(Carved in stone above the entrance of Apollo’s temple at Delphi)
Humanity has been marching in the parade of evolution that began some 40,000 years ago. We must have a pretty fair idea of who we are by now. Ha! Ha! Ha! Not even close. We could not be more clueless—science, biology, psychology and even evolution itself notwithstanding.
The march of humanity has a direction—but is it where we want to go—is it where we should be going? If we pay close attention to what is happening around us we will experience the answer to the questions posed above.
In the first book in this trilogy we learned that a paradigm shift is necessary to provide a supportive context and indeed that new narrative is necessary to create a new identity. This chapter has been advocating shifting from a false-self identity to a True-self identity. How is that accomplished and what do we need to look for in our everyday lives that might help us get moving in the right direction?
The mirror of our everyday experience reflects back to us the self-destructive image of our false self, but if we know what to look for it will also give us images of what the True self looks and feels like.
In the following parables, which are both personal examples and examples of what is happening in our society, we will see that the guidance is there if we are looking for it. One type of image we can look for is a reflection of the behavior that tends to alienate or separate us from nature. Secondly, we need to be aware of the influence of rapidly expanding technology and how we are using it in both healthy and unhealthy ways. And finally, we can be receptive to reflections of aspects of a larger paradigm that we may not be aware of or may not be affirmed by the very limited P-B definition of what is true and what is an illusion.
Let’s look in the mirror and what do we see? That’s me! Sorry bucko, look again. What we see is a reflection of our physical body. What we should see is a vehicle, an organism expressing indestructible energy, always changing and ephemeral, very, very ephemeral. What we see is not what we get so let’s dispense with the senses right off the bat—they are useless for the profound question that we are asking—namely, Who Am I?
Secondly, what we should be experiencing is a connection to all of Creation—a narrative where Oneness is the fundamental reality—not the self-destructive madness swirling about us every moment of every day. Is something wrong with this image that humanity has of itself. Oh my yes! What is it? Good question.
We submit the following evidence, both personal and cultural, in support of the perhaps seemingly outrageous claims that introduced this essay. Before we can see the True person in the mirror we must experience a profound shift in identity, one that contradicts the one given to us by our culture. When we can internalize the insight of Oneness then it will be our “feeling,” our heart, that will reflect back to us our True image. A personal story is appropriate at this point.
The Story of Schnapps
My first wife and I had a pet dachshund named Peppermint Schnapps, Schnapps for short. As those of you have been owned by a dachshund know, Schnapps had more of a flinty than a minty personality but we adored him anyway. Toward the end of his life, he developed a problem with his spine and his hind quarters were paralyzed. One day Schnapps was left in our unfinished basement while my wife ran an errand. Upon returning she found he had been dragging himself around on the concrete floor with his front legs and had worn a raw spot on his back thigh leaving a trail of blood. At that point the agonizing decision to put him down was unavoidable. We were both in pain, but she felt particularly sad about what had happened.
Months later, members of my wife’s Bridge group decided to go to the Temple of Harmony for a psychic reading. I ridiculed the whole idea and wondered why four intelligent women would waste an evening with a charlatan.
They decided to have a group reading. That meant they would all be in the room around a table with the psychic who would divide the hour among each of the four. When my wife’s turn came the psychic said there was a dog that wanted to communicate with her. The psychic related that the dog was sitting up next to a couch with his front paws on the couch dipping his nose between his paws. The psychic couldn’t have known what that meant but my wife did. She had taught Schnapps to “say his prayers.” The psychic said Schnapps wanted to tell her not to feel bad about how his life had ended.
Upon hearing the story of the reading it was as if my worldview and my identity had been thrown into limbo. It would take me years to reconstruct a new worldview and when I had finished it would be a much larger and a much richer paradigm. The shift had begun.
My next paradigm-shaking encounter was with Seth, the disembodied entity channeled by Jane Roberts. Her husband Rob recorded Seth’s words verbatim as he spoke through Jane. Again, my skepticism was evident as a friend handed me several of Roberts’ books and gushed about the quality of their content. Seth describes himself in the Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience as an “‘… energy personality essence that was no longer focused in physical form ….’ Seth said he is a ‘personality with a message’ and that his many lives on earth, male and female, had been to learn with the goal of being a teacher. His central message is that human beings create their own reality through thoughts and actions, and beliefs; in effect they are co-creators of the universe. Furthermore, each individual is a multidimensional being, existing simultaneously in multiple realities. There are no limits to the growth and development of the self.”
Being a ‘co-creator of the universe’ kind of stretched my self-concept a bit. Again, I had to grow into that identity over time but I was beginning to know what to look for as I searched for flesh and blood human beings to verify what these unconventional sources had said. They were not hard to find and the wisdom inherent in the teachings of the many mystics that I had encountered was impossible to ignore because it resonated with something deep within me.
Aldous Huxley identifies one of the problems of not recognizing the reflection in the mirror. “It is because we don’t know Who we are, because we are unaware that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us, that we behave in the generally silly, the often insane, the sometimes criminal ways that are characteristically human.”
We are all sabotaged by our own lack of awareness. In a fundamental way we are our own worst enemy when unconscious—and we are all, with few exceptions, woefully unconscious. Many of us know that going off to work without that wake-up cup of coffee would lead to a disastrous morning. We envy the “morning people” who hit the ground running, fully awake and alert doing their best work before noon. In truth all of us move through the entire day, day after day, in a semi-conscious state leaving a wake of pain and destruction. Why? Because our true self is unknown to most of us.
If we did have a True-self identity what would our behavior look like? Tony Schwartz in his book What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America gives us an idea. “In each case, I found that the way people define the nature of the self dictates how they envision the purpose of life. For some, the highest aspiration is self-improvement, for others it is self-discovery, and for others it is self-transcendence and selfless service.” Those in the latter group, when expressing compassion, are most likely to discover their True self.
Know thyself is indeed the imperative for humanity and always has been. If we don’t become conscious of how we are behaving and why, we will continue to live in the illusion that people and events in the outside world are creating our problems when in reality, we are the saboteur that keeps throwing the wooden shoe into the machinery of our lives.
In addition to the behavior of false-self projection, we have the malady of identifying with the mind. Roger Walsh describes this little-known but pervasive human behavior. “The most astounding thing for me—as I became more sensitive—was that the mind was totally out of control and I’d been totally unaware of this my whole life.”
The consequences of a false-self identity are alarming and universal in the global village today. Identification with the mind, the intellect, can lead to an obsession with technology. It is not technology that leads to self-destructive behaviors, of course, but what the false-self identity does or doesn’t do with it. Scott G. Owens, a professor of exercise science at the University of Mississippi co-authored an article in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. “When the Wii Fit was introduced in 2008, it targeted fitness instead of just entertainment. This caught our attention. Anything that comes out that might help kids be more physically active would be of interest to us.”
Sounds good, right! Hold on—not so fast! What behaviors will a child’s false-self identity create in relation to digital “exergames.” The Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston conducted a study and published the results in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Without going into the details of the study it involved 9- to 12-year-olds who did not have Nintendo’s Wii game console. Half the children were given the hardware and software for the physically demanding games and the other half the more passive popular games. Accelerometers measured physical activity over a period of 13 weeks. They found “no evidence that children receiving the active video games were more active in general, or at any time, than children receiving the inactive video games.”
Without a change of identity, improving our children’s health will not be so easy. Changing the sedentary behavior of Americans which is fundamental to solving our current health crisis will require a radical change in the American narrative which as we have learned determines the identity of the average American.
Once humanity abandoned the worldview of Oneness which was more prevalent in indigenous cultures we began to feel threatened by and began to isolate ourselves from nature. Not only do our children spend less time outdoors wielding rackets and bats on courts and playing fields but all of us spend less time outside and simply experiencing that which used to nurture our souls. Are we becoming alienated from nature, though we are an integral part of nature? Can we simply turn our backs on nature and find happiness on the couch as passive and remote observers?
Robins Again! Oh Good
In the spring of 2012 a pair of robins picked a stepladder leaning against my house on which to build their nest. This had happened before and I was excited about watching this miracle happen again. Back and forth they went gathering mud, sticks and grass in their beaks and placing it on the top rung of the ladder. When enough of the pliable material had been patiently assembled they would shape the nest. Climbing atop the clay-like mixture they would use their breast to give the nest a bowl shape. They would press their breasts into the malleable mixture and vibrate and rotate and vibrate—amazing!
The robin’s instinctual identity was perfect for their job. Hundreds of trips back and forth feeding the chicks and finally an empty nest as eventually the four chicks, ravenous and robust, took flight. I can never know what the experience of the birds was, but my experience, as they say, was priceless. I am a part of nature too and I am out everyday walking and watching, sniffing and listening. Take that away from me and I am diminished.
My grandchildren are active in outdoor and indoor sports, and have regular experiences outdoors in nature. In the future, that lifestyle and the accompanying identities may be the exception. The following technological development foreshadows such a future.
Diane Ackerman relates an experience similar to my story about the robins—but different. “One morning some birder pals and I spent an hour watching two great blue herons feed their five rowdy chicks … as mom and dad run relays, the chicks clack wildly like wooden castanets, beaks flying, pecking like speed typists. Sibling rivalry is rarely so explicit.
“The bird sanctuary offers a tapestry of trees, mallards, songbirds, red-tailed hawks, huge pileated woodpeckers and, of course, yellow-bellied sapsuckers.” All of us could have had Ackerman’s experience along with the other 1.5 million people watching the great blue heron because, you see, she wasn’t really there in the Sapsucker Woods in Ithaca, N.Y.
There were two live webcams affixed near the nest. In the future maybe billions of people will be satisfied with this kind of experience “in nature.” No driving long hours to get there, no mosquitoes, perspiration-soaked clothes or muddy boots.
What will be the effect on our mental health and our identity if our experience of nature is digital flat screen remote viewing rather than being there? “Richard Louv writes of widespread ‘nature-deficit disorder’ among children who mainly play indoors—something new in the history of humankind. He sees it leading to attention problems, obesity, depression and lack of creativity. Adults suffer equally. Patients with a view of trees heal faster than those forced to stare at city buildings.
“In studies conducted by Peter H. Kahn and his colleagues at the University of Washington, workers in windowless offices were given flat screen views of nature. They reaped the benefits of greater health, happiness and efficiency than those without virtual windows. But importantly, they weren’t as happy, healthy or creative as people given real windows with real views of nature.”
In the final analysis, how satisfied we are with our lives depends more on whether we are contained in a healthy narrative with a healthy identity than what the details of our connection with the world of form “out there” are. But it will always be a thrill to find that robin red breast has decided to set up housekeeping in my backyard.
References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry:
Where Am I? The First Great Question Concerning the Nature of Reality.
Simple Reality: The Key to Serenity and Survival.