Robert Augustus Masters

Welcome to the personal blog of Robert Augustus Masters.

Schadenfreude: Finding Joy in the Misfortune of Others

  • September 3, 2017
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There’s a very common emotion for which there’s no word in English, an emotion that is all about deriving pleasure from others’ misfortune or suffering, especially when we think that they deserve it. This may not be the kind of emotion that we readily admit to having, but who among us hasn’t felt it to at least some degree?   When people who have done us harm or committed a crime are obviously suffering—having been “brought to justice”—we may feel justified in taking pleasure at their downfall and might even do so publicly. At other times, however, we may feel the same kind of pleasure over the suffering of others …..

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Birthing the Man

  • July 19, 2017
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(This prose-poem was to be a chapter in my book To Be a Man, but didn’t quite fit there.)   Some men, recoiling from hardness, get stuck in softness and excessive tolerance, drawing their flight from power ever inward, ever tighter, squeezing the power out of their breath and the heat out of their anger and the passion out of their lust, trading in their strength for approval and security and validation, again and again making nice or caving in to prove their harmlessness, confusing surrender with collapse and emotional flatness with equanimity. At times they obliquely potshot raw male power, smudging and judging its lyrics, turning away from its …..

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Taking the Suffering Out of Pain

  • April 28, 2017
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Whoever we are, wherever we are, there inevitably is pain — along with our strategies to numb, bypass, or otherwise get away from it, including through housing as much of it as possible in our shadow.   We may conceive of freedom as a pain-free domain, but real freedom is rooted not in being without pain, but in how we handle it, how we relate to it, how intimate with it we choose to become.   Yesterday’s pain may still be occupying us, and tomorrow’s pain too, together amplifying today’s pain. We don’t get what we want, and there’s pain; we get what we don’t want, and there’s pain; and …..

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Inside Our Inner Child

  • March 7, 2017
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    The concept of the inner child remains a popular one, having gone mainstream since the 1970s, along with various approaches to “inner child” work.   Though criticisms of such work abound (e.g., concerning the blaming of our parents for our current difficulties), it is here to stay, with approaches ranging from simplistic advice to just love your inner child to nuanced, transformative exploration of the conditioning that our inner child is but the presenting surface of.   So what is the inner child? First of all, it’s not an entity, an indwelling being, but rather an activity, a personified memory-saturated process, however much we might relate to it …..

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Here Dwell Dragons

  • January 24, 2017
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HERE DWELL DRAGONS TRAVELING, AND A DEEPER TRAVELING Komodo Island, early December 1973 I awaken just after dawn in a bony corner of the hut of the kepala desa (village head), surrounded by a chattering clump of staring children. Groggily, I remember my arrival here late last night by outrigger canoe from Labuan Badjo, a tiny port on the Indonesian island of Flores, fifteen miles east. After three weeks of very slow overland travel through Flores (five miles per hour was fast), here I am at last on Komodo Island, less than a speck on a South-East Asia map, and home to the Komodo Dragon, the world’s largest living lizard. …..

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Sacred Detox

  • January 1, 2017
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Learning to wake up and behave sanely when we’re immersed in the cauldrons of intense reactivity, or in the heatwaves of knee-buckling attraction, or in the chilly pits of industrial strength fear — hard learnings these are, asking much of us, but after a certain point what else is there really to do? How much longer will we keep cutting ourselves excessive slack? How much longer will we excuse our succumbing to the siren call of our habits? How much longer will we continue making a virtue out of distracting ourselves from our suffering? How much longer will we reinforce what is chaining or draining us? How much longer will …..

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Spiritual Dynamite

  • December 14, 2016
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  When the night pulled back the bedcovers And I sat knees-up ashaking Seeking a sign sublime My mind looking for the time My body athrob with an Eternal rhyme The windows did bulge with something unborn Something I could not name Something I could not contain   It is understatement in the extreme to say that spiritual opening is not necessarily a benign, nice, neat, or comfortable process. Initially we may flirt with spiritual opening, doing some meditation practices, reading spiritual or metaphysical literature, trying out different teachers and teachings, perhaps hoping that our spiritual experiences will make us happier or more successful, but when we go, or are …..

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What Do We Know About Knowing?

  • October 27, 2016
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What do we know about knowing? Much, much less than we think.   We do know something about certain functions of knowing, such as perception, and we have before us neuroscience’s latest findings about the brain, but we are still pretty much in the dark about the actual process of knowing, with our explanations only affirming and deepening the mystery of what knowing — especially conscious knowing — actually is.   And even when the lights go on, we are not any closer to knowing what knowing actually is. This, however, is not really a problem, but a massive clue — which I’ll detail after a bit more background.   …..

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What Does “Integral” Mean?

  • October 15, 2016
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“Integral” has become a loosely applied term, supplying a bit of respectable heft to otherwise pedestrian nouns, while sliding toward the once-was-fashionable cultural bin that has all but swallowed up and dumbed down such terms as “holistic.” However, this does not mean that we ought to dump “integral” as a term, but instead, for starters, define it as clearly as possible, both directly and through comparison with related terms.   And why? Because what it points to plays a very important role in dealing with and making significant sense, level upon level, out of the rampant self-fragmentation, divisiveness, and developmental dysfunction of our times.   As I use it, “integral” …..

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A Different Kind of Intimacy

  • September 11, 2016
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  Along a colorfully crowded sidewalk I walk, slowly. I feel both right here and all over the place. There’s a very subtle pleasure suffusing each step, starting in the center of my soles, spreading through my feet and up through my torso.   I have a growing sense that there’s nowhere in particular to go, no one in particular to be, no pull of any history. There’s a motiveless easing into now and a deeper now, step by step…   Abruptly but softly, there arises a feeling of unveiled communion with everyone I see. My heart and belly energetically butterfly open and my back softens and widens between my …..

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