“The reaction to any word may be, in an individual, either a mob-reaction or an individual reaction.  It is up to the individual to ask himself:  Is my reaction individual, or am I merely reacting from my mob-self?  When it comes to the so-called obscene words, I should say that hardly one person in a million escapes mob-reaction.”  D.H. Lawrence

In a language there isn’t just words to communicate with, there is also a whole psychological structure specific to it. It gives us a model with which to view the world and to communicate about the world we sense, both the world within and the world without. But it also gives us our identity, since each language has its own history and also its own character. That character transmits itself into us a “national personality,” a sort of personality that deeply structures the human psyche from birth. In other words, stereotypes.

On one hand this can be useful; as we can see that languages and the qualities they carry are the accumulation of experience from history. Through language we are being transmitted the “wisdom of the ancestors”. On the other hand it can also carry the rubbish, the karma, of the past which is undeserved by future generations. Language isn’t just an encoding of ancestral wisdom, it has also acted as a waste bin to conveniently give the load of one generations responsibilities on to the next.

Time to sort the wheat from the chaff. Time to make a review of the type of language we use and how we use it. Say no to what is useless and harmful and encourage the growth of what is useful and healthy. Languages contain patterns, and we have to ask ourselves do we really want to repeat the past blindly? In a synchronicity a friend made a comment on Facebook about not letting an anger he had inherited from his ancestors carry on further. His affirmation that since it was not his it would stop with him and within him.

Like this we can all reject the “mob- reaction” within us, the stereotypes that have been transmitted to us through the generations, and so, as the Great Invocation says, “seal the door where evil dwells.”

For me it has been an important experience to move to another country and see my own country from “outside”, to see it from a different perspective and see its virtues in comparison to other cultures and also its vices . And so also see myself from an other perspective. Learning a new culture, and a new language, makes me rely less on the “safety blanket” of my native culture and seek to communicate with the world in a new way, and so I can only grow, retaining the benefits of my culture and discarding the disadvantages of it too, and adopting a broader view of the world that is not so limited.

La humanidad no sirve la nacionalidad, la nacionalidad sirve la humanidad. Hay mas que una lengua en el mundo y por eso el aprender otras lenguas, sólo es sentido común, el sentido de la humanidad (Thanks Mika for correcting this).

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“Anatta: Literally ‘not-self’. The teaching that there is nothing that we can call a fixed self.” Jim Pym, You Don’t Have to Sit On the Floor

“Buddhism is often accused of being a religion so aborbed in the impersonal and the eternal that it overlooks the importance of individual and temporal things. According to its teachings, all things that have form are subject to change and void of any enduring “self,” but this does not imply that such things are unimportant.” Alan Watts

“It may only be a certain nagging sense that the world you live in does not fit. The job you hold, the education you recieve, the institutions that claim authority over you ( the government, the corporations, the courts, the welfare system), all these may seem to have been crudely designed for everybody in general, but for no body in person – least of all you.” Theodore Roszak, Person/Planet

“And still, you know, with an instinctive conviction, that there is an essential you behind all the world’s imposed identities, a you that needs a meaning of your own making, a personal emblem to hold in the face of grief and before the advance of death.” TR

“To give a face to the faceless, a voice to the voiceless – and to each person the one face, the one voice that is uniquely theirs… that is the meaning of personhood.” TR

In Buddhism there is the idea of anatta or no-self. That really the self is just a composition of various elements, converging and diverging in a series of rebirths. Science seems to confirm this; “I” am just a product of a highly developed neurological system, evolved in order to give coherence to the psychological experience of being an organism, itself constituted from various cells, genes, molecules and atoms in a state of flux or “rebirths”.

According to this explanation self is an experience that appears when I awaken and disappears when I go to sleep. If this is the case then “I” do not exist when the brain rests, and perhaps it is a different “I” that wakes up than the one going to sleep the night before. Perhaps “I” am a different “I” every moment time passes. The brain is not static, all cells and molecules within it are in a constant state of flux and nor is its sense of self.

And yet, there it remains; a strong, persistent sense of self. Despite changing over time, despite interruptions in the flow of consciousness called sleep, there is a strong sense of continuity, that, despite being different ages and with different personal qualities, the “I” ten years ago is the same “I” that is experience by this brain now.

Science says I am an impersonal package of impersonal neurons and synapses evolved to ensure the survival of the whole organism and the species of which I am a part. They may well be right, and I don’t deny there is truth to that. But really, let’s be serious, this is not how I experience myself, and no matter how many times I try to convince myself otherwise there’s that persistent feeling that “I” am there and “I” am very real and undeniable.

And with a scientific view we might say that this is fine, it’s way we have evolved, it’s how the organism survives and ensures the survival of its species. But even such a reductionist explanation still doesn’t quite do it justice, not the way I live it every day of my life. I feel it needs more honouring than that (and perhaps that’s just another survival trait?).

From an impersonal “soup” we call the Universe, a person can emerge, consciousness can take on a personal form! Not like it is imposed from somewhere “outside” or “beyond” but that personality is latent in the physical laws of the Universe. “I” existed as sleeping potential in the very fabric of the Universe, but without form or presence. And then an impersonal egg and sperm came together and began a journey that would lead to personhood through a miracle of biology and neurology, with millions of years of evolution preceding this moment. And this has happened not just once but many times over. Millions of persons. Billions of persons. Individual persons, not just masses of people.

Amazing that each human face and each human voice is so distinctive as to not be confused with anybody else… most of the time. Imagine over 6 Billion people with a face and a voice that is uniquely theirs! And that’s only now, imagine all the unique humans there have been and the unique humans there will be! Even animals transmit some sort of instinctive self, if my Cocker Spaniel is in a room of similar Cocker Spaniels I’ll still know which one is “her”. It is imprinted in me. Something that happens with people we don’t know as well, though seem to know so well…

You hear a voice on the radio, you see a face on the TV and instantly you have a sense of recognition. Sometimes you may not remember the name or why they are famous but instantly you know it is that person and no one else. Looking at a DVD cover right now I see a woman’s face, I don’t recognise her. I see a name -Kate Beckinsale- and instant recognition comes to me, it is her, much much younger but you see it is the same “person”. And turning over to the back I see another picture of her with another man poring over a map or something and I recognise him instantly; Art Malik. I see only his face looking down, can’t see much of a profile but I know it is him. Why can’t I mistake him for anyone else if he and I are just impersonal bundles of neurons and synapses amongst billions?

Impossible! Isn’t it? And what if it isn’t impossible, what if it is true? Doesn’t that make it even more of a miracle that “I” am here communicating with “you”?

How can individual unique persons be so “mass produced” in such an unconscious and impersonal Universe? The mind boggles! The mind gropes for some plausible fantasy to explain this; a “superbeing” “out there,” or manifest destiny, or a ghost in the machine, or, or, or…

It’s a miracle of nature, an implausible reality, to distill many millions, billions, trillions of impersonal elements; like cells, atoms, subatomic particles, through long long processes of evolution to finally arrive at personhood! The machine is the ghost! There I am. And there you are!

Miracles, each of us.

“Do we really want to be the bureaucrats of the Earth? Do we want the full responsibility for its care and health? There can be no worse fate for people than to be conscripted for such a hopeless task – to be made forever accountable for the smooth running of the climate, the composition of the oceans, the air, and the soil. Something that until we began to dismantle creation, was the free gift of Gaia.” James Lovelock

“Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but nature does not depend on us. We are not the only experiment.” R. Buckminster Fuller

Just remember this, Gaia has been evolving without conscious and intelligent intervention long long looooooooooooooooong before humans arrived on the scene. If we weren’t so troublesome we’d be considered as an interesting afterthought, adding a conscious quality to an unconscious evolution. Just because we are the “conscious aspect” of Gaia that does not mean we need to start running the show. As I said before, Gaia’s been getting on fine without us AND we still haven’t learnt to run our own show, let alone Gaia’s. We’re treating our planet badly, we’re treating each other badly, and if we carry on down this route then we’ll end up being our own worst enemy.

First things first, we need to recognise our emerging global civilisation as an integral part of Gaia, that we depend on her and our only means to survive is to cooperate with her by aligning every aspect of human culture, society and civilisation with the living Earth. We need to do this by aligning with each other. You and me we have to admit we live on the same planet, with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide anymore, and have no choice but to cooperate and coordinate with each other. Right?

Easier said than done, I know, but its worth our survival isn’t it? We’re in for a stormy nightmare, but if we really value this planet, the life on it, and humanity’s participation with it we can do it. Altogether now; Yes we…. you know the rest Obama 😉

But even if we achieve this we should never think we can run the show, all we can do is to add a conscious element to an unconscious evolution, as an enhancer not a controller. But wouldn’t it be beautiful if we used our arts, sciences, religions and cultures, not only as something to enhance human life but the living Earth as well. Hold that vision strong and clear in your mind; it’s our compass, our orientation, that will guide us along that long and hard road we have ahead of us for harmony to be restored .

“If life on Earth were suddenly to cease, all the hundred-plus elements that make up the surface, oceans, and atmosphere would react until no more reactions were possible, and a state close to chemical equilibrium was reached. The planet would become a hot, waterless, and inhospitable place.” James Lovelock

One thing that I often use for tag in my blog is the word Gaia. This is a loaded word so it’s best to really be clear in the way I use it. I don’t mean a conscious entity that is embodied in the Earth itself that so many people associate with Gaia. Rather I think of the scientific idea that was first set out by James Lovelock in his Gaia Hypothesis and later explored in the Earth System Sciences.

Let’s start with an experiment. Find a small object, say a penny, and hold it between your fingers above the ground. It is now in an energy rich state. Now drop that penny and watch it fall to the ground where it bounces, rolls, flips and/or slides to the ground and finally stops any movement. It is now in an energy poor state, no more energy is able to be extracted from it, unless the floor develops a hole where the penny can continue falling.

Here’s another image of energy rich and energy poor. Think of a car; the fuel that goes into it and the exhaust fumes that come out of it. The fuel is energy rich, ready to be transformed into kinetic energy. The exhaust fumes are energy poor, no more energy is able to be extracted for the car’s movement.

James Lovelock once worked with NASA to investigate if there was life on Mars. At some point he came up with the idea that perhaps the atmosphere of Mars could show signs of life by virtue of interacting with it. Mars’ atmosphere is energy poor, with chemicals comparable to a car’s exhaust fumes, whilst the Earth’s atmosphere has an energy rich chemistry. If the Earth had not developed lifeforms it would have fallen (like the penny) to the same fate as Mars, a dead, lifeless rock incapable of supporting or even developing life.

Somehow the collective action of life on Earth stops entropy from make the Earth irreversibly lifeless and keeps it inhabitable. Free energy from the Sun’s own entropic decay is “collected” by life through photosynthesis. This energy is exchanged with the environment, like the atmosphere, and with other organisms, where it takes on energy rich qualities in a balancing way that means that life can live on the Earth.

In a way it’s like having a system of organisms attached to your exhaust fumes that aborb those chemicals and, using the Sun’s energy, turn them into energy rich fuel that goes back into the car to power it, or another system of organisms that use the Sun’s energy to keep that penny in the air to stop it from falling to the ground, with the added bonus that by doing so it makes the existence of life possible.

That is a very simplistic explanation leaving out many details, which doesn’t do the theory any justice at all. I could talk about homeostasis, chemical equlibrium, disequilibrium, Daisyworld, the albedo effect, glacials, interglacials, the Milankovich effect, global warming, climate change, greenhouse gases,  defining life, neo-darwin evolution, Gaian evolution and other facts and theories that James Lovelock has woven together to create a compelling picture of the Earth’s life. All I want to do is introduce one aspect of it from which other aspects can be explored. My reference for this is James Lovelock’s Healing Gaia, though there’s plenty of other books about it, and lots of information on the internet. Just do a search of any of the terms I used above.

Gaia theory as a whole is just scientific theory, yet it is gaining credibility all the time, especially within Earth Systems Sciences. Parts of it have been proved and parts of it have yet to be proved.  So far it is the best image we have of the Earth as a self-sustaining system, an image that is being confirmed, modified and updated all the time by scientific research. But from this theory we can grasp a feeling of the world around us and how we fit in with it. Personally I have no doubts that Gaia Theory has something to it, that somehow the Earth is alive in some sense, that somehow it is an interdependent system and that there definately are consequences to our actions within it.

“Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.” Oscar Wilde

God bless message boards, the bloggers inspiration, it’s all grist for the mill.

Typically, though not always, tribes are seen as localised in geographical regions (yes, even nomads), have common ethnic roots, share a common culture, have a structured organisation and are tied together by strong familial and social bonds, in essence, group identity. The society I belong to is definitely not a tribe in this sense, it is, as Oscar Wilde says, a mental concept. If everyone got amnesia, just imagine how many boundaries and distinct groups would disappear.

Long ago, the British Ilses were overrun with Goidelic, Brythonic, Pictish and, later, Anglo-Saxon tribes, but now they have all merged and the borders of their territories exist as countries and counties, if that. And the idea of “peoples” means little to people who regard the difference between such geographical regions as the difference between work (Sussex), home (Kent) and social life (Greater London).

Most concretely I have a birth certificate that tells me I was born in Britain and so I’m a British Citizen, as does my passport, with all the rights and responsibilities that that holds. That could be my tribe. But it says little of my ethnic or cultural background, I could be a Muslim with family from Bangladesh, like a few of my friends from school. It also says little about my familial or social ties. In such a large, anonymous and impersonal system, friends are lost and gained like so many leaves on a tree and families just drift apart in the vast anonymity of it all.

So now gangs of youths roam around unchecked in whatever haphazard way they can get away with and our “elders” are sent to nursing homes or their opinion so out of touch with the times it’s not worth listening to them (but they weren’t expecting so much change). One generation to the next can be as different culturally as two nations. My mum came from a Roman Catholic family and rejected that for a more Protestant faith. Her mum grew up in a Protestant denomination but married and became Roman Catholic. My dad grew up with Protestantism and later embraced Spiritualism. I had a Protestant childhood, a sort of Spiritualist adolescence and later went through an experimental NeoPagan phase that has become something that doesn’t even have a label for it. I call it my life journey, which has many influences on  it. Though if you look through the rest of my blog (hint hint) you might get a feel for what I’m about.

I grew up in Brighton (Hove actually) which is fairly cosmopolitan (compared to another place I’ve lived in England). I don’t know what to call my culture, except Multiple Exposure in South East England.  I know more about some American TV programs than my own Royal Family and its history. That is the effect of living in a multicultural and Western society I think. It’s a make-it-up-as-you-go-along culture, which has its advantages and disadvantages, as do all cultures.

To be honest, in this cultural atmosphere its easy to see how extremist groups emerge from this, they’re scared because what they thought was a very stable and well-defined world becomes a melting pot that gives way under their feet. Socially dependent individuals become very insecure  and may react violently and retreat into a smaller box than they were in before. It’s also understandable that people without a clue about who they are or what they are doing get lost amidst it all.

I’ve never identified myself as very English, partly because my grandad came from Scotland and also, as I was growing up, being English didn’t seem to be anything in particular, it seemed quite bland to be honest and overrun by international influence, particularly the US (did I mention TV programmes? And let’s not forget McDonald’s). My break from Christianity also broke me out of cultural identity, and I only embraced Spiritualism nominally. Later, upon finding Paganism, I jumped at it and started an active spirituality. In a way this was my chance to forge my own individual identity without the Christian identity of my mum and the Spiritualist identity of my dad.

Modern Paganism itself is not a single belief system or tradition, but an eclectic melting pot that, whilst including traditions like Wicca, Asatru, Druidry amongst others, it also includes bits from the New Age, Indigneous traditions, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Individuals with no-fixed-tradition are aplenty. It was a good atmosphere to look at myself without adopting fixed cultural trappings that might obscure my view of myself. I could have lost myself in this philosophical chaos, but I didn’t and the continuous focus of “nature-based spirituality” was what sustained me a lot of the time. It was always about nature and my connection with it, no matter what beliefs I was looking into and experimenting with.

That’s my group spiritual identity broken and my national identity is well on its way. Well, no, nothing is actually broken, it’s just expanded to include other things. My British nationality has expanded to become a part of the European Union, my geographical position is in Spain (or Catalonia, which might be a separate nation, or not) and I live with a Swiss family, one of which is my girlfriend. Would you like Tea and Toblerone with that Tapas?

So, where was I?

Oh yes, tribes!  What is my tribe? For me my tribe is not bound by cultural or ethnic roots, it has nothing to do with any social organisation I belong to, nor my supposed class, my geographical position, my family, my social circles, beliefs, spiritual traditions or any group affiliation.

To rephrase a well known saying, “Your tribe is where you heart is.” In the global melting pot of a mental concept that I call “my society” that’s the best I can do for a tribe. Well, actually that’s pretty good, and it works well for me.

“Most religious stories and mythologies have some sort of similar root, some sort of global archetypes.” Maynard James Keenan

 “Americans want to believe that the average Brit wears a bowler and a school tie and maintains a stiff upper lip and has a certain dry sense of humour; they do not want to be told that a good percentage of the British population are vulgar dimwits who care about nothing but shopping, alcohol, football and Posh Spice’s navel.” Joe Queenan

In Jungian psychology there is the well-known concept of the Collective Unconscious; a “reservoir” of ancestral experience inherited through genes or very ancient memes. In science it’s known that babies’ brains are “hardwired” to recognise faces shapes and voices. There has also been research that suggests they can recognise spider shapes at an early age, presumably because the quicker you can recognise a danger, like a poisonous spider, the better your chances of survival. These examples show that experience of the world is, to some extent, built into our genes from ancestral experience and show a very basic idea of Archetypes; models of human perception, roles and functions that are often represented by symbols and personalities.

But not only can the Collective Unconscious be ancestral experience but unconscious material that we exchange every day, things in society that we don’t question and take for granted as “reality.” This too contains “models of human perception, roles and functions that are often represented by symbols and personalities” that are called stereotypes.

There is a subtle but important difference between the two; Archetypes, for the most part, come from within and are natural to the human psyche and its development and are the fulfilment of certain human experiences. Stereotypes are things to conform to, that are imposed on the human psyche from the outside by cultural standards. With Archetypes the human psyche is simply going through different processes of human development that most humans go through despite culture. With stereotypes the human psyche is being programmed by cultural forces and made to fit into a preset image.

But it’s difficult to tell the difference between the two when you get to look at stereotypes and Archetypes. Some stereotypes have archetypal aspects to them, the interpretation of some Archetypes can be twisted so that they are conformed to and some Archetypes might be very ancient stereotypes that are so consistent with human existence they become universal in quality.

I think that’s the good thing about Archetypes, their universal qualities allow us to see another culture and understand the basic human experience that is going on underneath the bowler hat, feather headdress, baseball cap, horned helmet or sombrero. It’s only the mind that is so immersed in its cultural or societal stereotypes that cannot understand another human being from another culture because the other doesn’t fit into their idea of human “reality.” In this day and age where humanity is reaching a global phase of its development, it’s important to relinquish stereotypes and embrace an archetypal understanding of others, to form a common basis of understanding and communication. We can still be members of our own culture, but instead of conforming to it we can creatively play with it to complement the basic experience that is the human being.

“’Yes I am,’ agreed Arthur. Of course he was a Druid. It was perfectly clear. But he wasn’t just talking Druidry. It wasn’t an academic exercise for him. He was living it, every day of his life. This was a new kind of Druidry. Warrior Druidry. Druidry with energy and verve. Druidry with a mission, not to pontificate about the meaning of Stonehenge, but to fight for it. So he set about turning the Warband into a Druid Order.” Arthur Pendragon and Christopher James Stone, The Trial of Arthur: The Life and Times of a Modern-Day King

 

“We have to bring about a psychological transformation in our relationship with the society in which we live. Therefore, there is no escape from it into the Himalayas, into becoming a monk or a nun, and taking up social service, and all the rest of such juvenile business. We have to live in this world, we have to bring about a radical transformation in our relationship with each other; not in some distant future, but now.” Krishnamurti

 

“The transformation of the world is brought about by the transformation of oneself.” Krishnamurti

 

“If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” Moshe Dayan

 

Here is a little something I wrote a while back. I was considering how the whole spiritual, educational and political system of the ancient Druids could have been created from a fragmented nation of warrior tribes. I imagined a council of individuals from different tribes with spiritual, education and political roles working together to direct the conflictive energies of their tribes. For me, this image is THE most relevant image for modern Druidry’s mission in the world today.

 

Long ago, there were many different people, many different tribes, all spreading across the Land. They’d come from one source, but then they separated and their ways diverged from each other. They prospered and developed many tools and skills to live and survive. But as the tribes grew and grew in number, they stopped spreading across the Land for there was nowhere else to go, but instead became crowded in it. The warrior lodges grew more volatile, desperately fighting against each other, trying to gain power for their own tribes.

But the Land suffered and as the Land suffered the tribes suffered, making the warrior lodges fight even more intensely. The blood ran and formed pools, and heads and other trophies were piled high. The life of the Land’s fabric began to fray and unravel, and the tribes’ lives deteriorated in turn.

The Land cried out… Enough!

But the tribes could not hear, so immersed in their own suffering and violence they were.

ENOUGH!

Yet some did hear, women and men, those who knew the Land as soul mate, those whose bodies and souls were intimately in tune with the life of the Land. These Wise Souls knew what was happening, they listened to the Land, very carefully, to what it had to tell them, and they were led by its wisdom together. They gathered in a secret meeting, deep in a cavernous womb of the Land, and here, with their voices weaving across one another, their thoughts and ideas brewing together into one idea; to keep the Land in balance, the tribes must be in balance with it, and for the tribes to be in balance with it they must be in balance with each other. A vision formed of one diverse tribe as part of that Land, but which required much work to forge, much collaboration to manifest that vision.

They vowed to work together, for the Greater Good of Land and tribes, to pool together their knowledge and wisdom from which all of the tribes could draw upon as a common resource so that the tribes could grow in understanding of each other and relate to each other without resorting to war. Their energies could be channeled together for a common goal of peaceful creativity. And so the Druids were born, learned and spiritual people, networking among the tribes, giving council under the guidance of their vision for the Greater Good, coordinating and collaborating through the magnificent diversity of their tribes and speaking across their boundaries in a spirit of understanding.

There is One Earth and it is crying ENOUGH! It is asking for collaboration, it is asking for humanity to channel it diverse ways together into a common vision of a truly global humanity, at one with the Earth, not ripping apart the fabric of its existence.

And it asks for a new Druidry to guide this task, or at least women and men in tune with the Land, with the Earth, with Gaia, working together to pool their diverse wisdom and knowledge into a common vision, to speak across the boundaries of humanity and affirm that we can work together, becoming a contributing aspect of the Land’s creativity and evolution, to carry on the work of weaving its fabric, to become Artists, Teachers, Workers and Guides for the Land and its tribes.