There Is Work To Be Done

We Need to Clear out or Transform Old Social and Instinctive Patterns

Although we are now used to thinking of our body as an end result of evolutionary processes, we may seldom think of our mind or personality as also being shaped by evolution.

To explain what is meant it helps to think of something like the female pelvis and childbearing in terms of evolution. Not only has the female pelvis much enlarged compared with that of early primates, but also the upright posture has added complications of supporting the developing child, and maintaining circulation. The breasts have also enlarged as females maintained sexual availability throughout their actively sexual years. So present situations in the body have arisen from the past.

In terms of the mind and personality, early hunter gatherers had a very different mind-set than the present educated human adult. Nevertheless, just as early hominids started the move toward the erect posture, and so laid the foundations for present body form, so our ancient forebears laid a mental foundation for our psychological structure and patterns today. An obvious one is the terror of abandonment felt by children. This inbuilt emotional response is built upon millions of years during which abandonment meant death. To lose ones parents usually meant we faced death.
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Early tribal groups and hunter gatherers also started the process of electing or following a leader, a tendency still enormously potent in many modern people. During the development of such fundamental traits there was also the inclination in many groups to be ruled in a male dominated way.

But there are yet more subtle ways in which our forebears left their mark in our present personality or mind. Julian Jaynes in his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, or Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke in his book Cosmic Consciousness, both show how the human mind or personality has developed through various evolutionary stages to reach our modern perception of the world. Bucke breaks it down into three stages. These being Simple Consciousness such as an animal has, lacking any sense of self awareness: Self Consciousness such as most of us experience today, giving us a sense of being an independent and self aware person: Cosmic Consciousness, which brings to the person both a sense of personal identity, but also an aware connection of being an intrinsic part of the cosmos.

Both Jaynes and Bucke point out that the evolutionary shift in how the personality experiences itself, also radically shifts the way the person experiences and sees the world. For instance, children raised by animals instead of human parents, do not develop a sense of self. They have no self awareness, no sense of time, but exist instead in a feeling or awareness of connection with the natural world around them. See Animal Children. and Feral Children. Writing about such findings Dr. Jan Strydom & Susan du Plessis say that:

If one reads these stories, one simply has to agree with Ashley Montagu, who stated in his book On Being Human that being human is not a status with which, but to which, one is born. While every creature that is classified physically as man is thereby called Homo sapiens, no such creature is really human until it exhibits the behavior characteristics of a human being. He, however, adds that one cannot deny the status of being human to a newborn baby because it cannot talk, cannot walk erect or reveal any of the other behavior characteristics of human beings. The way in which he reconciles this apparent contradiction with his previous statement is by pointing to the promise the baby shows of being able to develop the behavior characteristics of human beings. The wonderful thing about a baby is its promise, not its performance — a promise that can only come true with the required help and assistance. The development of Homo sapiens, however great the promise might be, into a human being with behavior characteristics of human beings, requires more than just being kept alive physically. A child only becomes a human being thanks to education.
The essence of Montagu’s message is that being human must be learned. Viewed differently, it can be stated that there is nothing that any human being knows, or can do, that he has not learned. This of course excludes natural body functions, such as breathing, as well as the reflexes, for example the involuntary closing of the eye when an object approaches it. This is a characteristic, which very clearly distinguishes man from the animals. See: Right to Read.

What is not mentioned in this discussion, but hinted at in Bucke’s listing of the three states, is that the promise a baby has in becoming a human being, is shaped almost entirely by what is passed on to it by its parents, teachers and culture. This is an incredibly important point in considering the evolution of mind or personality. The new born baby, if raised by a wolf mother, becomes a wolf. It does not become a human person. If it is raised by a bear it becomes a bear. If it is raised by an ignorant and brutal mother and culture it becomes an ignorant and brutal person. If it is raised with love and nourished emotionally and intellectually, it becomes someone capable of love and high intelligence.

However, there is still something that is not said here. It is that as a human baby we are potentially anything, and being raised as a human being might be as limiting to our potential as being raised a wolf would be in regard to our potential to learn language. This may sound a silly idea, but if the baby were raised by a being superior to humans, the likelihood is that the baby would become a fuller type of being. In a fictional way, Robert Heinlein explores this in his book Stranger in a Strange Land.

The point being made is that what you are today is largely due not to some innate pattern within you, not to something that is intrinsically you, but to the shaping forces of the language you learned, the attitudes and mind-set, and to the viewpoints or worldview of the family and culture you were raised in. Of course, you are also dragging what we might call an ‘evolutionary tail’ with you – certain predispositions due to long exposure to the physical and social environment. But an enormous part of your nature is patterns of behaviour, viewpoints and responses to situations you absorbed in infancy and since. These were programmed in and can to some degree be programmed out. It is true to say you are a VICTIM of the culture you were raised in and suffer its crippling limitations.

Patterns such as intolerance of other human beings because of their skin colour, religion or opinions; going to war rather than confronting differences in a creative way; the desecration of our own host – the earth; the carrying forward of negative behavioural responses for generations – these are not patterns worth keeping. They need to be transformed.

When a person opens to and explores their innate potential, the process or processes that lie behind ones ability to grow beyond what one is at present capable of, often bring about a new condition, a new being. In fact the old myths of death and rebirth are very relevant in this. A new you emerges, sometimes uncomfortably due to the enormous changes incurred. And this appears to arise from the core of Life process itself. It is as if Life has a pattern it is expressing – a pattern that your conscious self was not aware of and had not the skill to imagine or create. I call this the New Pattern. It is something I sense is emerging in many people today. My speculation is that Life is already preparing many people for changes in the world that are developing beneath the surface of what we know and can observe. See Life Stream

I know this sounds as if what I am calling Life has a sort of fatherly eye on us and is offering an advanced pattern of human personality if we are willing to accept it. As far as I can gain insight into the process, it is more complex than that. Your conscious human personality is only a tiny part of your whole being. Consciousness is a fraction of your total self. Underneath that, spreading into areas of mind that are diffuse and universal, your personality connects with a much wider sentience. This collective unconscious, as Carl Jung called it, is constantly absorbing human experience. J. B. Priestley called it the White Flame of Life (See Priestley’s description). As far as I can understand, this core sentience learns. It constantly takes in the vast ocean of human experience and summarises it, as Priestly suggests. From this summary arises possibilities. In fact it is almost as if part of the action is a probability generator, a tendency to move toward emerging probabilities or trends. So the new pattern is possibly emerging from collective human experience, and the direction and vision emerging from that.

As far as personal experience is concerned, this new pattern comes about partly by a transformation of your old or present behaviour and responses. It comes through a healing of childhood trauma, a gradual entrance into your earliest memories and experiences in a process of re-evaluation and reprogramming. But it digs even further back than that, transforming the ancient heritage you carry with you; taking all the lessons you have gathered and finding their essential power relevant to today. The emergence of the new pattern is also a meeting with the many values, responses and needs we hold in our relationships with each other, and particularly with those we love deeply. In many cases it enters into the way you work, into the way you live your life and into your creativity and what you put out into the world and other people’s lives.

The new pattern emerges out of your relationship with your core, as explained above.

The Dark Mass of Negative Past we Carry Can Now be Dealt With

There have always been methods and pathways leading toward personal transformation. Although healing techniques have had a bias toward physical injuries and ills, they have also always included methods dealing with psychological ills and toward personal growth. In most cultures religion and its systems dealt with ways of dealing with the heavy load of darkness an individual might be carrying. In most societies, the move toward, or the search for what was called the ‘spiritual’ life was the pathway to such healing or change.

It is a generalisation, but in the past religious beliefs pointed followers away from the world, away from everyday life. There was an enormous motivation to leave behind the everyday, and enter a monastery, a convent, become a hermit, or renounce the world in some way. In the Christian tradition it was gradually taught that everyday life, sexuality, was sinful and in some way denied the person from transformation.

During the last century an enormous shift took place as these old values were re-examined and a whole new realm of experience discovered and explored. I am referring to the entrance into the unconscious through using dreams, psychoanalysis, psychoactive drugs, and new approaches to meditation and working with the body. This development of psychotherapy had never been a feature of past cultures. Nowhere in ancient texts can you find a description of dealing with the birth trauma during meditation or a spiritual experience. Nowhere can you find mention of healing childhood pains and cleaning the unconscious of its store of past darkness and family disfunction. Nowhere was there a mention of dealing with sexual abuse as a child.

What can be seen in the past was an attempt to escape from the pain of life, typified by Buddhism and Eastern mysticism. What can be seen is a symbolic approach to dealing with the need to cleanse and heal this swamp of internal sickness. Demons, angels, spirits, malformed animals and humans are mentioned again and again in connection with the spiritual path. Devils are met and done battle with – but these symbolic representations of inner conflict, guilt and trauma, were never picked apart to arrive at the here and now events of the person’s life. The events of the individuals life that had given rise to these internal horrors were never arrived at.

These techniques of psychotherapy, along with the willingness of Western people to face the real horrors of experience that lie in their past, rather than to simply do battle with them symbolically in the form of spirits and demons, or to develop a state of mind that simply blanked them out by denying personal existence, is a huge step forward in transforming us individually, and therefore transforming society and the world.

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Dream Jaguar – Artwork by Carlos Caban

In saying this I am not suggesting that any one school of thought, such as Freudian or Jungian, has in it the completeness that is emerging as Western thought and practice develops. Freud never really integrated the levels of awareness beyond the usual waking personality. He never acknowledged that the human personality emerges from something that existed before it – a core life process. It is what Jung called the Self. But Jung nowhere writes about dealing with infantile traumas, or the cleansing of the huge backlog of misery and inherited life lessons we all carry. It is only the emerging therapists, teachers and healers who are integrating the wide spectrum of human experience, and helping people to deal with it. In their own life they demonstrate the merging of the essence of East and West, the integration of the everyday with the transcendent core of their being. These are the true healers and social activists of our time. Quietly and persistently they are changing the world. See: Cultural Creatives and The Great Work.

In this new approach, nothing needs to be killed or denied. There is no attempt to kill the human personality, the sexual urges, or the dynamics of everyday existence. Instead everything is brought to the process of transformation. It is thereby uplifted and renewed. Strangely this is very much the message found in the New Testament where we are told to judge not, to turn the other cheek, to love all. If these are applied to our own inner multitude of drives, animal instincts and multiple personality traits, they are profoundly transforming. See Religion Society and Identity.

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved