Life without Grounding
“What I stand for is what I stand on.”
— Wendell Berry
Proceeding with the writings of this blog in a linear fashion, going from one entry to the next as if the present one follows the previous one does not work well with the imagination
we are attempting here. I am affected, greatly, by the comments made, for one thing, and feel it important to address some of those comments. For example, some readers get that
being present with the soul of America will, in some manner, involve developing a new capacity of ‘ceremony-consciousness’ — even living life as ceremony. However, a number of suggestions have
been made that attempt a return to something like Native American ceremony rather than a re-imagining ceremony in terms of our present circumstances and consciousness. We might imagine ceremony in this manner:
Ceremony — moving from task to task with a consciousness of belonging, as creature to Creator; feeling each encounter with others is a simple ceremony of approach, no matter how brief the terms of the transaction; every act as interior and very personal, done with faithfulness, yet not rigidly done so that it turns into lifeless form; when ceremony enters deeply into our desire, we become ceremony itself. Ceremony without intimate awareness and felt, is not only dead but deadening, and enacts harm. Ceremony now concerns patterns of intent rather than personal posture or formulae. They can even be imagined without any tangible form.
Later, specific ceremonies will be introduced…….but today, in this non-linear fashion of presenting, something else needs urgent attention.
When we try to live within an imagination of what has happened to this nation over the centuries of living without really being here as earth-beings, we only have to notice that what is now happening is the result
of living such a void and now coming to rapid culmination. We live, all of us, within fear — but a completely and utterly new kind of fear. This fear has attempted to enter before — at the time of Hitler. Now it has found a much easier way to enter.
A number of years ago, about seven, I think, I did a soul retreat in Denver on fear in which I introduced this new form of fear. Since then it has taken hold, completely. Here are a few notes from that soul retreat with a few comments, very few, to alert you to noticing what has happened to the soul of America — a direct result of abandoning the soul of this land from the beginning:
Spirituality and Fear
I do not want to speak of fear as an emotion or as a physical reaction of the body under a condition of threat, or of the many fears that each of us faces daily. Rather, we shall try and see how radically different this new fear is from what we usually consider as fear, and try to make sure that we do not put it back into old forms because the ways we worked with old forms of fear will not work here.
Fear is usually understood as a bodily response to a threat to our being. It can be a physical threat, but also a threat to our soul. If you become afraid of walking at night because you might be accosted, your body tenses up each time you have to go out at night. That is soul fear. If you are walking at night and are accosted by a thug who pulls a gun and threatens you, that is a physical fear you experience. You would feel shocked, anger, rapid heartbeat, sweating, and would become faint. We are very familiar with these kinds of fears, and the multitude of reasons we react in fear, but now fear has gone even further. Something is happening in the realm of fear that goes beyond the usual forms.
we are all now subjected to what seem to be overwhelming and constant fears from virtually everywhere. Just think of the strength of the presence of fear:
- energy crisis
- food contamination
- natural catastrophes and
The content of these and many other fears, you will say, is not much different than what has always brought fear to human beings. Something else, however, is happening. Along with the presence of a continual onslaught of these fears, there is also a collective denial that these fears exist at all. For example, that there is severe climate change has been consistently denied by the government and gosh knows what else is being hidden from us. At the same time, there is a manipulation of fear. We are made to fear when there is nothing apparent to be fearful of. Every mid to large city now has hundreds of video cameras all over town, as if living itself is under threat. Look at the behavior of our president, the way he presents fears and, in the next instant eradicates what he just said.
As a kind of symbol, a condensation of what we are going to be working with, the now famous and very great statement by Theodore Roosevelt comes to mind:
“ We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
I imagine he was saying in an explicit way that people would triumph in that war if they were not afraid. But, the statement, if we pay close attention to it can be heard as saying:
There are two kinds of fear – the usual sense of fear and now there is a totally new fear in the world, fear of fear itself. Do you see? The usual sense we have of fear is that we fear-something:
I am afraid of dying
I am afraid of losing my job
I am afraid of not having enough money
These senses of fear are very different than FEAR OF FEAR ITSELF. With the overwhelming presence of fear everywhere, fears about everything, coupled with a massive denial of fear brought about principally through excessive egotism coupled with rampant materialism produces fear of fear itself. Remember President Bush’s way of comforting us when the World Trade Center was hit by terrorists – “Get out and Shop; Go to Disneyland”. These words by our leadership express in condensed form the kind of confusion around fear that has the effect of immersing us in FEAR ITSELF because there is total and complete confusion on what to be afraid of.
Usual protective responses to fear are now immobilized. However, we need only ask, what happens when there is the presence of fear but we have lost the capacity to feel it. It is entirely too easy, and false, to say “well, if you don’t feel fear, there is no fear.” And, you might further say, “I have not lost the capacity to feel fear. If there is an announcement tomorrow that the bird flu has now actually arrived, that there is a pandemic, I will certainly feel fear.” You see, however, that with each presence of fear on this scale, there will be fear, while at the same time there will be something that negates that it is real. We will be told that there is a vaccine, or that it is only the old that are in danger, or that “we thought that it was coming, but it really didn’t get here”; or that, as with mad-cow disease, the matter is taken care of — until the next outbreak.” It is true – fear is just below the surface, and that is where it is kept while the rest of the process goes on, the process of keeping it close to the surface where it can eat away at our physical being by producing constant stress, where it can eat away at our soul being by producing an overall contraction of feeling life …. And most of all, where fear itself can produce a particular kind of dimming of the human spirit.
If we could feel the presence of Fear itself, we would live in a decidedly different way. We would not, for example, fight against the fear because we would realize that if you fight against this kind of fear it only increases the fear. We have a sense of this with the kind of collective fears we now face. If you fight against terrorism without fully realizing how it is a vehicle for Fear itself, then you increase the presence of fear itself. We have become a version of the terrorists ourselves the way we have approached terrorism. We are watched everywhere, each of us risks being accused of being a terrorist if we happen to carry a penknife onto a plane. Or, if you have a can of gasoline for your lawnmower, you could be stopped. And, we do not really know how many people have been gathered up, sequestered, questioned, had their phones tapped, been denied rights, have been exported – as countermeasures to the fear of terrorism which increase the presence of fear itself.
From a spiritual point of view, the situation of fear in the world is considerably different than we see it from a strictly ‘usual-consciousness’ point of view. In every spiritual practice, for ages, the presence of fear announces the onset of a movement of spiritualizing – either of individuals or of the world. The evolution of consciousness is not a smooth upward progression. Not by any means. There are gaps and there are regressions. What someone dedicated to spiritual development must above all learn to work with, to meet and encounter and not be taken over by, is fear. Fear can stop all spiritual progress. But it also is the great awakener to the possibility of a huge leap forward into new levels of spiritual awareness. Thus, these times of fear, from a spiritual point of view have to be hailed, and in some ways even welcomed. They signal the possibility, if we can find our way through fear, of the greatest spiritual awakening humankind has yet experienced. This knowledge makes it possible for us to meet whatever comes to us with a quite different sense than cowering and hiding and contracting. It makes us work to find the inner place both of strength and of love to assist in this great moment of shifting into a tremendous expansion of human awareness.
A Picture of How Fear Itself Looks and Works
One of the best pictures we have of the working of fear itself, not fear of this or fear of that, is the way in which the Nazi doctors who experimented on human beings lived. This story is well documented, with a very important understanding by the Yale Psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton, in his book, The Nazi Doctors. These doctors functioned under a situation of constant fear for years under Hitler’s National Socialism. At the same time, they were constantly told that they were chosen to do research that would undoubtedly save humanity. They lived constantly under this contradiction. They came to a point where they were unable to see anything wrong with the atrocities they performed each day. It was not, however, that these doctors were turned into cruel monsters, or even denied what they were doing. The effect on the doctors of living under contant fear unless they did exactly what they were told, coupled with their understanding of being heroes of humanity, was that two ego’s developed in these people, and these two egos existed and functioned alongside each other without any sense of conflict. These doctors’ sense of their self, on the one hand, was that they were humane physicians, working for the good of the country and for the good of humanity. They also considered themselves good husbands and fathers, were highly cultured in art and music and lived somewhat exemplary lives. Alongside this sense of ego-life, however, there was the doctor who performed atrocities on a daily basis on people. Torture, operations, infecting people were the order of the day, while dinner, dancing and the opera at night. Without any sense whatsoever of conflict or disparity between the two. Lifton terms the process by which the side-by-side ego’s develop, the process of Doubling. Comment: We now have a president who is completely doubled — and becomes increasingly incomprehensible, saying one thing, taking it away, saying the opposite; making fear, erasing it, without anything taking place in reality. Here is a news report concerning his behavior:
- Imagine Trump if he signs a huge tax cut into law, which seems likely, amid soaring stocks and rising economic growth.
- Imagine if Roy Moore wins in Alabama, which seems likely, too. It surely won’t humble Trump — or hem him in.
- He’s like the Incredible Hulk, after the media and Mueller made him mad.
We just witnessed the most unthinkable 96 hours of Trump’s reign:
- He called for a probe of the chairman of NBC News, a boycott of CNN, global skepticism of CNN International, and a public contest to crown the king of Fake News.
- He told friends that the “Access Hollywood” tape may have been doctored, and that former President Obama may have been born abroad.
- He re-tweeted conspiracy theorists.
- He unapologetically circulated videos aimed at demeaning an entire religion, Islam. He sent his press secretary out to argue it doesn’t matter if the tapes are fake, because the threat is real.
Be smart: Elected Republicans, at least in public, seem fine with it all. They chuckle and say it’s simply Trump being Trump. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and his staff seem fine with, or at least resigned to, this reality. No one who matters is doing anything but egging him on.
- Case in point: Amid all of this, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) calls Trump “one of the best presidents I’ve served under.”
- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) gushed that he’s never seen Trump in finer form than digging into the tax bill this week.
Comment. Notice here that those who have opposed the behavior of the president are now condoning it — indicating that a doubling of the whole of Congress is now taking place — for the sake of political survival and for the sake of power.
Doubling, then, occurs when there is constant fear while there are also conditions that not only deny the fear exists but build up a completely different sense of self than the sense of self under fear. Doubling consists of the forming of a false self alongside the individual self, a self that completely follows outside directions, without, however, knowing that it is doing so. The more that fear intensifies in the world, the greater the possibility that wide-scale doubling will occur without our recognition of it. We do not recognize doubling, first, because it is a spiritual pathology rather than a psychological pathology. The individual spirit is usurped. Second, we do not recognize the syndrome because it is characterized by an increase in cleverness and capacities for lying. Doubling brings about more effectiveness in functional behavior concerned with survival, and the capacity of conscience is completely debilitated. Those who experience doubling do not suffer, but it brings terrible suffering to other individuals, institutions, and culture.
Doubling is, in fact, the incarnating of Fear Itself. That is to say, when people live under a constant ongoing state of fears of every sort, but the constant presence of fear is, on the one hand denied and covered over by an emphasis on every sort of materialism as a way of masking fear, and on the other hand the presence of fear comes out every so often in increasingly strong ways that bring about soul and body contraction — that if people live under these circumstances they begin to lose the sense of their individual spirit-being. We know of course that when people live under constant fear, they begin to be completely compliant. For example, people who work in sweat shops for terrible wages, and are every moment afraid of being fired and live under constant fear of not having food, clothing, shelter, become compliant and lose individuality. But, the kind of fear I am describing is one step beyond that because doubling produces a false sense of being perfectly alright. In fact, doubling brings about a sense that one is a very powerful human being. And, doubling usually brings the possibility of having power over others.
We all have a sense of two ego’s. Typically, in spiritual circles these days, a sense of two ego’s is spoken of as our lower ego and our higher ego, our lower self and our higher self. And, our spiritual ideal is supposed to be to develop from lower ego to higher ego. In fact, they are both always present. Our usual sense of ego is our self-identity, who we imagine ourselves to be, which is more a less the accumulation of our history. Thus, when someone asks you to describe yourself, you will usually say something of your history – when and where you were born, where you grew up, went to school, went to college, what you like, and so on. The sense of the higher ego concerns our spiritual being and aspirations and openness to spiritual beings and to the spiritual worlds. Seldom does anyone “leave” the lower ego and live only in the higher sense of ego. We feel both. But, we also know the difference. When fear occurs in the manner that I have described, the possibility of becoming aware of and of developing a higher sense of self disappears. It is, in effect, replaced.
It is entirely too abstract to simply speak of the higher self. We need to have a clear understanding and description of what this is. This part of our being, what some speak of as the ‘superconscious’ is not conscious without the inner effort of development. We are not conscious of our spirit-individuality. Thus, we are very subject to having this central aspect of our being slowly eroded without having much more than a vague sense that something is wrong. We only feel that we have not found our destiny; we do not know what it is, nor how to look for it. We feel a vague, though sometimes sharp feeling of longing for something more in life. And, we have the sense that we want to feel close to spiritual realities, including the spiritual reality of our own being. We feel helped, perhaps, but not fully satisfied with religion as being the source of this inner knowledge and feeling. And, if we are under a state of constant fear, while we might at first seek spiritual help, if the situation of fear does not ease, we begin to lose the sense that there is within us a spiritual center of our being that cannot be touched by any threat at all, no matter how intense or what the source might be. Fear begins to take us over.
If you have had moments of experiencing your higher-self, your true spirit –individuality, it is something quite astounding. It is like entering a vast loving resource that makes itself known to you through immediacy and intimacy of contact. It is not something that you know about, because your spirit being is your inner holy sanctum, the holy of holies. Sometimes, church can help bring us to those moments, but without the effort of inner development we cannot stay in touch with this dimension of our being.
It is imperative to recognize the consequences of, first, failing to come to be able to experience the core spirit-individuality that we are, and even more, to have this eroded without our being very aware that this is happening. Doubling is now a rampant spiritual pathology in our culture. It consists of cleverness taking the place of creativity; incredibly cruelty taking the place of selflessness; complete self-centeredness taking the place of community, and force taking the place of true inner power and authority.
We see this kind of spirit pathology taking place with many corporate leaders, politicians, heads of state. When we look at these people, it is easy to see that the person is ‘not there’, that something has usurped the very core of their being. This pathology cannot be accounted for nor understood by any current psychology because it is not about psychology; it is about the spirit, about spirit without entwining with Earth.