Our Sacred Trust
In an interview, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., described his father, a few days before he was murdered by the CIA, giving him a book inspired by the Stoics, 334BC to 180AD, what does it mean to “do the right thing.” Young Kennedy was fourteen. Recently, Kennedy described his affinity for audiobooks. The current volume being “Alexander Hamilton,” thirty-hours by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow, perhaps the best and most personal overview of the American Revolution, the drafting of the Constitution, and the founding of our American government. Having interviewed hundreds of extraordinary people, when they comment on such works, I dig in.
In addition to several of her award-winning books and papers, including “Restoring the Kinship Worldview, Indigenous Voices Introduce 28 Precepts for Rebalancing Life on Planet Earth,” Darcia Narvaez, Professor Emeritus at Notre Dame, recommended, “Not in His Image: Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology, and the Future of Belief,” by John Lamb Lash, which describes the Indigenous-Pagan reality from the Axial period, approximately 800 to 200 BC, and later, where different groups in the ancient world, Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, Mesopotamian, and others developed codes of conduct and morality.
Physicist David Bohm and J. Krishnamurti began what may be the most in-depth exploration of “thought as a system,” with the statement “humanity must have made a wrong turn,” published as “The Ending of Time.” Appreciating my personal relationship with Bohm, and longstanding passion to understand child and human development, Darcia shared a chapter; “The Missing Mind: Contrasting Civilization with Non-Civilization Development and Functioning,” from her new book that includes David’s insights.
“Civilization began perhaps around 10,000 years ago and represents a fraction of the total kinds of societies that have existed. Considered time-wise, civilized societies make up less than one percent of humanity’s presence on the planet. Prior to the gradual emergence of herding and farming communities, over 95% of humanity’s existence was spent as small-band hunter-gatherers (SBHG), which are still present.”
“These societies are matrifocal, where motherhood and the feminine principle of life were respected. The focus is on meeting basic needs and living well within the cycles of the natural landscape, with high social wealth, rather than emphasizing hierarchical power and competition which may have first started to appear with the practices of herding animals and deep tilling of the soil.”
“After holding an initial bias toward patriarchy as a baseline for what is species-typical, anthropologists are coming to realize the centrality of mothering and child raising in our ancestral environments and science is increasingly noticing the matrifocal egalitarian nature of ancient societies, not only among First Nations but civilizations such as the early Egyptian and Minoan.”
“Not in His Image,” describes how the Gnostics believed the emergence of patriarchy, with its implied shift from the feminine and nature to an abstract-alien-monotheistic, conquest-aggressive “male God in the sky,” was inflicted on humanity by malevolent non-material mental parasites. The Gnostics viewed the emergence of the violent, conquest driven Roman-Catholic empire, a delusional mental illness that continues to dominate the mind of humanity today, similar to Bohm and Krishnamurti’s exploration, and the essence of Darcia’s “Restoring the Kinship Worldview.”
“Doing the right thing,” Stoic virtue, emerged as a response to the vast personal, political, and moral corruption that plagued ancient Greece and the emerging Roman-Catholic empire, where masochistic suffering was elevated as a supreme form of goodness. This in contrast to the empathic and egalitarian, transpersonal, and translational reality of small bands of hunter-gatherers, 95% of human existence, where nature’s abundance was in everyone’s reach and shared without attachment or interest. After all, we are the book of mankind. To read that book we must expand our doors of perception beyond the current page, with its deep, intoxicating, and blinding enchantment, and identify with the book, not the page.
Possessing stuff, agriculture, domestication of animals, accounting, hoarding, and protecting, epigenetically changed human consciousness. The more stuff one claimed, the more important the concept of ‘mine,’ grew, and grew and grew, until today, this “state” is all most know. What we think of as an individual, the concept of me and mine, separate from everything else, especially the living earth, etched so deeply that we, as the Gnostics described, forgot what we actually are and worshiped at the altar of our own ego, which is little more than a reified concept.
Once set into motion, this pervasive delusion of core identity became the plague we call civilization, a meme we praise as ego-culture, two sides of the same coin. What do the Stoics, the Gnostics, Alexander Hamilton and the American Revolution, and Robert Kennedy, Jr, have in common, and what mirror does this offer us today?
Do we really think Emperor Nero’s corruption of self and therefore behavior is any different than our corporations and governments today? Like the Stoics, Hamilton’s The Federalist essays, the Constitution, and Bill of Rights, pushed back hard against corrupt Monarchs, Parliaments, slavery, and equally corrupt, greedy, personal egos.
The context, or soil, our core identity, our self-worldview, emerges from and defines who we think we are. How we feel and behave, which is the underlying theme of Gabor Maté’s new book, “The Myth of Normal, Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture.” Gabor distinguishes between trauma with a big “T,” and a little “t.” Big being known and little being mostly tacit. The distilled essence of Joseph Chilton Pearce’s vision of true human potential resonates the same theme, the reciprocal, epigenetic dynamic of self and culture. Clearly, a toxic culture evokes toxic images of self, a classic chicken and egg paradox.
Our heart of darkness is rooted in the way stuff changed, and fundamentally, human consciousness, the way that concept and mental image, naming and counting, paved over, like childhood amnesia, our true indigenous nature, which is nature. Enchanted, memes, alien male Gods in the sky, and equally abstract images of self, blinded humanity to what we actually are. This is perhaps what is called original sin, a deep and pervasive misuse of memory, a delusional and therefore corrupt identity, that, like Midas, infects everything we do.
Midas was a legendary king of Phrygia (in modern-day Turkey). In return for a good deed, he was granted one wish by the god Dionysus and asked for the power to turn everything he touched into gold. When he discovered to his horror that his touch had turned his food and drink—and even his daughter—to gold, he begged Dionysus to take back the gift, and Dionysus agreed to do so. When "Midas touch" is used today, the moral of this tale of greed is usually ignored.
A problem can’t be solved at the level of the problem. A mind enchanted by image and concept is a unique state that can’t do anything other than create another concept. Our rediscovery of what we actually are is a direct experience or insight, which is a different state, where image and concept are absent, empty, or silent.
Here we are, faced with the same corruption as Zeno, 334-262BC, as Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, 54-68AD, the same as Hamilton, 1757-1804, and the writers of the Constitution, why Robert Kennedy says today, he will die with his boots on. The challenge to ‘do the right thing,’ is perennial, daily, moment by moment. What the ‘right thing’ is – is developmental, however, not a concept.
Our sacred trust is to continually transcend our limitations and constraints, which is nature’s agenda, as Joseph Chilton Pearce described. Digging far deeper than our assumed identity, our “self” or ego as defined by culture. We tap that stream of empathic, egalitarian creativity and appropriateness that is our true nature and model this for our children, now.