I am currently reviewing the columns I wrote for The Meta Arts, an online magazine that flourished for a few years until one of the two principals got sick. I hope to put them together as a book, perhaps to be called “I, of my own knowledge.” Meanwhile, I keep finding pieces that seem very much to the point. As this one, in this dismal and disturbing political year.
Guidance, our society, and the gods
One of the most interesting talks I have had from the beings that I call The Guys Upstairs came in two long sessions on Thursday January 5, 2006. Here it is, slightly edited so that you can look over my shoulder, so to speak.
(8:30 a.m.) All right friends, I’m ready and willing. Who do I have the honor of speaking to today? Or, if you have no one special, I’ll choose.
You may find it easier to continue your long practice of addressing us as a group unless you wish any one of us, and receiving our communications the same way. We appeared this way for a reason. And perhaps this is as good a time as any to go into it a bit. The question of guidance from what you call “the other side” is not so much a complicated question as it is a tangled one. But we didn’t tangle it from over here! It got tangled because of the various competing or overlapping or antagonistic strands of culture on your end.
In the simplest situation, an isolated culture knows of no other ways of perceiving the world and has no competing ways within its own area and has no discordant tradition cutting against the prevailing ways. In such a society, all is consistency. All think alike, believe alike, perceive alike – and therefore it is not difficult for all to act alike. The next level up is a society in which any one of those elements is missing. The next up from that, a society with two missing.
First level, no neighbors with other ways. No conflict between tradition and new ways. No internal strife between competing elements each with its own traditions.
A society that is uniform within, and not conscious of any discord between its practice and that of its ancestors, may have neighbors with different ways. Such neighbors are regarded either with indifference and tolerance or with active hostility. Thus, the ancient Greek city-states. Thus, the Hebrew tribes, and Indian tribes, and tribes everywhere. We do not mean to over-simplify, because of course these societies had gradations – Greek city-states viewed other Greek states differently than they did non-Greeks; Mohammad distinguished between pagans and People of a Book. But as a simple distinction this will hold.
When such a society conquers another people, the conquered must be smoothly fitted into their own niche, or their very existence would shake that society. So, if the society has a niche for slaves, the newly entered may come in as slaves without disturbing anything – unless they maintain their identity in some way over and above being slaves. We suggest that here you will find the key to the function, plight and effect of the Jews as a people – especially when you compare them to “the Jews of Asia” – the Chinese communities within non-Chinese cultures. Without meaning to, without wanting to, without any say in the matter whatsoever, by their very presence as an unassimilated body within the simple social order, they are destructive to its simplicity. They push that society into a new stage of complexity that it may or may not be able to successfully achieve and maintain.
A society that comes to terms with a minority in its midst has gained an advantage in complexity to set against its disadvantage in loss of homogeneity. How each society deals with that new situation defines differences among them. One way to deal with it is to graft that presence onto the prevailing story the society tells itself. Jews in a Christian society are precursors of Christ; in a Muslim society, they are one of three communities descended from Abraham; in a secular society (the west, regardless of nominal allegiances, since the 1800s) a disturbing anomaly interfering with the myth of coherent nationhood.
Do you see, now, why so many societies are insane when they attempt to deal with minorities? They purge, they discriminated, they murder, they exile – why? For economic reasons? Hardly! For religious reasons? Seemingly so, often, but not really. For ideology’s sake? Even less likely. All this happens because the very presence of the minority stretches the culture, distorts it, makes it uncomfortable – seemingly endangers it. Thus, pogroms. Thus, mass murder.
Now add to the disturbing presence of external foreigners and internal foreigners the presence of a contradiction between present practice and tradition. The result is, for instance, 20th century America. This is far from the only example we might seek! But take it as an example and see if it does not well illustrate our point. America had foreigners of all kinds within its fold, but it incorporated them into its myth by thinking of itself as the melting pot. It had foreigners of all kinds outside its fold, but there was no way the foreigners could threaten militarily or economically or culturally. So the first crack in the seamless façade was the culture war between those wanting to change to other values and those seeking to retain current nominal values. Each side could claim legitimate descent from the past because of America’s revolutionary tradition – a sort of historic oxymoron. Neither one could be shrugged off as alien. The result is deadly warfare.
By necessity this outline glosses over many a complexity and many a difficulty. None the less, it holds, and offers you the key to your society’s problem. The problem is not how to remove one or the other set of proponents. The problem is not the return to simplicity, for a return never happens. The problem to be solved is how to move from one layer of simplicity through layers of complexity to a new, more sophisticated, simplicity. This is the puzzle your society has before it. You may solve it, you may not.
(10:10 a.m.) Friends?
We find it difficult to confine any discussion, as you well know. Every subject links up seamlessly with every other subject – in other words, just as, in a sense, there is only one person, so there is only one thought, only one perception, and that is – everything! This is the meaning of the Buddha’s admonition that every time you make a distinction you make an error. Not that no distinctions are to be perceived, but that no distinction is or ever could be absolute.
So – to move back toward the center of what we want to discuss – people perceive guidance differently because their cultural traditions describe it differently. In a homogenous culture the expectations are homogenous. The more complex and self-contradictory the culture – the more competing threads – the more diversity in understanding; the greater the number of images and concepts, many appearing to be entirely contradictory.
So, angels. Aliens. Saints. Past lives. Various archetypes. The collective unconscious. Power animals. The ancestors. Earth spirits – we could continue, but the point perhaps is made. We will make it more clearly:
Every society “creates” us in its own image. If it is a fragmented, self-warring society, then the gods are at war. If a powerful homogenous society concerned at most with the transgressions of individuals, this is what it will see on the other side. It isn’t a chaos over “here” – except in that it is chaos over “there.”
You are fighting over competing visions of what you call the afterlife, or the spiritual reality, or the other side, or heaven and hell, or nirvana, or even the energy of the great mindless machine – and you don’t see that you are grappling with your own contradictions in the only way you know – by projecting them onto us. Projecting in two senses of the term: projecting one’s inner stuff, and creating, of that projected material, shapes and beings.
So, if you project warring forces (and no reason you shouldn’t; anything that exists, exists on both sides of the veil) those warring forces will be seen as warring individuals, or groups, because it is too difficult psychologically for you to hold the view of abstracts. Thus the warfare of the good and bad angels. It is all projection: That does not mean it does not exist. It means, merely, you cannot see ultimates.
So – here is the point we wish to make at this time. Your quest to understand (and by “you” we mean all who read this, sharing the quest) is part of society’s work. You are doing invisible mental work that though invisible is not unreal or not important. It is real work and there are few enough to do it. Consider the work, if you will, to be that of creating and infusing with energy a visualization, a new archetype, a container. Your society is tearing itself apart because you are in the time of new birth. Aid that birth!
For clarity – “your society” may now be considered (for the first time in recorded history) all the sub-societies of the planet. You are in a global civilization. Is it a surprise that previous containers are not adequate?
Those who cannot create rely upon those who can. It requires much less to adhere to a new vision than to obtain and co-shape it. Your work is to help to shape the vision so that your fellows – many of whom will hate you for the work! – may benefit.
It is a great and rare privilege to participate in the coalescing of a new civilization; rarer to participate in a new form of civilization; rarest of all – your fate – to also participate in the coming to consciousness of a new way of being human.
So. This is a coherent place to pause. Type this in, send it off to the winds as before. And as always you have our thanks for participating in the work.
And you know you have mine; this greatly enriches my life.