THE ISLAND OF MY LIFE
An Original Work of Nonfiction
By: David G. Yurth
Copyright All Rights Reserved
Chapter Three – Sacred Questions
One of the great mysteries is whether or not our consciousness, spirit or soul is a product of our physical complexity or, on the other hand, whether individual consciousness precedes and defines the organization of our physical form and functions. Since the turf deal between Rene` Descartes and the Catholic Church 250 years ago, science has maintained that there is no such thing as a soul or spirit. The bedrock of the scientific method is that unless a phenomenon can be observed, independently replicated, quantified and rigorously reported to others, it simply does not exist. Accordingly, because scientists have not figured out how to ‘see’ and quantify the property of the dimension constituting ‘soul’, in science there is no such thing.
In the cultures of the West, matters related to the spiritual nature of man and the relationship between man and the Gods, have become the sole province of institutional religious consideration. That was the deal Descartes made with the Catholic church. The terms of that deal have become the legacy of the severely crippled scientific model we labor under today. Despite the arbitrary distinction between ‘spirit stuff’ and ‘physical stuff’ [that’s really what Descartes called it], it is now unmistakably clear that the terms of his deal are no longer tolerable.
Recently published books, articles, papers and documentary films provide startling evidence that not only does matter not create consciousness, but that our individual consciousness almost certainly pre-dates our current mortal experience. While the emerging body of carefully documented scientific evidence does not answer primary questions, such as
* Where do we come from? * Why are we here? * Where do we go when we die?
it does answer some of the derivative questions. In the annotated bibliography attached to the end of this book, I have supplied a long and definitive list of scientific evidence now publicly available which supports the hypothesis that at the core of our being, we are who we are before we come to this earth and after we leave it. It makes for fascinating reading.
The primary evidence of the validity of this conclusion has been cited in “Y-Bias & Angularity: Self-Organizing Criticality From the Zero Point to Infinity,” a scientific monograph co-authored by Donald E. Ayres et al. The manuscript in its entirety can be found on the web or on the website provided by the Nova Institute of Technology. The findings of this twenty-five-year research program can be summarized as follows:
* The universe is not a clockwork mechanism at any scale.
* Nature operates according to a set of simple, elegant, universally applicable rules which are consistent at all scales, from the Zero Point to the infinite expanses of the cosmos. These rules include:
1. Y-Bias effects,
2. Angularity, and
3. Self-organizing Criticality, as defined by
* Power laws – logarithmic relationships between similar events
* Punctuated equilibrium
* 1/ƒ Noise Thresholds [e.g., quantum dynamics]
* Fractal Geometries
* Fibonacci relationships
* There was no ‘Big Bang’ to mark the beginning of the universe. The universe is infinite, boundless and timeless. If a seminal, universal phenomenon did occur 15-20 billion years ago, it was almost certainly one of a series of similar, recurring phenomena of its type which have also occurred over the eons in the past and will eventually happen again. * The fundamental physical attributes upon which the standard physical model is based are not invariant at any scale, including:
1. Speed of Light [C] and photons generally 2. Mass 3. Gravitational Force 4. Electromagnetic Forces 5. Nuclear Forces 6. Time
* No field forces, including mass or time, exist prior to the local organization of the cosmos at the Zero Point. Rather, all field forces, mass and time are the products of scalar interactions of increasing complexity, which are occurring everywhere, all the time, in every address encompassed by the cosmos. * Non-local/non-linear field effects are complementary and operate contemporaneously everywhere local-linear field effects are found, at all scales. * The Physical Vacuum exists and evinces self-organizing criticality in measurable, quantifiable, replicable and reportable behaviors, attributes and effects. * The Zero Point is the gateway between the Physical Vacuum and the physical cosmos. The Zero Point is measurable, quantifiable, replicable and reportable in terms of its behaviors, attributes and effects.
At some point in our considerations, we are obliged to accommodate the effects exerted by the exercise of deliberate, conscious choice on the behaviors of material substances in nature [e.g., spoon bending, levitation, telekinesis, bending laser light, etc.]. That such phenomena have been rigorously observed, documented, repeated and independently validated by empirical methods is no longer arguable. However, the dynamics by which such interactions occur are simply not accommodated by today’s enlightened practice of Science.
At some point in our discussion, we are compelled to ask the fundamental question, the only one that really matters.
“Is consciousness, as reflected by Descartes’ Cogito, ergo sum, merely a manifestation of a sufficiently sophisticated complexity in matter, or does matter arise from a causal plain, a Source, such as the one described in the ancient Hindu book of verses known as the Vedas?”
This is not the question asked by science. Instead, science operates a priori on the premise that ‘physical stuff’ is, by definition, fundamentally distinct from what Descartes called “spirit stuff.” After four centuries of thinking and working in this way, we have inherited a deeply embedded cultural prejudice which altogether denies that physical stuff and the stuff of Consciousness are in any way related.
Before we can engage in this dialogue, it is appropriate to define our terms. As a matter of practicality, I have opted to define Consciousness in terms which attempt to embrace both scientific and metaphysical conceits. For the purposes of this discussion, Consciousness is defined as
“…an underlying, primary field comprised of undifferentiated information, characterized by infinite potential, operating in a manner which is self-referential and self-organizing in all-where/all-when and at all scales.”
In the language of the ancient Eastern traditions, this is referred to as the One. In the language of physics, it is referred to by Maxwell and Whittaker as the primary field of infinite scalar potential. In terms of our model of fine scale physical interactions, the Source is referred to as the Physical Vacuum. According to this physical model of Consciousness, consider the suggestion that
* Consciousness is speciated and individuated in the same way, according to the same organizing principles, as time, matter, light and all other aspects of Descartes’ ‘physical stuff’ found in the cosmos. * Consciousness is expressed in terms of non-local/non-linear attributes which couple with the local-linear physical aspects of physical reality via a set of known coupling constants.
If these findings approach a reasonable level of correctness, it is consistent to posit a number of interpretations based on them.
1. The universe we see is not similar in reality to the universe described by mainstream science, as found in the standard physical model. While the standard model can be relied on to describe some phenomena occurring above the fourth scale of organization, it is fundamentally limited by its reliance on a number of unsupportable and severely crippled presumptions. 2. The source of potential energy available in any locale in the cosmos from the Physical Vacuum, via the Zero Point, is accessible and absolutely unlimited. 3. Understanding how the fabric of nature is woven makes it possible to fully understand the derivative self-organizing effects defined as matter, energy, field effects and time by harnessing the principles embodied in self-organizing criticality, as they operate in the physical world, to create and deconstruct the cosmos, at every address, as part of an infinite, never-ending cycle.
What this suggests about the meaning of the life experience is profound. Taken altogether, the data we now have access to suggests that man’s place in the cosmos is intrinsic, integral and inextricably interwoven into the fabric of all of nature. Hard core scientific research conducted by scores of world class professionals all over the world during the past two centuries leads us to this inescapable conclusion. In scientific terms, the sub-set of the natural order of the universe we refer to as ‘humanity’ is the quintessence of an open, complex, self-organizing system. As Bak’s sand pile experiments amply demonstrate, all the rules applying to the behavior of such systems apply with equal cogency to everything intrinsic to the human experience.
Woundedness – the Chain of Pain
From the moment we come into this world until the instant we depart, the island of our life defines the way we perceive and interpret our experience. We are not simply an aggregation of sensory organs, reacting to stimuli of one kind or another. Indeed, we are sentient beings, irrepressibly compelled to attribute meaning to everything we experience, from the moment we are born until the instant we die. That is the way we are built. It is one of the things about the human condition and living on earth that we simply do not get to vote about.
We are born with only two naturally embedded fears – the fear of falling and the instinctive ‘fight or flight’ reaction that automatically kicks in when we hear loud noises. Every other fear is a product of the way we learn to interpret our experience. If we were to sit quietly, look inside and produce a complete list of all the things we fear, the list would be long. In fact, the longer we live, the longer the list becomes. One of our exercises for this segment involves making a list of the things we are afraid of.
Why this is so and what it means for the way we live is provocative. Without getting too far off the track, I think it makes sense for us to arrive at a consensus about why this is important before we spend more time considering how it effects us. We live on an island defined by opposites. Whether we think about them in relative or absolute terms, the fact of the matter is that the human condition can only exist in a narrowly defined set of conditions. Beyond the simplistic considerations for things such as up and down, hot and cold and other primary sensory factors, we can quickly drill down to a more meaningful set of apposite values.
For example, one of the immutable features found on our islands is the sensory array we call taste. Taste and smell are hardwired into our physicality, defined and bounded by the way our DNA is organized. We naturally prefer or reject some flavors and tastes – we don’t get to vote about this. While we can learn to accommodate flavors and tastes we naturally find objectionable by repetitive conditioning, scientific evidence suggests that no amount of training or conditioning can alter the preferences that are hardwired into the primary sensory apparatus.
I cannot eat liver, of any kind, prepared by any means. I remember the first time I put a piece of liver in my mouth. I was only three years old at the time, but I remember that event with vivid clarity. I automatically react the same way to all sorts of foods and smells – we all do. On the other hand, I remember with equal clarity the first time I smelled vanilla, tasted chocolate, and ate a piece of fresh raw tomato. We all have a similar set of experiences stored in our memories. It is interesting to note that as our physiognomy develops, our taste and smell preferences also change.
Our Perceptual Apparatus
At the core of our experience resides the pure, undiluted essence of who and what we are. Part of the wonderful paradox about this business of being alive is that we bring our primary essence, our identity, with us. We are who we are, in the most fundamental sense, before we arrive on the island of our life. In my writings, I have referred to this primal essence as the Ancient One.
While scientists have yet to develop a cogent conversation about this subject [much less come to any kind of consensus about it], humans have always known that we are far more than just our physicality. Religious traditions, rituals and the whole range of human evolutional cycles have all demonstrated our collective ‘knowing’ about this aspect of our nature. Because we are architected as we are, our pure essence is only able to experience life and attribute meaning to our experience in the context of the pre-defined structural elements comprising the way we are engineered.
If we are born male or female, our life experience is biased towards man-ness or woman-ness by definition. From the moment of the first primal pairing of the maternal and paternal chromosomes, this aspect of our life experience is pre-determined. Nothing we can do during our lifetime alters the original set of life-defining combinations found in our DNA. Trans-gendered humans who have undertaken to deliberately alter their physical appearance get as close as science and technology can achieve to altering this part of their island’s topology. Later on, we’ll take a closer look at what happens when emerging technologies make it possible for individuals to elect to alter the makeup of their own DNA, as a matter of conscious choice, after they have been born.
Gender characteristics hardwired into our DNA dramatically narrow the set of possible experiential options available to us. Indeed, the entire catalog of the inventory of human experiential options which are available for females is primarily distinct from those available to males. The range of options is further narrowed by a long list of fractally-defined features found on each of our islands. While we are all similar in fundamental ways that are beyond the scope of this discussion, we are also mutually exclusive and distinct as individuals. In science, understanding the dynamics associated with speciation and individuation has become one of the most exciting of all our current pursuits.
In this context, then, when gender is further bounded by the subsets of other circumstances found on our islands, by the time we actually pass through gestation and take our first independent breaths, the defining conditions that will determine the nature and quality of our life experience have already been immutably cast.
As we walk through this journey of discovery together, we will enjoy the opportunity to carefully assess some of these defining aspects of our lives. For now, let’s agree that in the early developmental stage of life, we quickly learn to recognize, differentiate and (with increasing facility) attribute meaning to our life experiences. The values we frame and subsequently adopt as ‘truth’; the preferences we learn to recognize and maintain; the ways we learn to attribute meaning to early life experiences, are all products of the interaction between the primary template of our physicality and the effects exerted on us while we are on the island of life.
Several factors operate together to create the way we think about ourselves during these early days. Infants are born with distinct personalities. They are entirely dependent on others for their comfort, well-being and survival. The architecture of an infant’s cognitive centers evolves in commonly observable stages. Anyone who has ever spent any intimate time with infants discovers that they are information sponges. As their eyes, ears and vocal apparatus begin to develop, they learn to recognize and begin to interpret all the sensory information contained in their little worlds. As their kinesthetic senses and physical equipment mature, they quickly evolve from nipple-sucking waste production machines to the most agile, mobile, inquisitive of all species found on earth.
For most infants, by the time they have reached three years, they exhibit well-defined and increasingly coherent personalities. Three-year-olds can walk and talk, perform increasingly complex kinesthetic functions and express personal preferences of all kinds. By three, children have already been imprinted by the language patterns that will permanently define the way they will thereafter think about their mortal experience. This is such a fundamental aspect of the way our lives operate that we can scarcely understand anything about how life works without considering it.
Children born without the ability to hear, who live beyond the age of five, exhibit fundamentally different life-time behaviors than others born in the same cultures under similar circumstances, with their auditory functions intact. This fascinating area of scientific investigation [among others] has taught us that language constitutes the primary controlling factor that determines how we apprehend and interpret all our life experiences.
Without language, we cannot engage in abstract thinking. It is language that facilitates our ability to engage in circumspection, to be aware of self and others, to express ideas that emerge from our experience. The ability to operate with fully integrated linguistic facility is so fundamental to our humanness that we cannot be fully integrated in any meaningful way without it.
Between the ages of two and five, the ability to speak, to accommodate and integrate linguistic patterning, emerges with full force. By the age of five most children are fully conversant with adults and each other. However, the ability to frame abstractions, including the ability to separate self from others on whom children are dependent evolves much more slowly. And this creates the first crucial set of circumstances during which original woundedness occurs.
Infants who are deprived of the basic essentials for well-being [food, physical contact, hygiene, physical comfort, safety, etc.] arrive at the point of abstract awareness with a severely biased set of perceptions. Because memory in humans is cached in our awareness in terms of emotional context and intensity, infants subjected to severe physical discomfort, conflict, malnutrition and neglect arrive at the age of five years with cognitive patterns that cannot, except in the rarest of cases, be effectively remediated. This kind of enculturated woundedness is blasted into the bedrock of their islands, distorting their earliest life experiences. The filter this kind of experience imposes on early consciousness significantly biases the way such children subsequently interpret the meaning of all their life experiences. Thereafter, everything that occurs in their lives is interpreted in terms of a baseline perceptual filter cast in the crucible of fear, pain, scarcity and desperation. This filter operates automatically in virtually all the populations of the world, including all of the industrialized nations.
In the 21st Century, three other crucial causal agents adversely influence early childhood development in ways that severely warp children’s apprehension, comprehension and interpretation of their early life experiences. Opiod addiction in the United States kills more than 70,000 people per year. A more astonishing statistic is the one that tells us how many children are born to mothers who are addicted to drugs of one kind or another, including alcohol, tobacco and a plethora of pharmaceuticals. Addicted mothers give birth to addicted babies, inflicting chemical devastation on every essential life function related to their growth and development.
Equally important is the recent recognition that the base of the food chain has now been so thoroughly contaminated by chemicals such as Glyphosate and other synthetic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, that the curve describing the increasing incidence of autism in new-borns has become parabolic. Virtually everything we eat, drink and are often compelled to breathe is contaminated with a plethora of horrific chemicals. They contaminate our dwellings, pollute the air we breathe and poison the environment to an extent that was absolutely unimaginable just 25 years ago.
Children discovered to be afflicted by various disorders comprising what is referred to as ‘the spectrum’ are perhaps even more limited in their capacity to participate in human discourse than those who suffer from what were earlier accepted to be statistically ‘normal’ incidences of birth defects and the ravages of diseases that damage our perceptual and interpretive apparatus.
And one more thing has come to impair the capacity of children who are born whole and normal. The use of disease prevention strategies, which have become irresistible instruments of public health and social engineering, is now known to inflict autism on children who are vaccinated with certain types of vaccines. The established scientific and governmental institutions of Mother Culture have thus far refused to accommodate the irresistible body of impeccably documented data which demonstrates that vaccines cause autism. Those who have persisted in preaching the gospel of enlightened and socially responsible science, who discover and cannot erase their understanding of the causes and consequences perpetrated on otherwise healthy children, and therefore on all the rest of us, are almost always ridiculed, ostracized, punished and sometimes killed by those who refuse to accept the facts. This, despite the fact that the Director of the Center For Disease Control and Prevention who diddled the statistics to perpetuate the use of harmful vaccines has now publicly admitted that he and other high level medical and scientific officers at CDCCP that they lied repeatedly to protect the interests of those who effectively control and determine public health policies and practices.
What this means for us and our best laid plans with respect to how we wish to live our lives and raise our families, is deeply troubling. Why this trend appears to be worsening is a conversation for another time. In the context of this discussion, the emergence of these effects and the way they invade our lives compels us to have a conversation about what we can and are willing to do about them.
On the other hand, children raised under more favorable circumstances are seen to thrive when language skills are added to their early life experiences. The fact that children can exercise conscious expression in the form of written and spoken language does not mean, however, that they are able to understand what their linguistic expressions or interpretations of experience really mean. Because we are driven by a primal need to understand everything, when a child is confronted by an experience that forces them to choose between their emerging sense of autonomy and their primal need for safety, the choice is inevitably recorded in their experience as a deeply disturbing capitulation to an irresistible requirement.
When we look at people whose lives seem to be driven by repeated patterns of dysfunction and distress [aren’t we all, at one time or another?], we eventually discover that all the attitudes, behaviors, values and interpretation of their life experiences are based on a single, overriding personal myth. In virtually all cases, we discover that this personal myth is the product of an early-stage, deeply emotional defining moment during which we were forced to sacrifice authenticity in order to obtain a measure of safety.
Even the best, most loving and attentive parents bring their own personal myths to bear on the way they nurture their children. And all children, including those born and nurtured in the most loving, compassionate, life-affirming families, fall prey to this syndrome. We believe, and emerging research data being gathered around the world suggests, that this experience is common to all infants, born into all cultures, irrespective of demographics. In short, it appears that the rite of passage from infancy to childhood is common to the human experience. Life happens in this way. And we do not get to vote about it.
By extension, this suggests that if we can understand how this personal myth is created, we may be able to develop technologies and techniques for reframing it, to provide ourselves and each other with a more integrated way to rewrite the story we tell about ourselves in a way that correctly, accurately portrays who and what we really are. In this context, if we can fundamentally redefine the perceptual filters that define the way we interpret our experience, we will have accomplished something miraculous. Here’s how we think it works.
During the 2-5 years of age window, infants begin to sense their uniqueness. Their wants, needs, preferences and predilections become increasingly self-evident and irresistible. Despite this emerging sense of personal distinctness, at this age we are still fundamentally dependent on others for virtually all the essential survival and well-being aspects of our lives. There inevitably comes a time when the emerging sense of self is brought to a point of conflict, when a choice has to be made between being safe and being authentic. When authenticity is sacrificed for the sake of survival, the emotional impact of that event is both profound and permanently embedded in our memory.
If you look back on the earliest days of your life, you may recall the point at which you became consciously aware of the distinction between what you were required to do as opposed to what you really wanted to do. The way you recall it, if you can voluntarily recall it at all [and hardly anyone can without competent facilitation], is in the context of a situation or series of events that were emotionally charged. In the early days, while we were learning how to facilitate reconnection with these memories, we believed the precipitating events were all catastrophic. However, after years of experimentation, we now see that while the emotional loading may appear to be significant to the infant, the outward appearances of it can be quite benign. Indeed, in many cases where we have worked with parents and their adult children in the same experiential environment, we have discovered that events which appeared catastrophic or life-altering to their children between the ages of 2 and 5 went completely unrecognized by their parents. They were interpreted by parents and older siblings in terms of life-as-usual.
A few examples may help you see how subtle and fundamental this process is.
* The Bicycle * Normandy Bombings * Perfect Parenting * Infant/Child Abuse
In each of these cases, while the particulars of the seminal events were unmistakably important to the development of the child’s image of self, the underlying dynamics were common to all of us. At some point, by some event, as children we become acutely aware that our survival, well-being and status are dependent on the seemingly capricious, arbitrary and unintelligible forebearance of those upon whom we are completely dependent. As children we are easily confused – we simply cannot make sense of the things we observe without having someone explain them to us. Abstract notions such as the concept of death are utterly meaningless to children at an early age. Art Linkletter’s wonderful program “The Things Kids Say,” illustrates how profound this inability to understand things can be to children. [Claudine’s Idea – Wheels on the Eiffel Tower]
Driven to choose between being safe, loved, fed, cared for and nurtured, or demonstrating our authentic feelings, the perceived threat attendant to exhibiting authenticity becomes sufficiently severe at some point to cause us to capitulate. In children, we observe persistence in their expressions of authenticity until they are forced by one means or another to capitulate to parental or societal controls. The process is painful, emotional and distressing to both parent and child. How it is handled is largely a matter of enculturated norms.
When this collision of control versus authenticity occurs, it is a powerful, watershed event that cannot be explained or understood by a child. A child cannot make sense out of this kind of confrontation in the context of the precipitating events because children of that age are fundamentally incapable of framing conceptual abstractions of this sort. A three year old cannot frame the concept “…do as I say or….” in a way that gives rise to the question, “when you treat me this way, does it mean….?” The abstractions that need to be clarified are core concepts, so key to our emerging sense of self, well-being and identity, that any interpretation given to this experience without this content cannot accurately reflect our core values or intentions.
So, if a child is punished because [for example] she will not do the cute little dance she made up for her mother, so an aunt or grandmother or neighbor can see how cute it is, what message does that communicate to the child? Any imaginable variation of this scenario produces the same proximate result. The child’s sense of well-being, its ability to rely on its parent for love and support, which has heretofore been given without condition, is now made subject to the additional condition of a selected behavior. Love and safety can no longer be relied on without conditions. Instead, they must be earned. And from the point of reference of the child, who is driven to understand and attribute meaning to all such things by their very nature, the explanation attributed to the experience can only be utterly simplistic. When capitulation is driven by shame, fear, punishment or ostracism, the simple explanation becomes both clear and cogent.
At this age, the child is fully capable of making the association between perceived cause and proximate effect. When required to behave in a certain way as a specific perceived condition of being loved [whether intended this way by the parent or not is irrelevant because the child cannot distinguish the difference between intention and perceived effect], children are irresistibly conditioned to behave in preferred ways. The process of defining, enforcing and reinforcing preferred behaviors is an intrinsic part of the process of enculturation. It happens by necessity. We don’t get to vote about it any more than we get to vote about the color of our skin. It doesn’t mean we have done something wrong – that’s just the way life is.
When children think about these episodes, because the scope of their experience is so limited, because their ability to conceptualize is limited, because their vocabulary is limited, the explanation about why it happens can only be framed in fundamentally limited ways. The newly emerging sense of self is so fragile and undifferentiated at this point that the only conceivable reason why such things occur is automatically attributed to the notion that something must be fundamentally wrong with us.
If nothing were wrong with us, so the reasoning goes, there would be no reason for the person(s) on whom we are totally reliant to suddenly, arbitrarily alter the conditions of our relationship. In our culture, particularly in the cultures of the West, this primal belief is so deeply enculturated in our sense of self that we have created the whole world to mirror this belief.
The personal myth, that people treat us the way they do because something is fundamentally wrong with us, has become the primary perceptual filter which defines how we attribute meaning to everything that happens to us for the remainder of our lives. The perception that people treat us the way they do is because something is fundamentally wrong with us, has become so deeply embedded in Mother Culture [Quinn] that we can scarcely imagine what life would be like without this concept. In fact, in the Japanese culture,
the notion of intrinsic shame is so powerfully woven into the fabric of the national psyche that it is not possible to be Japanese in any meaningful sense without it.
So we can be clear about why this is so important, we need to make certain we are in clear agreement about the semantic difference between shame and guilt. In the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, guilt is defined as:
1 : the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty; broadly : guilty conduct
2 a : the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously b : feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : SELF-REPROACH
3 : a feeling of culpability for offenses
Guilt is a state of regret resulting from the realization that we have, in one way or another, violated a commonly accepted rule of behavior. It is the product of something we have chosen to do or not do, as a matter of conscious volition.
On the other hand, shame is defined as follows:
1 : a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute : IGNOMINY
2 a : something that brings censure or reproach.
In our culture, the semantically loaded meaning of shame is that it is intrinsic, embedded, inextricable and immutable, despite anything we will ever be able to do. In this cultural view, shame cannot be expiated because it is has no cause – it is a socially enculturated judgment value based on the precept that something is fundamentally wrong with us, by virtue of our very nature. This ineffable ‘something wrong’ varies from culture to culture, but in all modern cultures the loaded meaning is the same. We are shameful, despite anything we have ever done, simply because we exist.
In this cultural view, which is now embraced by virtually all modern cultures around the world, the entire human species is viewed as a shameful expression of being, fallen from grace, sinful and flawed by nature, awful, disgraceful and repugnant. This perverse view of self has been perpetuated from generation to generation until the very structure of the languages we speak and the ways we relate to each other have become based solely on this severely flawed notion. The question of whether we come to live in congruity with this view, because it is automatically enculturated in us, or because we interpret our individual experience in terms of some common shame-based denominator, really doesn’t matter. Life does not have to be viewed this way. This notion is not correct because there is nothing innately wrong or shameful about any of us.
We have recently become aware that the surviving vestiges of some original cultures do not operate in this way. Instead of shame and conflict, original nomadic tribes of Southern Africa and Australia teach their children that they are wonderful, beautiful, luminous expressions of eternal divinity. When wrong-doing occurs, family members gather together for a special ceremony in which everyone in attendance is given the opportunity to recount everything the offender has ever done that was good and right and noble. The gathering is considered a celebration of the offender’s life and everything that is right about them. These gatherings sometimes go on for days without interruption. No punishment, no ostracism, no incarceration or negative judgment is imposed. The community and its culture recognize that life is precious, that we are magnificent expressions of eternal divinity. During our lifetimes, we sometimes forget who and what we are. In this societal view, it is the community’s responsibility to remind those who forget once in a while.
Gatherings such as this are rare because the members of these communities have no reason to break the rules governing their civil societies. Over the years, in experiential retreats and workshops, we have adapted this concept to support some of the healing work we do. It is such an unaccustomed, unusual and utterly foreign experience that for some seminar participants it is simply overwhelming. We are not accustomed to hearing people tell us what is right and lovely and commendable about us. We are not used to having people see us as other than flawed, shameful and lacking in some essential quality. The perceptual gap between the way others see what is right about us and our own wounded self-view is so stark that some simply cannot accommodate the process at all.
So, when we talk about healing woundedness, when we have a conversation about what woundedness is in the first place, we can truthfully claim to have some insight into its primal causes. When we talk about healing in this context, we are not talking about palliatives. There are no Band-Aids suitable for the kinds of wounds we are talking about. Anytime we give consideration to ‘primal’ causes, we tread on very thin ice. The temptation to engage in overreaching hubris is something to be feared in this case because no matter how well we may think we understand such things, one fundamental truth is always applicable. Life is a great, enduring, eternal mystery. What it is, how it works, where it comes from, what it means, is simply not known and may never be fully understood by mere mortals.
When we imagine we can penetrate to the heart of a deeply personal and mysterious issue such as this, we have to be exceeding careful. In this context, no one who pretends to know anything about this process can proceed with integrity unless and until they have walked the talk. The essence of this process is pure intention, devoid of expectation or the need for reciprocity, based on unconditional love, kindness and compassion. Few of us ever rise to this level of integrity or self-control, and that is one of the reasons why this work is so extraordinarily difficult.
My personal belief is that everyone is born with the latent capacity to live a fully actualized life. The ultimate paradox is that life in this dimension seems to operate in such a way as to make this almost impossible. What we are therefore attempting to accomplish here is to provide a broadly defined set of guidelines for self-actualization, which can be learned and applied one step at a time, one principle at a time, one person at a time. At a certain finite level, we understand why Mother Culture operates as it does. We understand how consciousness couples with our physicality to make us who we are. We know how the primary tension between actualizing our authenticity and surviving in the world skews our sense of self-value. And most importantly, we understand how to re-write the original screenplay that plays in the background theater of our unconscious minds. We have developed techniques, technologies, skills and contextual models that make it possible for each person to walk a path of fully integrated wholeness.
We do not have to see ourselves and each other as somehow intrinsically flawed, shameful or insufficient. We do not have to endlessly pursue energy-sucking strategies that rob vitality from each other to support our dysfunctional views of ourselves and each other. We do not have to spend our lives building masks and continually refashioning ourselves to appear acceptable to each other. We do not have to live in fear. Life does not have to be like this. We have the means at our disposal, right now, to change this aspect of everyone’s life experience. In order to do this, we are left no alternative but to ferret out our own dragons and alter the way we interpret our own life experiences.
This is not an exercise in changing our thinking, although the way we think about ourselves and each other will be irrevocably altered in the process. Rather, this is an exercise designed to alter the way we feel, about ourselves, each other, the world we live in and our reasons for being here together. In my way of thinking, in my heart of hearts, this is the most sacred undertaking any of us will ever pursue. It is sacred to me because of the things I have experienced while engaged in this work, for myself and others. After years of diligent, assiduous work, both intellectual and experiential, I can say without fear of contradiction that life is a sacred gift. For all of us who have been privileged to experience life in this plane, there are exponentially more who never get to come here.
Like others among us, I have been privileged from time to time to meet some of them. For those not fortunate enough to experience life in this physical dimension, we are their champions. While some will almost certainly disagree with this notion, I am content to know what I know without any need to argue the point with them. I am satisfied to let my own experience be what it is in this regard. At the risk of offending some, I am content to share this much with you. [Bagley Lodge, 1994]
When we plan our foray onto the sacred ground represented by the island of our lives, we should move carefully, thoughtfully, deliberately, making certain at all times to remember what we are trying to do. We recognize that we do not become actualized by moving the deck chairs around. Instead, our job is to reconstruct our sense of self. To do that, we need all the personal power we can muster. As the chapters of this book unfold, each subsequent set of exercises is designed to help us develop greater personal power and improved skills for focusing and managing it. As with any penetration to a deep, mysterious place, this excavation of self has been designed to allow us to proceed step by step, one level at a time. We can be safe in the process if we choose to move closer by degrees to the center of our own islands at our own pace.
What I do not want is for anyone who walks this walk to fall precipitously down into a well of despair and frustration, with a terminal impact at the bottom as the end result. We do this in our culture – if one pill is good, three pills are better. If one burger is good, three burgers are better. If one lover is good, more lovers is better. We are driven by an insatiable urge to get where we are going faster, stronger, higher, bigger, sooner. Inner work doesn’t operate this way. Gung-ho practitioners of the art of Yoga, particularly Tantric and Kundalini techniques, often find themselves prematurely involved in psychic, emotional or energetic realms for which they are entirely unprepared. Some I have known, who have pushed these boundaries too aggressively, have been prematurely, irrevocably damaged. This is not desirable and is entirely avoidable. No one can create safety for you but yourself. In this case, moderation, contemplation and deliberate, calculated action are the preferred rules of engagement.
While it is true that some aspects of our work together will require genuine courage, it is also true that no one’s interest is best served by making any important steps forward before mastering all the skills that come beforehand. In short, this exercise is not about getting anywhere. If you are alive, you are already here. Rather, it is about learning how to safely traverse the landscape of your island with a new set of eyes, with a new way of seeing and understanding the meaning of your life. Accordingly, what I want for all of us is to find ways to engage the trek through life as a process of personal fulfillment, satisfaction and joy. It is all about learning to move through the process of living life as a pursuit, as an exercise, as an undertaking in which we become increasingly powerful, conscious and actualized beings. This is what I want for myself and everyone who chooses to walk this path.