The Futility of Heroism

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The idea of the Hero is a misunderstood notion occluded with a hidden deception – a power and revenge fantasy that requires one to hope and wait for the arrival of a savior to solve one’s problems. Thus the arrival of a hero implies and reinforces the enslavement and powerlessness of the saved – instead of one requiring to take self-directed action to assist and support one’s self.

Have you noticed Hollywood’s endless dedication to the superhero blockbuster movie over the past 20 years? Time for another Avengers movie. Soon, Star Wars and a Superman – Batman film coming down the pike. It seems the continuous recycling of cinematic renditions of  extraordinary beings is perhaps the safest bet for making a huge profit in the movie industry today, in so much that it has successfully tapped into the mass psychology of the American public, who generally feel more disempowered, alienated  and disconnected from having to exist within a world of constant existential anxiety. The meaning of the superhero offers much cathartic relief, if for a moment.

I voraciously consumed comic book and their stories of superheroes as a child, although as I became older, I found myself more fascinated by the various artists like Neal Adams, Gil Kane and Jim Aparo who drew the comics than being fascinated by the exploits of the superheroes themselves. Being a comic book artist at one time seemed like a fun and interesting way to make a living, so I thought at the time. When the first superhero movies began to appear in major Hollywood blockbuster fashion such as the Superman, Batman and Spider-Man movies of the past 20 years or so, I saw that there existed definite problems in translating the genre into film. The ideas of grown men donning these costumes and using violence against others to solve problems were… it must be said, kinda silly.

However, all people have an ancient, built-in tuner for a good story. Especially if it features a good hero-figure. From Gilgamesh to Krishna to Hercules to Jesus Christ, the tale of the hero always seems to satisfy that emptiness inside us that we desperately want to fill in with the hope that things will turn out okay for us. Or at least that someone, something or somehow or someway – things will work out. The hero is the anthropomorphic stand-in for our hopes and dreams being fulfilled by something that must always exist outside of us. But this embodied figure of hope – as typified as the “hero,” is based on the cruelest of self-delusions, because to give into such a fantasy, one has to abandon the center of power within one’s self. One has to become enslaved to the idea of being saved by a savior.

The Hero can be described as a figure who swoops in unexpectedly armed with the ability to solve another’s problem. Some believe that the Hero is a figure that possesses supernal qualities or gifts that normal people don’t possess. In ancient Greece, ancestral worship may have given rise to the phenomenon of the hero cult. The Athenian legislator Draco (c. 600 BCE) introduced a written code of laws to replace the tradition of oral law to be used in court. Due to the severe and harsh nature of the laws he authored, for instance, the theft of a single head of cabbage could result in death penalty for the thief) the term “draconian” has been passed down to us to describe such unforgiving and extremely punitive legal qualities. However, one of Draco’s strictures was the official establishment of hero-cult worship in Athens. The most important thing about the hero was not so much of how he or she lived, but rather in the hero’s death. Thus ancient hero shrines were erected that were venerated and thought to provide supernatural protection to the local community of worshippers. There is a reason why this fascination of the hero exists: people have no faith within themselves to face life and overcome challenges that confront them.  They would rather wait and hope for deliverance from another.

Not all challenges are created equal, however. Most people in the world believe that all they have to hold onto is a belief and a hope for something better will come along, or that somehow “things will work out” on their own, or someone or some God will deliver them out of their problems. It is certainly understandable. And it is certainly understandable that most people in the world have suffer at such an unbearable level of pain, despair and anxiety that even all hope for something better is driven out of them. But for those who are stable enough to carry on, the lure of the arrival of the hero is an intoxicating delusion that only fuels self-suppression and fantasies of revenge.

This fantasy of revenge is seen very clearly in religious dramas and doctrine. I had a hard time understanding why it was so easy for modern-day African Americans to continue to follow the Christian religion, which according to my sensibilities is the official religion of the legacy of White European slave trade. The answer came to me while reading Flannery O’Connor’s novella Wise Blood, where the protagonist Hazel Motes in public preaching display of defiance in his utter rejection of his traumatic Christian upbringing , repeatedly spits out this scornful declaration: “Jesus is just a trick on niggers.” It is an extremely cultural loaded throwaway line that at first glance sounds like racist nihilism, but reveals the genius of O’Connor’s understanding of the demented religious ethos of the Southern gothic, for within it there exists the key in understanding the religious methodology of one race subjugating another via Christian mind control by instilling a hopeless revenge fantasy of divine proportions, endless versions which I heard repeatedly as a child through endless Sunday sermons –  how “the first will be the last” and how God’s Justice will descend on the evil-doers (code for the White man generally) and reward His faithful followers (and servants). It is telling that despite the precipitous decline of religious affiliation in America (as reported by the latest Pew study), Christianity still enjoys a strong and consistent support among African-Americans. It isn’t surprising. Historically, preaching the Gospel was one of a few occupations African-American men were allowed to have.

In this reading, God is the Ultimate “Hero.” But in order to accept the savior, first you have to accept your suffering, enslavement, powerlessness and repression indefinitely in this life before you can attain cosmic, Heavenly peace in the after-life. You have to die first before you can be redeemed. One must always await the arrival of the Hero (Christians have been waiting in vain for over 2000 years) – which is to say – one must always seek first the Kingdom of Righteousness and Glory in one’s powerlessness,  suppression and death. Jesus is considered a hero because as a God, he sacrificed himself and became a martyr, which is a form of senseless suicide.

Of course, it is difficult to attain the realization that such a self-delusion that can only exist within the deceptions and meaninglessness of one’s imagination – because no real solution to anyone’s problem can be “fixed” by another – and certainly no solution can exist where there is no self-realization, or self-responsibility, or self-honesty, or self-movement, or self-direction or self-acceptance inside one’s self. One has to be an active participant within all that or give in to further enslavement, abuse and deception. 

Can it be that one’s successful triumph over one’s own self-limitations is the only heroic act possible? Attempting to place one’s self in a mental flowery bed that “feels good” or the seeking of “happiness” leads down the path of self-deception, separation and enslavement.

Handle with care anyone who presents themselves to you as a hero. They don’t really want to save you. What they really want is to take you for a ride.

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Law of Attraction, Part 14: East Meets West

 Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda
        Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda

“A man sitting under the shade of the Kalpa-vriksha (wishing-tree) wished to be a king, and in an instant he was a king. The next moment he wished to have a charming damsel, and the damsel was instantly by his side. The man then thought within himself, if a tiger came and devoured him, and alas! in an instant he was in the jaws of a tiger! God is like that wishing-tree: whosoever in His presence thinks that he is destitute and poor, remains as such, but he who thinks and believes that the Lord fulfils all his wants, receives everything from Him.”
-Gadadhar Chatterji (Sri Ramakrishna)

 

This saying encapsulates the main doctrinal point of the Law of Attraction, of “like attracts like.” and comes from ascetic visionary Sri Ramakrisna living in through the mid 19th century, one of the most revered saints of Hinduism.

Gadadhar Chatterji was born to poor Brahmin parents in 1836 in the West Bengal province of India. Although Gadadhar was illiterate and unschooled, he was an extrermely devout young man whose obsessive and mystical fervor in his worship of Kali enabled him to attain sustained states of blissful awareness of God. His mystical states and odd behavior were so extreme, it led some to believe he was mad. But others were impressed by the young man’s devotion, grace and the content of his spiritual wisdom he imparted to others.

Gadadhar left home as a young man to the Kali temple at Dakshinewsar, a small village located on the outskirts of Calcutta, to assist his older brother, Ramkumar, who was the temple’s head priest, but who died in 1855. Gadadhar took over his brother’s role as head priest, but was dismissed over his bizzare behavior brought on by his intense ecstatic visions and trances. Gadadhar was permitted to live in a modest apartment on the temple grounds, and over a period of time began to draw an ever-increasing crowd of spiritual seekers and intellectuals enamored by the ascetic’s profound yet simple wisdom – and maybe catch a glimpse of his erratic behavior – like washing an outcaste’s hovel with his hair, effefctively renouncing his Brahmin heritage and committing other taboos related to common spiritual practice in an attempt to show that caste and creed were meaningless to him.

After a meeting with a wandering monk, Gadadhar, now going by the name, “Ramakrishna” was initiated into Advaita Vedanta and the found himself drifting into and out of mystical, blissful states of God-consciousness – the Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the highest of all spiritual experiences – for the rest of his life. With his interest in Sufism, Islam and Christianity came more Samadhi states, where Ramakrishna experienced visions of Jesus, Mother Mary and Mohammed. The result of these visions were Ramakrishna‘s teaching that all religions are paths to the divine were available. Doctrines, dogmas and sects were irrelevant.

A group of young men attracted themselves to the spiritual teachings of Ramakrishna, came to the Kali Temple to become his disciples. Ramakrishna selected one to be the leader of his disciples, a young man named Narendra Nath Datta who was destined to take his Guru’s spiritual message to the West.

“Take up one idea! Make that idea your life. Think of it. Dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves every part of your body be full of that idea and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.” -Narendra Nath Datta (Swami Vivekananda)

Narendra Nath Datta was born into an upper class Brahmin family in Calcutta, and received a Western – styled education. Narendra possessed a disdain for superstition and idol worship, but also yearned for spiritual enlightenment and to “See God.” He eventually found what he was looking for after meeting Ramakrishna and becoming his chief disciple, immersing himself in his Master’s spiritual teaching and states of Samadhi.

After Ramakrishna’s death, Narendra and the remaining disciples formed the Monastic Order of Ramakrishna, which was set up to support the poor and needy. Narendra was now given the name: “Swami Vivekananda” and he renounced the world, walking up and down India visiting holy sites and preaching that the highest way to serve God was to serve humanity.

Because of his talented oratorical skill, Vivekananda was chosen to represent Hinduism at the World Parliament of Religion, which was to be held in Chicago in 1893. His speech was tremendously well – received, and the Swami stayed in America for several years lecturing about Indian culture, Yoga and his interpretation of Advaita Vedanta while visiting many cities, before returning to India where he devoted his life to the public service and liberating India from capitalism and British imperialism.

Vivekananda saw that India’s decay and degeneration of the former ancient glory of Vedic culture could not be blamed solely on the British. The deliberate negligence of India’s impoverished people would never be corrected through politics, but only through education and compassion.

While Swami Vivekananda has gone down in history as one of India’s finest freedom fighters, it must be added that Swami Vivekananda followed in the spirit of Ramakrishna‘s statement of, “Whatever you will think, that you will be.” Which is again, the formula of “Like attracts like.”

What Ramakrishna and Vivekananda both imparted to the world was a crucial tenet that would wind its way through the eddies and streams of spirituality and re-emerge into the Human Potential Movement, which was the notion that one is always diminished or exalted by the level of positivity within one’s own mind. Thanks to Vivekananda, these ideas now took firm root within the varieties of spirituality in America and England. The Hindu concept of “Karma,” where “good conduct” brings a favorable future life was now drifting to West, as a mental revolution of how Positive Thinking could give one that “favorable future life” right now. The mind within the human being was now becoming more and more identified as God Itself.

Coming up next: The Supermind of Sri Aurobindo.

Sources:
Ramakrishna, His Life and Sayings, by Max Müller *Encyclopedia of the Occultism and Parapsychology,

Swami Vivekananda, edited by L.A. Shepard, Gate Books, 1974

*Meetings with Ramakrishna. Hixon, Lee. Great Swan: Boston: Shambhala, 1992.

The Gospel of Sri RamakrishnaNikhilananda, Swami, trans. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1942.

Swami Vivekananda in India: a corrective biography, by Rajagopal Chattopadhyaya, MotilalBamarsidass Publ. 1992

Pathways to Joy: The Master Vivekananda on the Four Yoga Paths to God, By Swami Vivekananda, Dave DeLuca

Vivekananda – Biography, Principles and philosophy, Interaction with notable contemporaries, Miscellaneous,

Law of Attraction, Part 7: Eastern Origins

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In the previous blogs about the history of the Law of Attraction, we briefly looked at the Law of Attraction’s ancient connection with the major religions in the world. In this series we will expand and deepen our investigation into the secret history of the Law of Attraction as it applies to the great religious systems in the world. It isn’t common knowledge, but many of the most important aspects of the Law of Attraction derive from Hinduism, thus a brief survey of Hinduism seems to be in order. In this blog series we will shift venues and look at the Law of Attraction’s role within the development of the oldest living religion in the world today: Hinduism.

 

Hindu Origins: Vedic Civilization And Religion

 

Undertaking the daunting task of breaking down a religion as enormous as Hinduism gives one pause, because Hinduism goes so far beyond your typical Westerner’s basic understanding of religion. It is difficult to grasp all at once. A shallow treatment of this system will not yield anything more than shallow realizations, and delving in too deeply creates the danger of getting lost within an ocean of details and losing the narratives. We will deal with this by handling the material historically and thematically, and those who wish to study further will have the appropriate vocabulary to begin.

Hinduism is the world’s oldest existing organized religion, with an estimated billion followers, making it the world’s third largest religion, and within it containing a rich variety of religious beliefs, rites, customs, and practices. Hinduism is unique among the major religions because it claims no historical founder like Buddha, Mohammed, Moses or Jesus were for their respective religions. Hinduism is a belief system based entirely on the tales of mythic Gods, heroes, demons, magic, morality, karma and sacrifice.

The word ‘Hindu‘ is English, and named after the advanced urban centers located along the Indus River Valley. Harappa and Mohenjodero (located in modern-day Pakistan) were two ancient cities built around 3500 BCE that evolved and flourished as dynamic urban centers from around 2600 to 1700 BCE.

Hundreds of sites have been excavated in Punjab and Rajasthan along the dried-up Sarasvati River, mentioned in the Rig Veda, which places its beginning of the Indus River Valley Culture between the Sarasvarti and the Drishadvati rivers. From here, we will use Dr. David Frawley’s suggestion on referring to this as the “Indus-Sarasvati civilization” which appears to be the birthplace of Indian culture.

The Indus-Sarasvati civilization is an enigma. These urban centers were the largest and the most sophisticated in the world at that time (approximately 26 centuries before the Common Era), including Egypt and Sumer, and yet, at some unknown time, they were mysteriously abandoned. The Harappan cities were community-minded, featuring planned streets, public baths, sewage draining and granaries. They used bronze and stone tools. And it seems these people believed in an afterlife. Graves have been discovered and fire altars have been excavated. This culture worshipped the forces of nature, animals, the phallus and an all-powerful Goddess. Seals have been discovered featuring designs of figures seated in the yoga position. Human sacrifice was ritualized; the flesh and blood placed in the fields to refresh them. Numerous seals have also been found indicating that commercial activities took place. Scholars do not know why the Harappan cities were abandoned. Perhaps climate change or some sort of economic or agricultural calamity made living in the cities impossible.

 

The Aryan Controversy

It has long been assumed that Hinduism descended from the legendary Aryans, the alleged creators of the Vedic civilization and religion. The Vedic civilization is named after the Vedas; the 4 sacred books of hymns, mantras and spiritual teachings of Hinduism that was handed down by the Aryans – or, the “Aryas” according to the Rig Veda. The Vedas, which were orally transmitted for centuries by the priests and later written down in early Sanskrit, contain hymns, philosophy, and instructions on ritual for the priests.

And here hangs the tale of the controversy in discussing the murky history of India – the subject of much academic speculation and political disputation. The biggest bone of contention within this scholarly debate centers on the so-called “Aryan Invasion Theory” that postulates a large group of roving ‘Aryans‘ descending from the east, invading the Indian continent, displacing and conquering the indigenous Dravidians and other tribes on their way towards establishing the Vedic Civilization.

Critics have attacked the Aryan Invasion Theory on grounds that the Vedic records themselves do not contain any reference of an “Aryan Invasion.” They say that the Aryan Invasion Theory was only put forward by Eurocentric scholars, built upon literary, linguistic and religious assumptions that were used by the West in service of British Colonialism in India. Critics also point out that is no evidence that the Aryans lived at any time outside of India.

According to “Frawley’s Paradox,” on one hand, the Indus-Sarasvati culture left behind the greatest, sophisticated urban civilization in the world at that time, and strangely yet, left no written records. And on the other hand, we have the theoretical Aryans, thought to be illiterate, militant, domineering chariot-jockeys and destroyers of cities, leaving no archeological trace except one of the world’s greatest literature in the Vedas.

Frawley’s solution to the paradox suggests that the Vedic and the Indus-Sarasvati cultures are, in all likelihood, one and the same.

 

The Vedic Religion

The Vedas are the sacred collection of hymns and mantras of the Hindu religion, and are considered to have been revealed by the gods themselves and given to human beings. The dating of the Vedas is hard to determine, as they were assembled over a long period of time, orally transmitted for centuries before being written in Sanskrit some 3,500 years ago, making the Vedas the oldest religious text still used in the world today. The Vedic religious forms have had an enormous influence over Hinduism.

The original Vedic gods seemed to be all males; Indra, the Warrior-King of Heaven, drew the most attention in the Vedas. Varuna, the sky god held the universe together as the cosmic law of existence, punishing those who transgressed the moral order he laid down and rewarding those who kept his law. Agni was the fire god and acceptor of sacrifices. Vishnu was the sun god who strode the universe in three steps.

The Vedic culture’s religious needs were serviced by a hereditary priesthood called the Brahmin. For centuries the Vedic Brahmin priests committed the Vedas to memory and chanted mantras and officiated over the sacrifices and fire rituals. The Brahmins’ sacrificial rites were very important to the Vedic culture. The rising smoke from the flames was carried up to Heaven by the fire god Agni, who transmuted the flames into nourishment for the gods.

 

Next: More on the Vedic Religion

 

Sources:

The Origin of the Indo-Iranians, Volume 3, by Elena Efimovna Kuzʹmina, J. P. Mallory, Brill, 2008

Handbook for the Study of Eastern Literatures, Ancient India, by Dr. Robert Churchill, Creighton University

An Introduction to Hinduism by Gavin D. Flood, Cambridge University Press, 1996

Looking for the Aryans by Ram Sharan Sharma, Orient Blackswan, 1995

A Social history of India by S. N. Sadasivan, 2000

The Myth of Aryan Invasion of India, by Dr. David Frawley, American Institute of Vedic Studies

 

 

 

 

The Law of Attraction: A History of Belief, Part 1.

 

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There has been much talk about the Law of Attraction during the past few years ever since the now-famous marketing tsunami called The Secret – embedded itself into the pop culture consciousness of people everywhere. But what exactly IS the Law of Attraction, and why are people so enamored by its message? Simply, the Law of Attraction is a belief that says that prosperity and health can be yours if you follow a few simple rules. People pay a lot of money to attend seminars, enroll in online courses, and buy all kinds of books and movies learning how to use the Law of Attraction to attract wealth and abundance.

The main principle about how the Law of Attraction operates is simply this: what a person thinks about manifests in their daily life, whether the person is aware of this or not. Thus, the proponents of the Law of Attraction claim that the keys of abundance and prosperity are fostering a positive attitude, intense emotional desire, creative visualization and most important, avoiding negative people. Extracting yourself from negative people is strongly encouraged because they will only infect your positive attitude by bringing you down, or worse, make fun of you so much – that you will want to give up.

The operating idea of the Law of Attraction is that like attracts like. The proponents of the Law of Attraction tell us to only focus on the positive because what your mind is focused on, you create in your reality. Attracting positive experiences by only focusing on the Good is what you want. Attracting negative things to your life because of a bad attitude is what you DON’T want. By dwelling on the negative, you’ll just create more negativity, thus creating more misery in your life for yourself and everyone else. Within this document we will present the fascinating history of the Law of Attraction – how it changed and developed throughout the centuries, how this knowledge moved with the times to fit the perceptions of those who practiced it; and we will be looking at the main players who supplied the knowledge necessary to formulate and articulate the Law of Attraction.

Magical (Magnetic?) Attraction

The knowledge and practice of the Law of Attraction has existed in many forms throughout history, probably even before recorded history. It might surprise you to look at this way – but the oldest and still most widely used expressions of the Law of Attraction have been… Magic and Prayer. Prayer has been practiced in all civilizations all over the world. The earliest form of Prayer seems to descend from prehistoric times in the form of rituals, hymns, heroic stories and magical incantations. The main focus of the magical incantation is empowerment.

Archeological artifacts that have come down to us from ancient times indicate that a Human being needed a lot of help in dealing with hostile forces that existed in the world. The use of words in certain combinations was thought to influence natural forces, ghosts and demons. In the ancient Mesopotamian cultures of Sumer, Babylonia , Akkad and Assyria, magical rites were a part of everyday life, as one had to be on the constant watch for Demons, evil spirits, bad omens, bad magic, illness and even demonic possession.

Demons, for example, were believed to live in the mountains, deserts, lakes, the wilderness, etc. and were liable to attack at any time. Forgetting to pray to a certain god at a certain time could make for a very bad day. Thus magical rites and incantation were a summons of supernatural or demonic assistance to help in healing, divination, exorcisms and protection. Along with magical incantations and ritual acts, one could make use of various accessories to assist the pious supplicant or the friendly neighborhood shaman. Curse tablets, ritual meals, magical bowls, binding spells, protection from binding spells, chants, phylacteries and even sacrifice – plant, animal or human, were used to stave off misfortunes caused by demons – or to ask for Divine Intervention.

The Sumerians also employed symbolic acts such as pouring water over a pile of dates, for instance, to bring rain. In ancient Mesopotamia, the Hittite army was famed for being one of the best of that era, holding their own against the military might of the Egyptians, Assyrians and the Babylonians. How did they manage to keep their armies and their civilization together? Through the use of Magical rites and incantations which were a structural part of the Hittite’s army. The Hittites developed incantations, rituals and rites for something they called, “Attraction Magic’ – where the idea was to draw and harness the Divine Power of the Gods to the people. So The Hittite army thought it best to conduct endless sacrifices and rituals every step of the way during their travels.

Inscribed in cuneiform tablets that have come down to us, are curses towards a Hittite warrior, should he break the oath he made to the gods – for instance, that he shall become a woman, that his belly will swell up with water and the deities of the oath consume his children. Now that’s an offer a Hittite warrior couldn’t afford to refuse.

We’ve talked about incantation – but what is the difference between incantation and prayer? An incantation assumes to influence and control supernal or demonic powers while prayer respectfully requests the Gods or Saints for something we desire to come our way. God may say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and that’s the end of it, but there is no harm for trying. Some scholars and most of the clergy see the shift of primitive cultic magic’s evolution into religion as – the “evolution of correct worship and respect of the spiritual.”

We do not know how this transition from incantation to prayer came about, but incantation and the magic arts still exist today alongside established organized religious movements thru ritualistic practices such as Voodoo, Neopaganism, modern witchcraft, Shamanism, Satanism, Obeah and Santeria, to name a few. Despite the rise of technology, globalization and science, the focus of ritual magic remains the same as in the days of the ancient Hittite – to become a more powerful being through the attraction of the divine. The Law of Attraction works in a similar fashion, using ‘affirmations’ and visualizations to align to the vibrational forces within your mind that creates your reality.

Next – Part 2: Early Accounts of the Law of Attraction

 

 

A Very, Very Short Discourse on the Law

The foundational platform of a society is always attached to the laws and regulations that are instituted (at least theoretically) for the benefit and protection between its members. The reasons for establishing laws arose as societies developed into more complex relational systems regulating the actions of its members and enforced by the imposition of penalties. From the earliest eras of human civilization it was seen that laws were necessary structures of protection from abuse between members of the group. Not only that, certain conclusions were drawn. The observable world seemed to operate fairly predictably, and since science had not been developed, superstition and imagination were the platforms that formulated the conceptual framework to explain the natural cycles of the stars, seasons  and permanence of the world. In looking at two of the oldest and most influential societies we can see what they considered the most important aspects and concerns when it came to building a system of  laws for its citizens. We will find that certain conclusions led to specific outcomes, and since we are still living with the consequences of those ancient conclusions and find them inadequate and destructive, we need to re-imagine a new foundation for a new set of laws based not upon superstition and deceptive, imaginary concepts, but rather a moral universalism that enriches, protects and strengthens the bonds of relationships between its members.

The Vedic and Egyptian Concepts of Law and Order

We begin with a survey of the great civilizations that arose in the Indus and the Nile river valleys. It is ironic, but worthy to note, that both of these civilizations that produced and contributed so much of the cultural framework of all the civilizations that followed are hot, steaming piles of rubbish today, at least in terms of the current state of their societal status today. Both societies are now embroiled in controversies centering around long-standing divisive religious arguments that have never been resolved. India suffers from a punitive and divisive social caste system and Egypt is in the throes of a civil war between the military and various religious factions. There exists a titanic social and economic inequality between the members of both societies. This is the consequence of a social inability to deal with the issues of social balance and harmony, and reveals the dysfunctional systematic objectives that has riven the social contracts and made them untenable.

When one turns to the Vedic structures of society, we discover that there was a direct linkage between the observable patterns and rhythms of the natural world and the emerging social relations that were moderated by the priestly factions. It was under the great Sun – Eye of the sky god Varuna that the cosmic Law of the universe was said to have been established. This law was eternal and kept chaos and discord at bay. It was the same law, according to the priests, that regulated the moral relationships between the people. The priests insisted that to keep the balance of the universe in place rituals were necessary. Over time these rituals become more complex and intricate. More valuable sacrifices were instituted. Literature emerged to give guidance and rules about the proper institutions of the rituals. This gave the priests much authority and advantage over the people they allegedly served, and it also was a source of controversies when these rituals failed to produce the desired results, which over time became more clear to the people. Over many centuries the rituals began to lose their mysterious hold on the people and the power of the priests diminished, but not before they had managed to protect their social status and inoculate themselves from the lower rungs of society. Today the consequences are on the Indian subcontinent is extremely unpleasant. Recently elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi has compared the current economic state of Indian to a “dying patient.” [1] Child brides, violence against women, institutionalized poverty, widespread hunger, lack of education and opportunity; all these flow from the consequences of these fabled and utterly failed cultural constructs.

On the African continent, Egypt also enjoys a historic status as being one of the most influential and ancient civilizations in the world (over 10,000 years in the making). Science, technology and religion made its greatest advancements in this North African country that the world has ever seen. And yet, it is today a seething cauldron of misrule, social division and punitive militarianism that has gained ascendency in governance. But in the beginning, the members of the civilization of ancient Egypt was concerned with maintaining order, balance and an abiding sense of justice. And this was personified by the ancient feminine deity Ma’at.

Ma'at iconDepicted in the ancient glyphs as a winged woman shown with an ostrich feather and a set of scales, Ma’at represented balance, law, order, justice and judgment. It was believed at death, one had to pass the judgment in the Hall of Ma’at. With her ostrich feather she measured the human heart on her scale. If the heart leaned to the side of good, the soul was allowed to pass into the afterlife. If it was deemed bad, the soul was forced into eternal damnation. Thus were formed the foundations of law and order within ancient Egypt, not to mention ethics and justice. As with the example of the ancient Vedic priesthood, the order of priests in Egypt asserted that they alone were the representatives of the goddess Ma’at and were bound to keep her traditions and precepts alive for the people. Thus an intricate legal system developed along with a deep sense of morality and justice.

It was the Pharoah, or the ruler of the ancient kingdom that was responsible for maintaining balance, law and order – that is, maintaining the “Ma’at” of the country. As the “God” living on Earth, the Pharoah was not only the political leader of the nation, he or she was also the religious leader as well. As gods, they owned the lands, created the laws and engaged in maintaining the country or conducting wars against rival nations. Obviously an aristocratic elite was necessary to keep that power in the hands of a few.Predictably, the decline of the power of the Pharaohs coincided with the many military defeats at the hands of the Persians, Greeks and the Romans. And while the country always garnered great respect for its historical ancient wisdom, technology and culture, it is today a crumbling social vortex of uncertainty, violence, death and injustice.

There are consequences to establishing societies based on social inequality. They all turn into failed, authoritarian states with elites desperately clinging to power through any means necessary. This leads to questions about the possibility of laws ever being able to fulfill its role in ensuring that justice, equality or personal liberty is possible for everyone. As it stands now, laws more and more are designed and used to protect the positions and advantages of those who sit in the seats of power. A call for the re-imaging and recalibration of the meaning of law and order should be placed under discussion and examined. In the next few posts we will look at some of these points that deserve attention.

 

Notes

[1] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/Tough-economic-decisions-ahead-PM-tells-bigwigs/articleshow/36591681.cms

 

8/11/2013. The Big Man

That’s what I called Bernard. “The Big Man.” I liked to tell Andrea, “Can’t hang out with ya, hun. Gotta go into town with the Big Man.” It was due to the fact that when I first time I ever laid eyes on him I was surprised how large he looked. It was evening time, September 29, 2008. After being picked up at the airport I arrived in the darkness of night to the farm and strode through the front door of the main building. I had been invited to the farm by Bernard. I had only contacted him via email and chats on the Internet. On a whim, I decided to take him up on his offer. In an email to me he said, “You won’t want to leave.” I didn’t even know what the man looked like. It was strange that I was even on another continent placing my safety into the hands of a stranger.

Bald and stout, Bernard meets me inside the door. We embrace and then he takes me into the kitchen where he suggests that I would like some coffee. We exchange the polite, customary pleasantries. Bernard pulls out a cigarette and says, to no one in particular, “How long will Darryl continue to wait?” Bernard often asked questions that tended to freeze you in your tracks. I had a wonderful time there at the farm. I extended my stay.  By the time I left, which was months later than the 4 weeks I originally planned, the Big Man was not only my firm friend, he had also become an unbelievable example of unshakable integrity. He was right. I didn’t want to leave, but I felt it was time for me to go. And the night before I left he said, “When things get tough, don’t forget to breathe.”

Well, what do you know. Things got really tough when I returned Stateside.  Three days after staying with my best friends I was kicked me out onto the street in the dead of winter. I was afraid my truck would be impounded because my insurance lapsed. I spent the night in sub-freezing weather wondering how I would get through this ordeal, wondering what I had done to “deserve this.” I kept breathing. I survived. I was offered a place to stay until I could get back on my feet. I just had to move to North Carolina. Luckily, I had just enough cash to make the journey. But that episode did not fare too well, either, and I found myself back in Bernard’s living room once again. When he saw my haggard face (I’d been through a lot), he just grinned and offered me a cigarette.

The last time I saw Bernard was when dropped me off at the King Shaka airport,  August 4, 2010. Esteni was also there and we all embraced warmly as he said to me, “You will be back here in 5 years to stay.” And he smiled. It sounded like one of his ironclad promises. I turned and headed into the airport, fully expecting to see him again. But I heard the news today. Such a reunion is now impossible. Bernard’s gone. I heard this morning that it was a fatal heart attack.

I feel strangely quiet inside writing this, but it has been an awfully long day. Maybe I’m still in a bit of shock, maybe I’m just being calm.  Maybe it will hit me later. I’m sure there are many hugs and tears to go around. But life goes on. The Desteni Group lives on, and this Group will not wimp out or fragment or disappear. Sorry, haters, but the shit just got real.

Over the years, there has been many blogs that I have written that were pretty hard to write. While this isn’t one of those instances, I must confess that there’s an existential void Bernard left that is destined to be filled with our focus, determination, fearless purpose and integrity of the Desteni Group. Meeting, knowing  and living among so many Destonians makes this day a lot easier to walk through. To everyone on the farm; Esteni, Sunette, Andrea, Cerise, Leslie-John and all the others – I love you all. And I am grateful to have lived, worked, sweated and wondered on the land that existed under Bernard’s feet.

(From the Diary. There are so many stories about hanging out with Bernard that I could relate, and I may write about them later, but If there is one event from my time spent with the Big Man that encapsulates how my life was forever transformed, this would be as good as any).

October 7, 2008

LJ asked if I could help with the planting. I booted up and put on my Indiana Jones hat and made my way to the patch where the guys had plowed the day before. I’m given instructions by Fidelis on where and how to plant the seeds into one of the two plots that had been plowed. Okay, so this will be cool. I’m planting seeds into the dark earth. Watermelon, corn, squash, tomato. Rain had been falling over the past few days (it’s the raining season here in South Africa). But today was a good, warm day. The flying ants were out and the entire valley was buzzing with millions of the things. We planted into the afternoon and took a break to re-hydrate. Gian and Jesper jumped into the pool while I was playing with the dogs,  and I said to myself, “Yeah. Good idea.” The water was cold, but felt okay after a while.

Leslie-John called us back to the field and we planted more seeds into the earth.

After we were done, I returned to the house and sat in the lounge to cool off. I was feeling very frustrated for some unknown reason. Very frustrated. Slowly I came to see that I was frustrated with myself. I was so happy being in such a place where support and understandings were coming left and right. But it felt I wasn’t moving fast enough. What was it? I was still shaking. It had been with me all day. Bernard pointed it out first thing in the morning. “Shaking,” he said. All day out in the field planting seeds, I felt it. A miasm that was showing me that I am slowly dying. Here I am in this beautiful, life-affirming place where I am being supported, fed, housed, given understandings that I never had before. And each tremor reveals that I’m slowly dying. Nothing’s changed. I am still the same loser that I have been my entire life that nobody cares about. I’m still the same old ridiculous fool, everybody’s favorite punching bag. To come this far in my life where I could finally see myself being of some use to myself and the world only to be one the losing end of the stick once again, this was just too much to bear.

I am useless.

I felt I was ready to walk. I was tired of doubting and wanting and waiting. I saw that nothing in this world was of any use and I was ready to be counted on.

Was this some kind of joke? Is this where self-honesty has led me? With cosmic egg on my face? How did I allow myself to be used and allow myself to waste my life – to have it turned to shit? To accept living in the teeth of a nightmare?

Because I allowed it. The blackness of that moment of realization was heartbreaking.

Bernard pointed to one eye and said to me, “Darryl. See.”

And I saw.

I saw that nothing will ever change for me because I still carried who I am that has existed from the past. I still claimed this self-image that I had painted on the canvas of my life. And that painting was finished. It would last for eternity.

And then I saw something else. I saw that I do not have to carry that painting any longer. I could release it and paint another self and walk as that!

One that was effective, self-directive. One that stood one and equal with the entirety of existence and did not doubt or waste his life in senseless, useless time loops. One who trusted himself. One who would never ever, ever quit. A self that would stand the test of time.

Could it be that simple?

Could it be that instead of waiting for change to be thrust upon you, or given to you from somewhere outside yourself, you could change yourself in one moment? In one breath? Just by releasing the past? Just by literally seeing yourself integrate all that is, equal and one? Just by seeing that what passes for ‘life’ in this existence has no honor and here, it stops. I took a breath.

I noticed that the shaking stopped. Tears filled my eyes. Bernard, with cigarette in his hand, asked, “Do you get it?”

Yes, I got it.

I could walk.

Darryl and Bernard