On an overlanding tour with tourists some years ago I had a German doctor and his wife. From the beginning this doctor was “difficult”.
When somebody got sick on the way to Namibia, I stopped the truck and let the person vomit outside. The doctor complained. Why did we not have more facilities on the truck to deal with such events? Because we are a touring company, I thought by myself, and not a hospital on wheels.
At the Fish River Canyon we decided to walk to the bottom. Although the average rainfall of the area is around 14 mm, there were thunderclouds in the sky, and there was therefore a possibility of rain.
“Is it going to rain when we walk down?” the doctor asked. I explained to him what we could all observe: Rain in the area is a rare occurrence, but at that moment it was a real possibility.
“But is it going to rain?!” he asked impatiently.
“It is possible,” I explained, “and it is better we walk down prepared for rain, but of course, it might not rain.”
“But is it going to rain?!!” he asked again, this time overtly angry.
I lost it. “I told you as much as anybody can tell you: there is a possibility of rain! I am a tour guide, not a f&@#ng weather prophet!!”
My outburst seemed to help. He was not “difficult” anymore. Furthermore his beautiful wife’s proclivity to swimming in the nude was of tremendous help in letting me forget the incident!
The doctor’s “difficultness” was merely an extreme form of what all of us go through in one way or another: our mind needs to be in control, and we become resentful or stressed when we do not feel in control.
When Francis Bacon defined and explained what became known as the “scientific method” in the sixteenth century, he made it clear that the purpose of all science ultimately is to dominate and control nature. Seldom in the past has this intention been so clear as today. Not only has the funding of science shifted more and more from the State to the Private Sector, but today ever more evidence is emerging of how both governments and large corporations manipulate science in order to gain control of “health”, agriculture, and almost every other aspect of our lives.
Despite claims of “objectivity”, this often unconscious intention behind science has subverted it. Editors of prestigious medical journals such as Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine have openly stated that the medical science reported in those journals simply cannot be trusted anymore.
Before (and after) the emergence of modern science, the same attitude had been prevalent in religion: Genesis 1:28 in the Bible was interpreted as an instruction from God to dominate and control: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
The need to control is universal, and is probably one of the main reasons why so few of us are satisfied with what we have. Even the richest of the rich continually want more. Is it not because they experience their wealth as a means of being (feeling) in control? Certainly many governments are controlled to a considerable extent by wealthy individuals and corporations. The inevitable result is an ever increasing gap between rich and poor. According to the latest reports, 65 (sixty five) individuals now have half of the world’s wealth.
The irony is that the very success of the ultra rich is made possible by the need of the masses to feel in control.
Any belief in a God “out there” makes manipulation possible. The same applies to science. As long as “God” or the Bible or the Q’ran or Science or the government or whatever is perceived as the ultimate authority, there will always be people and institutions who claim to be speaking on behalf of that ultimate authority, with the sole purpose of manipulating others in their own interest. That happened with the church, and it is happening with science. “Scientifically proven” means about the same as “God says so”. Why? To feel in control.
There is an alternative. In all religions there have always been “mystics” who were truly interested in the nature of God (ultimate reality). In science there have always been scientists who effectively had and have exactly the same goal as religious “mystics”: to explore and discover the nature of ultimate reality. Einstein was probably one of the best examples.
Children are like that. From birth they are curious, and early childhood, when lived naturally, is one continuous joyful adventure of exploration and discovery. They want to know about everything they sense and experience, not in order to control, but simply because it is their inherent nature to do so.
Very soon their innate curiosity is dampened, squashed or killed. Our education system is aimed at telling them “how things are”, with the sole purpose of making them part of the “system”. What is the “system”? A huge societal impetus to control.
How do children respond?
They learn to control. They learn to pretend, in order to fit in with what they sense others expect of them. They stop asking meaningful questions, because they quickly learn that these are not appreciated. They want to be loved, and adapt their behaviour in order to get some approximation of the love they so deeply desire.
The problem is that they cannot get the love they desire, for the simple reason that control and love are opposites. Love is a spontaneous activity. The very essence of spontaneity is the lack of control!
What then, is the alternative?
Faith. Love is a form of faith. Not the “faith” in God that religion proclaims as a necessary precondition for access to “heaven” when we die. Such is not faith at all. Religious behaviour is never spontaneous. It is always aimed at being “good”, with the sole purpose of pleasing God in order to achieve the aim of happiness after death. Because the behaviour expected from us is so often different from what we (spontaneously) feel, it is pretense. What is this other than an attempt at control?
True faith is a deep trust in Life. Call it God if you want, or anything else. What is, is. Ultimately each one of us is a product of that Life. The logical conclusion is that, in order to trust Life, we have to trust ourselves.
Which leaves us with the question: Who am I?
Am I the random product of a materialistic process of evolution, which in turn is the random outcome of a “Big Bang”, whose origin nobody can really explain? In fact, what I experience as “I” according to this belief is merely a by product of a chemical process in my brain.
Some years ago, when confronted with the question why he was involved in match fixing, Hansie Cronjé responded with “the Devil made me do it”. In terms of our materialist belief system, could we all not similarly say, “My brain made me do it”, and thereby disclaim any responsibility for our lives? If Oscar Pretorius’ decision to shoot at whoever he thought was inside the bathroom was simply the result of a chemical process in his brain over which he by definition had no control, how could “he” be held responsible?
Surely, if “I”, in other words consciousness, is merely an effect of some chemistry in my brain cells, that would be the only logical conclusion? Can we not see the absurdity of it all?
Which leaves us with another question: Why not?
Let’s take science as an example again. The very essence of scientific discovery is to formulate hypotheses/theories and then to test these with the help of the scientific method. If the results agree with an hypothesis, the possibility of it being true remains and we experiment further. If not, the hypothesis is discarded. When numerous observations and experimental results seem to agree with an hypothesis, we call it a theory. The theory of evolution by natural selection is a good example. A theory always remains falsifiable. We can never say that a theory is absolutely true.
And yet we do. To most biologists today the theory of evolution by natural selection is absolutely true.
In science as it is supposed to be, any evidence that contradicts an hypothesis is taken seriously and explored further. In practice, when a scientist comes up with arguments or evidence that contradict a theory, that scientist is ridiculed, marginalized, refused publication and the like. The same happens in religion and other human endeavours. Why?
Because at a deep level we, or at least apparently most of us, are not interest in truth. We are interested in what will maintain our sense of identity, and therefore our feeling of being in control.
That’s our dilemma. As children we were interested in truth. As that natural interest was ignored, dismissed, denied and killed, we felt the need to protect ourselves by creating an image of ourselves that we thought would leave us feeling in control. And so we killed the faith – in Life and ourselves – that was a natural part of our being. And so it was that John Steinbeck wrote in Cannery Row:
“It has always seemed strange to me”, said Doc. “The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second”.
There seem to be two parts of us: who we really are, but have denied, and who we pretend to be and eventually believe we are. This is what A Course in Miracles, A Course of Love, Eckhart Tolle and many others call the ego.
The ego feels that it needs to manifest the “traits of success” in order to feel in control. In order to do so it has to deny the “traits of failure”. Yet if we were to describe ourselves as who we truly are, would we use the “traits of success” or the “traits of failure”?
And are the “traits of failure” not effectively the attributes of Love?
To have faith, and therefore love, we have to let go of control. We cannot have faith in the ego; only in who we truly are. To rediscover who we truly are, however, we first have to discover who we are not. That’s what A Course in Miracles is all about. Only then can we discover who we really are. That’s what A Course of Love is all about.
The famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung once said, “If you do not make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
The ego is unconscious. Becoming aware of the “traits of success” in ourselves, which generally directly contradict what we call “good”, is not easy. It means becoming vulnerable and admitting, at least to ourselves, what we have denied and suppressed from the day we were born: what Jung called the “Shadow”.
That’s why Jesus taught forgiveness and advised us to stop judging. Not just another “good” thing to do in order to please God, but the only way to the rediscovery of who we truly are: Love.
Only with that rediscovery can we truly have faith.
Filed under In the Light of Darkness