. (We will return to this more “spiritual” approach to the question of “who we really are” in the next section after we have finished Wilber’s presentation).

More specifically, we saw that in each stage of self development, the I of one stage becomes the me of the I of the next stage. As each I becomes the me, a new and higher I takes its place (for those sensitive to any mention of “higher” anything, the term higher is used simply to indicate that it is a more inclusive I), until there is only I-I, or the pure Witness, pure Self, Pure Spirit or Big Mind. When all the I’s have been converted to me’s experientially nothing but “I-I” remains (as Ramana Maharshi called it – the I that is aware of the I), the pure Witness that is never a seen object but always the pure Seer, the pure Atman that is no-atman, the pure self that is no-self. I becomes me until there is only I-I, and the entire manifest world is “mine” in I-I. (again many of these terms are from the Wisdom traditions and are used to point out what is meant by liberation, enlightenment, self-realization, god-consciousness etc., which are the end states of all the great meditative paths throughout human history, Wilber is attempting to demonstrate that the same fundamental framework applies to both Western conceptions of psychological growth and that found in the teachings of Enlightenment – This will be expanded on after we have finished Wilber’s chapter).

But at any point in that development, if aspects of the I are denied ownership, they appear as an it, and that is not transcendence, that is pathology. Denying ownership is not dis-identification but denial. It is trying to dis-identify with an impulse BEFORE ownership is acknowledged and felt, and that dis-ownership produces neurotic symptoms, not liberation. And once that prior dis-ownership has occurred, the dis-identification and detachment process of meditation will likely make it worse, but in any event will not get at the root cause.


Meditation, for all its wonders, cannot get directly at the original shadow damage, which is a boundary ownership problem (in terms of our fundamentals the boundary is the one between that which is identified as “I” and that which is “not I”, hopefully one can now see how crucial the issue of identity or “who am I?” is). In the course of development and transcendence, when the I of one stage becomes the me of the I of the next stage, if at any point in that ongoing sequence, aspects of the I are dis-identified with prematurely – as a defensive denial and dis-ownership and dissociation (which happens in the I before they become me, or truly transcended) -then they are split off from the I and appear as a “you” or even an “it” in my awareness (not as a me/mine in my awareness). Thus my object world contains two entirely different types of objects: those that were once owned correctly and those that were not.

And these two objects are phenomenologically indistinguishable. But one of these objects is actually a hidden subject, a hidden I, a sub-agency (or in progressed cases, a sub-personality) that was split off from my I, and thus that hidden-I can never be truly transcended because it is an unconscious identification or an unconscious attachment (it can never be truly transcended because it cannot become a me of my I, because my I no longer owns it). Thus when I witness this anger, it is your anger, or it-anger or his anger, but not my anger. This shadow-anger, which arises as an object like any other object in my awareness, is actually a hidden-subject that was split off, and simply witnessing it as an object again and again and again only reinforces the dissociation.

This shadow-anger is therefore a fixation that I will never be able to properly transcend. In order to transcend shadow-anger, that “it must first be made into an “I”, and then that “I” can become “me/mine”, or truly and actually dis-identified with, let go of, and transcended. Getting at this damage, and re-owning the dis-owned facets of the self, is the crux of therapy, and is a central part of any integral approach to psychology and spirituality.

This can be summarized very succinctly: dis-identifying with an owned self is transcendence, dis-identifying with a dis-owned self is double dissociation.

Meditation does both.


By way of a summary, I will walk through the dis-owning process one more time. If this is already clear to you, please forgive the repetition.

We began with anger as a sample shadow-impulse. The anger starts out as a 1st-person reality (my anger; I am angry, I have anger). For various reasons – fear, self-restrictions, super-ego judgements, past trauma, etc – I contract away from my anger and push it on the other side of the I-boundary, hoping thereby not to get punished for having this horrible emotion. “My anger” has now become “anger that I am looking at, or talking to, or experiencing, but it is not my anger!” In that moment of pushing away – that moment of resisting or contracting – in that moment of pushing away, 1st-person anger has become a 2nd-person presence in my own 1sr-person I-stream. If I push further, that anger becomes 3rd-person: I am no longer even on speaking terms with my own anger. I might still feel this anger somehow – I know somebody is angry as hell, but since it cannot be me, it must be you, or him, or her, or it. Come to think of it, John is always mad at me! Which is such a shame, since I myself never get angry at him, or at anybody really.

When I push the anger on the other side of my I-boundary, it appears as a 2nd– or 3rd-person feeling that is nonetheless still within my I-stream. I can still feel “his anger” or “her anger” or the “it anger”. If the projection actually worked, after all, I would never feel it again and I would not have any problems. I would throw the anger out, and that would be that. It would be like amputating a leg – it would be totally gone, and it would really work – painful as it might be, I’d actually get rid of the leg-anger. But I am connected to my projection by the secret ownership of the anger (it is not really an object but my own hidden subject). It would be like not cutting my leg off, just claiming that it is really your leg. It’s not my leg, it’s your leg! It’s not my anger it’s your anger! (now that’s a major dysfunction isn’t it?).

So the hidden attachment or hidden-subjective identity of the “other’s feeling” always connects the projection to its owner by a series of painful neurotic symptoms. Every time I push the anger on the other side of my I-boundary, what remains in its place on this side of the I-boundary is a painful symptom, a pretend lack of the alienated feeling that leaves, in its place, psychological pain. Subject has become shadow has become symptom.

So now we have dissociated or dis-owned anger within my own I-stream. This anger might indeed be projected onto others “out there”. Or it might be dissociated and projected into parts of my own psyche, or perhaps showing up as a monster in my dreams, a monster that always hates me and wants to kill me. And I wake up sweating from these nightmares.

Lets say that I’m doing a very sophisticated meditation practice such as Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana Buddhism), and I am working with “transmuting emotions”. This is a very powerful technique in which one contacts a present negative emotion, feels into it with ever present non-dual awareness and brilliant clarity (read: sustained and comprehensive mindfulness), and then allow the negative emotion to transmute into its corresponding transcendental wisdom.

So I start with my nightmare, and I notice that I have fear because of this monster. In the face of this monster, I feel a great deal of fear. So to transmute this emotion, I am instructed to feel into the fear, relax into the fear, and then let it uncoil and self-liberate into its corresponding wisdom of transparency.

Fine. Except that the fear itself is an inauthentic and false emotion (i.e. the product of repression), and transmuting inauthentic emotions not only presumes and reinforces the inauthenticity, it converts it into what might be called inauthentic wisdom, which is wisdom resting on a false base. And the repression is still in place! You haven’t done a thing for that. So each time you experience anger, it will be projected to create monsters all around you, which will bring up fear in you (which is really fear of your own anger, not fear of that monster), and you will get in touch with that fear and transmute that fear – NEVER getting at the real and authentic emotion of anger. You will own the inauthentic emotion of anger, not the authentic emotion of anger.


The therapeutic “3-2-1” process that Integral Institute has developed to help in these cases consists in turning those 3rd-person monsters (or “its”) back into 2nd-person dialogue voices (“you”) – which is very important – and then going even further and re-identifying with those voices as 1st-person realities that you re-own and re-inhabit using, at that point, “I” monologues not voice dialogues. You end up with, “I am a very angry monster that wants to kill you!!”

Doing so you are now in touch with an authentic emotion, and it is anger, not fear. Now you can practice transmuting emotions, and you will be transmuting authentic emotions, not inauthentic emotions (transmuting can be simply understood as the liberating insight of detached mindfulness “I have anger, but I am not that anger”). You will be moving 1st-person subjective into 1st-person objective/possessive – NOT into 2nd– or 3rd-person – and then you can let go of it, transmute it, or self-liberate it – and that is now true non-attachment and healthy dis-identification.

Doing so, you will have worked with the repression barrier that first converts anger into fear – and you will not simply do vipassana on fear, or witness fear, or dialogue with fear, or transmute fear, or take the role of fear, or directly experience fear – all of which seal the shadow and ensure that it will remain with you all the way to Enlightenment and beyond. Failing to work with the actual mechanism of dissociation (1 to 2 to 3) and therapeutic ownership (3 to 2 to 1), meditation becomes a way to get in touch with your infinite Self, while reinforcing inauthenticity in your everyday finite self, which has broken itself into fragments and projected some of them onto others, where there the disowned fragments hide, even from the sun of mindfulness, shadow-weeds in the basement that will sabotage every move you make from here to eternity….

That concludes Ken Wilber’s chapter on the Shadow and the Dis-owned Self. Plenty of food for thought I hope you’ll agree!

As promised within the above text we must now return to tie up how our analysis dovetails with the great Wisdom traditions. The following section is on the one hand ultra mystical, while simultaneously being almost too simple to grasp. It is absolutely not necessary to engage with the following ideas to benefit from the insights into identity and psychotherapeutic work that we have been focussing on thus far. Also, although mindfulness meditation practices were originally designed to lead to ultimate insights into the nature of reality, the myriad secondary benefits of engaging in these practices should not be dismissed. However for those who are interested in these things, please read on…


We began with the fundamental issue of who we think we are. We have traced, with Ken Wilber, the twists and turns, the pitfalls and triumphs of how we grow and develop by, on the one hand, realistically including more of our experience within our self-identity, and on the other hand, seeing that the very fact of ‘having’ it means that we cannot ‘be’ it.

Where does this all lead? Wilber’s work gives us a tantalising glimpse of a more radical solution to our identity issues, a view we mentioned in the opening section on fundamentals. A radically non-dual solution to the problems of a dualistic universe.

Returning to our list of ‘I am….’ that we started this essay with, we can see that the very first, primary thought which all the rest rely on is: ‘I am a body, in the world’. Do we dare to challenge this? Do we dare to consider the possibility that this too may be simply a thought and not a pre-given fact? And, pushing even further can we even challenge the root of it all – the thought ‘I AM’ itself? Who says ‘I am’? Must I not be already present to know ‘I am’. Who is it that knows ‘I am’? – Indeed WHO AM I?

Not just ‘What sort of person am I?’ which is what most people assume this question means but ‘Who or what is it that identifies myself as being a person.?’ – What makes me say ‘I am?’.

This line of enquiry is the one that all the great Sages of the worlds Wisdom traditions have taken. And they are in universal agreement as to what the answer to our question is. All of them in their own way, and rooted in their own traditions, when asked the question Who am I?, throw us back on ourselves with: ‘Find out to whom the question arises‘. Indeed one could say that this is the ultimate answer to any serious question. I do not want to make a long drawn out philosophical argument for this so let’s just let them speak for themselves and try to feel our way into what they are trying to tell us, and remember, although these words are attributed to various long dead, exotic sounding persons, they are actually words that you yourself wrote, to yourself, to remind you of who you really are…..

From Christianity:

Be still and know that I AM God

The Bible

I am that I AM

The Bible

As long as I am this or that, I am not all things


From Islam:

You are like a mirage in the desert, which the thirsty man thinks is water, but when he comes up to it he finds nothing. And where he thought he was, there he finds God.

The Koran

When a man is awakened, he melts and perishes


From Buddhism:

With the removal of the ‘I’ illusion…this one will act with utmost freedom, with fearlessness, like the Buddha himself, indeed as the One.

D.T. Suzuki

From Hinduism:

Where there are two there is fear


The trouble arises when one says, ‘I am this or that’. Be yourself, that is all

Ramana Maharshi

There is no one who does not say ‘I am’. The wrong knowledge of ‘I am the body’ is the cause of all the mischief. This wrong knowledge must go. That is realisation. Realisation is not the acquisition of anything new nor is it a new faculty. It is only removal of all camouflage. The ultimate truth is so simple. It is nothing more that being in the supreme state. This is all that needs to be said.

Ramana Maharshi

Arranging thoughts in the order of value, the ‘I-thought’ is the all important thought. Personality-idea or thought is also the root or stem of all other thoughts, since each idea or thought arises only as someone’s thought and is not known to exist independently of the ego. The ego therefore exhibits thought activity. The 2nd– and 3rd-persons do not appear except to the 1st-person. Therefore they arise only after the 1st-person appears. Trace then the ultimate cause of the ‘I’ or personality.

Ramana Maharshi

The final word goes to Nisargadatta, whose words awakened me to the possibility of the truth of all this…

You cannot possibly say that you are what you believe yourself to be! Your ideas about yourself change from day to day and from moment to moment. Your self-image is the most changeful thing you have. It is utterly vulnerable, at the mercy of a passer-by. A bereavement, the loss of a job, an insult, and your image of yourself, which you call your person, changes deeply. To know what you are, you must first investigate what you are not, you must watch yourself carefully, rejecting all that does not necessarily go with the basic fact ‘I am’. The ideas: I am born at a given place, at a given time, from my parents and now I am so-and-so, living at, married to, father of, employed by, and so on, are not inherent in the sense ‘I am’. Our usual attitude is of ‘I am this’. Separate consistently and perseveringly the ‘I am’ from ‘this’ or ‘that’ and try to feel what it means to BE, just to BE, without being ‘this’ or ‘that’. All our habits go against it and the task of fighting them is long and hard sometimes, but clear understanding helps a lot. The clearer you understand that on the level of mind you can be described in negative terms only, the quicker you will come to the end of your search and realize your limitless being.

Nisargadatta Maharaj

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