(A) Your Inner Child
You’ve witnessed it many times; perhaps, you’ve been the victim yourself; or even been the perpetrator of the crime: a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum in a supermarket after his mother had said, “No! You may not have another candy bar!” and the enraged reaction, “I hate you!!!” – accompanied by stomping feet, bitter tears and lashing out at her.
So, what, then, is your greatest strength, or your ultimate defense mechanism? Your ability to hate those who love you or your ability to love those who hate you? Are you most frequently like the two-year-old in the supermarket or the Galilean carpenter on the cross?
This is not just a question that individuals need to ask of themselves; it is an even more important question when asked by communities or by nations. I’m hard pressed to find any “Christian countries” or “Christian” political leaders who, in their international policies, have acted according to the “love those who hate you” principle. In fact, only two such “Christian” leaders spring to mind: Mahatma Gandhi – a Hindu; and the Dalai Lama – a Buddhist.
(B) From Pebbles to Earthquakes
All stones – from pebbles to rocks – cast into a still pond, will cause ripples even to the furthest shores. The amplitude of the ripple will diminish with distance but the wave itself won’t give up until it reaches terra firma. Even the water-probing proboscis of a thirsty butterfly will send shock waves, in perfectly concentric circles, over the whole lake.
When you scale that up, the results are enormous. The Andaman Islands tsunami of December 26, 2004 left 230,000 dead and another half a million people injured, as it spread its devastation east and west, north and south to the coasts of East Africa, India and Indonesia.
(C) The Human Tsunami
And that is how much power human energy can also have; whether it is conceived and nurtured in our thoughts, in our words or in our actions – all of which are simply different-sized stones. And the dropped stone always first affects those closest to the “drop site”; but, eventually, it will have consequences for everybody. Our dropped stones ripple out in space and in time; finally affecting every human being on the planet; and through them to countless generations yet to be born. Is it any wonder that Jesus warned, “you will be held accountable for every idle word?” He was not saying that God is some kind of a cosmic CPA but, rather, that we must exercise full awareness as we send our energy out into the cosmos.
And there are two kinds of “dropping the stone.” One is from outside and above. This is what happens through a colonizing force, whether that be a military occupation, economic enslavement or cultural conquest. Here, the serenity of the pond is shattered by “outsiders.” The second kind of “stone drop” is from inside and below – as was the 2004 tsunami. This is the result of corrupt corporations, bought-governments and a captured press. Here, the serenity of the pond is shattered by “insiders.”
(D) Developing a Personal Cosmology
Each one of us organizes our responses to life according to an internal philosophy. Unfortunately, this philosophy is acquired, mostly, unconsciously through the osmosis of family, friends, education, religion and the mass media. Were we to be raised in a different culture or family, our philosophy might sound significantly different; because the sad thing is that, while love comes instinctively to a child, prejudice and hatred have to be taught.
A second problem, apart from the fact that one’s philosophy is acquired unconsciously, is that – when we find ourselves in any situation – it is also accessed unconsciously. Most of us could not intelligently or comprehensively articulate what the elements and organization of our personal cosmology is; but each of us will think, say and do precisely what our (unconsciously acquired and unconsciously accessed) philosophy dictates. We always follow the program.
This is why the first steps towards enlightenment – according to the Masters – is to “come awake,” to stretch into awareness, to open our eyes to our innate super-consciousness – the divine program imprinted on each soul. And this program is simply, and complexly, the many faces of Love as it interfaces with the many facets of incarnation. Every virtue is the appropriate form of Love demanded by a different need. Plato said that virtue is “excellence at being human.” I would tweak that a little and say, “virtue is excellence at being divine in human form.” By contrast, every vice is the absence of the form of Love appropriate to the circumstances being encountered; or, to complement my Plato-expanded definition above, “every vice is a failure to act divinely whilst in human form.”
An adaptogen is any commodity that can configure its elements to address the needs of a situation. In medicine, the term is used to refer to a substance e.g., Ginseng, that can rearrange itself to identify, target and treat a disease. For example, anything that boosts the immune system – the body’s own healing cornucopia – will ipso facto act as an adaptogen.
In nature, water is, perhaps, the ultimate adaptogen. Not only will water find its way under, over, around or through any obstacle, but when it is “domesticated” and placed in a container, it will organize its shape to conform precisely to the inner contours, no matter how complex or irregular those contours may be.
In human relationships, the two greatest adaptogens are fear and love; they’ve never met a container to which they cannot conform, nor a situation which they are not able to conquer. Which brings me back to my original question: What is your greatest strength, or your ultimate defense mechanism? Your ability to hate those who love you or your ability to love those who hate you?
What happens, then, when love and fear confront each other? What happens when an irresistible force (love) meets an immoveable object (fear)? This battle of the Titans is the entire point, the raison d’être, the mission, the purpose of incarnation! Mostly, it looks as if fear (aka anger, greed, violence, war…) is winning the contest hands down. But that is a misreading of the data, because fear – intrinsically – is simply a misplaced form of love. Fear involves two missteps. Firstly, it is a succumbing to the illusion of separate identity: believing we are separate from God, separate from each other and separate from nature. And, secondly, then attempting to love, desperately, passionately and protectively this isolated, vulnerable, little self. Scaled up, xenophobic nationalism or fanatical fundamentalism is simply a group version of this lonely, fragile self.
Since, then, fear’s primary energy is that of love – albeit a deformed version of love – ultimately Love is the victor. Eventually, all forms of Love return to their Source, erasing any and all deformations in the process. Absence makes the heart grow fond, hence Jesus will famously say, “there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who do not need repentance.” A victory wrested from the jaws of death is the most satisfying win of all.
(F) The Secret
If bringing to super-conscious awareness our heretofore sub-conscious personal cosmology is part of the task of incarnation, how can we choose among the very many popularly-peddled philosophies clamoring for our attention? “Here is the kingdom!” “No!! Over here is the kingdom.” If, as each claims, we can only win heaven by adhering to its unique scriptural tradition; if we can only avoid eternal damnation by eschewing the “false” teachings of all the other “fake” scriptural traditions, are we then destined to stand immobilized or to drown in the cacophony of these competing “revelations?”
Gratefully, there are a few simple yet elegant orienting principles which can help us navigate these shark-infested ideological waters: Any system that depends on fear to win and hold adherents is not true revelation; any system whose members are cemented together by prejudice or xenophobia is not true revelation. When you meet a system with pithy mantras such as, “We are God’s chosen people”, “Outside the Catholic Church there is no redemption”, “You cannot be saved unless you accept Jesus as your personal savior”, “Mohammed is the Seal of the prophets,” smile compassionately and continue your search.
When you find a grandmother God, who is so enamored of Her offspring – all of them, from bodhisattvas to banana slugs – that She videotapes all of their escapades and stores them in Her Akashic Records, the better to educate them in the twists and turns of awakening to their own inner divinity, tarry there, weary traveler. You’re home!