“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.

“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.

 “You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.” Irish Proverb

 When adults ask kids “What do you want to be when you grow older?” kids will often respond with “I want to fit in to society providing a function for it and conforming to a stereotype.”

Ok, not exactly! It’s usually put into simpler words than that, but if you look between the lines, this is the answer that usually pervades what a child will say about their future. The point is you won’t get a kid saying “I want to be happy,” “I want to be myself”, or “I want to experience lots of things, and express myself in lots of different ways without limiting myself to one thing because you only live once.”

The problem is that society has been built with the principle of conforming to it or fitting in with it somehow. A child, when asked about their future is being asked about how they want to fit a role and provide a function in society. In short, be a stereotype.

From birth many people are conditioned to be something because of the stereotypical expectations of their parents and other peers. It usually starts with gender; boys wear blue and girls wear pink, girls have long hair and boys have short hair, boys are supposed to be rough and adventurous and girls are supposed to be calm and sweet. Toys and television are also a factor in how kids are programmed as they are symbolic of the reality they have to prepare for. One form of gender “branding” that alway suprises me is that of newborn girls having ear piercings. In some cases it’s so expected that people make the mistake of calling a girl a boy because they don’t have earings!

This is later reinforced by schools. The children move in social circles that reflect and reinforce their conditioning. One of my schools used to have a partial gender segregation on the playground, where boys would get the larger area because, typically, boys would play football and other rough games, whereas the girls would spend their time in a smaller area playing hop scotch and skipping ropes.

Further steps in this programming or conditioning are what class they belong to, how much money they have, how popular they are, what nationality they are etc.  Once adulthood is reached the identity of an individual is supposed to be dedicated to solely one career (it was once upon a time, less now though). Literally you are a nurse or you are a gardener. You don’t do nursing or gardening. There’s a sense of becoming specialised and losing the full range of potential that a single human being can be. School lessons in self-discovery and self-development are strongly lacking because society has a “self” designed for you already so there’s no need to be an individual.

What if society had been built a different way? What if it was designed, not to conform to, but to be a platform to creatively discover and develop yourself within? This is the creative potential of society that many people don’t realise. Society can be far more malleable than many people take for granted. It is not a structure to fit into, it is more like a mine to extract raw material from, something that can help you realise your individual potential. Although reinventing society’s old structures to replace it with new ones is itself quite a work, and many give up trying.

When adulthood is reached people have either conformed to society or become disillusioned and rebelled. But many of these “rebels” are just reinforcing this rigid system by fulfilling a stereotype, or more appropriately anti-stereotype. They see only two choices, to define themselves for society or define themselves against, not knowing that they can reclaim an individual identity independent from either conformity or rebellion. Either way, conditioned or “anti-conditioned” individuals are faced with the task of re-educating themselves. The real problem is not society itself, but the individuals within society that don’t realise they have other choices other than rebellion or conformity; they can choose to be themselves.

There is a difference between natural human development and conditioning. Development comes from within and grows outwards, whereas conditioning comes from without and works inwards. An individual’s development will always be informed, to some extent, by their interaction with the world and there will always be rules and laws to conform to, but there is always the seed of their natural development within them, which does not need to be imposed but encouraged and left to naturally blossom. In this way society is outgrown, the individual is not constrained by it but nurtured by it. But instead of leaving society behind, they turn their energies back to society and in this way society grows with each generation, outgrowing itself and being reinvented for the changing needs of people.

“We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think as much of being a European as of belonging to their native land, and that without losing any of their love and loyalty of their birthplace. We hope wherever they go in this wide domain, to which we set no limits in the European Continent, they will truly feel ‘Here I am at home. I am a citizen of this country too.'” Winston Churchill

I’ve been getting “European.” Perhaps it’s because I live in a different country from my origin. Perhaps it’s because I live with my Swiss girlfriend and her multi-lingual family (5 languages altogether!)
But also, I see the world changing in a specific way. No longer can we be so localized within our nations, worldwide communication and travel is uniting humanity and transcending local cultural boundaries. Globalisation has taken hold and is in progress, for good or for bad. I hope for the good, of a common humanity and our place within Gaia.
I look through my family tree at my genetic heritage; English with Scottish, Irish, and possibly Welsh and German. That is of the past, but what of the future? I feel myself as defined by my potential future as I am by my inherited past.
But my future isn’t just European, it is a common humanity, coevolving within itself and with the living planet of which we are a part. That I feel has been part of humanity’s destiny even when it first spread beyond Africa, across the globe, diversifying, genetically and culturally. And with our present levels of travel and communication, we are brought closer into a smaller world.
Our mix of different cultures in such a small world can be a very volatile mix where cultures find themselves at odds. But I believe, even through our diversity we can find unity, because at the end of the day, despite cultural, national or racial identity, it is our humanity that remains.