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Your Story – My Story

I was born sometime after the First World War, my birth occurred shortly before the Second World War began.  I call this your story as well as my story, because it is as certain as night follows day that you were born sometime after a war, and prior to the beginning of another war.

In my life the aftermath of the First World War surrounded me everywhere.  I knew people and family who had been involved in that war, and around me were the results of it.  One of the biggest results was that it shattered an old world order, yet what had been shattered was still struggling to exist or re-establish itself.  But then, the Second World War gave the old establishment fatal blows.

I remember as a young child that the night victory in Japan was announced thousands of people thronged the streets of London.  Walking with my family we passed St James’s Park.  In an enormous release of energy and tension the park was littered with couples having sex.  It was a scene that could never have occurred in the old order, riddled as it was with repression, class differences, and the huge separation between the monied and the working class.

A new world order fought to emerge amidst continuous bloody conflicts and political struggles for power and control.  The emergence has not been easy.  The psyche of individuals, the control of individuals, has been fought over by competing influences.  And we have managed to slowly grow in stature and awareness.

As with the emergence of anything new, old structures, old habits and systems have resisted change. I, like you, I am partly a product of my times.  As dearly as I would like to believe that my mind and opinions are my own, they are of course largely what I have inherited.  They have been shaped by the social structure in which I was born.  Without realising it I had inherited a way of life that I was largely unconscious of and took for granted.  As a child I was beaten by my teachers with canes as thick as walking sticks.  It is only looking back that I see I was part of a punitive society, and I was on the wrong end of the stick.  It was a society in which you either conformed or you were punished.  And that was how school children were trained – to conform.  The schooling for the children of the ruling class was completely different.  They were trained to wield the stick.

As a youth I realised that everybody dressed the same, everybody had the same haircut.  We had all been well trained to conform.

But change was coming, and sometimes it came from unexpected directions.  Our lands became multicultural in ways that we could never have visualised even a few generations beforehand.  And the influx was not simply in the presence of individuals from other cultures.  It was also in the music they brought, the food they introduced us to, their art and their way of life.  But perhaps more than anything else there was an influx of ideas, of new perspectives, of techniques and disciplines to do with the emergence of a new type of consciousness reaching us from the Far East.

Strangely, as I witnessed this, I could not understand why many Indians or Japanese knew little about what we were so hungry for.  But we were searching.  We were looking for something to release us from the chains we had been held by.  It was a search that those already born into those cultures did not share. They wanted what they thought we had, the goods of the world. But our search was for the fertiliser and nutrients that would enable us to grow beyond the limitations we had been bound by.

Even so it was not easy.  Essentially we were not looking for something that would re-establish old cultures, old ways of life, old tribal beliefs or patterns of behaviour. We didn’t completely know what we were looking for though.  We were searching for something we hadn’t known before, so were not clear about.  Therefore, many of us tried to adopt the eastern or ancient tribal methods without extracting their essence, without translating them into our present needs. As Jung points out, through a shallow imitation of such practices and ideas, Western man ‘abandons the one safe foundation of the Western mind and loses himself in a mist of words and ideas that could never have originated in European brains and can never be profitably grafted upon them’. He or she puts on an exterior behaviour that does not emerge out of our own being, is not an experience of our own nature, and does not expand upon our own innate potential.

Through that struggle of absorbing the new and extracting its essence many of us began to find a new awareness of ourselves and the world around us.  This wasn’t simply by accepting the words somebody else had spoken or written.  It wasn’t the learning of a new belief system that included such things as reincarnation, Karma and subtle bodies.  We didn’t immerse ourselves in those beliefs as one might take on a new religion.  We tested them critically in our own lives.  We delved into ourselves adapting age-old techniques to our present need and temperament.  And that progress is still under way.  But what it has given rise to is a new spirit of our times.  Emerging from it is a cutting perception, new tools of being, a vision that brings us into life not simply as manipulated individuals, conforming to the needs of commerce and politics, not simply following the fashions of sex or lifestyle.

A new type of human being is emerging.  A new man and a new woman are now among us.  I struggle with words to encompass who they are, but I will attempt it.

The new woman and the new man experience themselves differently.  Like us they are a human animal.  Like us they breathe, eat, defecate and reproduce.  But the way they deal with themselves, the way they meet their own thoughts and emotions, is different to many of the people we see around us.  They have developed a self-awareness which does not lose itself in their experience of thinking and emotions. Through long practice they have learned to categorise what they experience.  This is a thought; this is an emotion; this is a physical sensation; this is a sensory impression.  Mostly people identify totally with their body and what they think or feel.  Upon such identification whole nations go to war with other nations because of a difference of belief such as we see in politics and religion. Upon such identification people experience enormous stress, confusion, antagonism and all the many other ills that arise from identification with what are simply passing experiences. Through such identification advertising sways millions to become consumers of goods that are basically harmful chemicals.  Through such identifications people accept the production of goods that if they were personally involved in the production they would never use.  Who among you would personally torture thousands of animals to discover if the shampoo you are using will hurt your eyes?  Who of you would keep chickens in conditions that are nothing more than brutal torture?

But those are not the main issues relating to the men and women who are the Spirit of our Age.  The main issue is that through their development of self-awareness there has awoken in them a cutting perception of the religions, the politics, and the social order around them.  They easily move beyond the old limitations of creed, of skin colour, of national boundary, of political affiliation and social attitudes.  They live differently, they love differently, and their goals and aims are different.  They, and perhaps you are among them if you have walked that path of awareness, are the emerging new social order.  You are the Spirit of the Age.

You and I stand in the middle of a shattered old world order, and our mother the Earth that is being shattered. We are witnesses and participants in what is emerging. Our personal struggle is part of the great journey of humanity. What part are you going to play?

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved