originally posted on website April 25, 2011
“There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer; no disease that enough love will not heal; no door that enough love will not open; no gulf that enough love will not bridge; no wall that enough love will not throw down; no sin that enough love will not redeem. It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble, how hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake; a sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all. If only you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world”—Emmet Fox
Regardless of your political, religious, or spiritual persuasion, you may agree as you witness some of what is going on in the world, that humanity in general may not be “loving enough.” Emmet Fox, spiritual leader and Christian mystic, talks about the kind of love that transcends hatred, revenge, and righteousness in his teachings. Many religious and Indigenous cultures interpret these times, which seem to be burdened with fear driven behaviors, to be a fulfillment of prophecy. Texts, theories, and spiritual material abound on the subject—everything from the Bible, to the Koran, to the Hebrew version of the Old Testament, and countless “New Age” interpretations, address the possibility of where we are headed as a species. And of course, the famed Mayan calendar stops on December 21, 2012. Many wonder if this is a foretelling of “the end,” or just the end of our current status as a species. Could they have had some clues about the possibility for a “human upgrade?”
In the Bible, the-end-of-time paradigm includes the Rapture discussed in Revelations, which is perceived by some to mean that all “believers” will be chosen for a Divine rescue when Jesus returns and hence spared the consequences of our sinful ways (Armageddon). The Muslim fundamentalist version also has a messianic figure (The Twelfth Imam, preceded by eleven others), who will emerge out of humanity and bring together the chosen Islamic people causing them to reign over the world. A Jewish version of utopia includes the coming of a messiah, who will see their tribe as the “chosen” ones to prevail. One version of Hopi Indian prophecy suggests their exemption from inevitable disaster (due to the misguided actions of the white man), and that they have been chosen by “Great Spirit “to guard the planet, or whatever is left of it, until Creator’s return. There are many “New Age” versions of salvation. And from what I have gathered in my own experience with this genre, it is important to beware of any “self proclaimed gurus” (spiritual rock-stars, if you will), who seem to be the real deal until they promise you things like “instant enlightenment” if you exclusively subscribe to their method of “getting there.” Exclusivity is the key here, which is not so different from any religious dogma that proclaims there is only one, elite way to God (or salvation/ultimate enlightenment), and that way, is their way.
I understand that I have presented a radical simplification of some of the prevailing beliefs in religious and spiritual ideology, and therefore might not have provided what may seem to be a fair picture of the various different philosophies discussed. Nonetheless, before you are tempted to get hung up on whether or not this information is accurate, realize that my sole intention here is to present some probable common threads among many belief systems, and that there could potentially be a scientific explanation for our current human inclinations and behaviors.
Please consider the possibility of similar themes (outlined below) among the belief systems discussed. We will then explore what may be happening in our current brain circuitry to influence our thinking and beliefs.
Fall (humanity has fallen from Grace because we have allowed our sinful nature to take over); Redemption (we therefore need to be “saved”); And, regrettably, there will only be an exclusive, chosen few for this Divine rescue, who subscribe to a specific belief system (based on the perspective of whatever philosophy is being upheld). Further, whoever resists such a choice will be subject to the catastrophes for which humanity is doomed.
This theme of fall/redemption/rescue/exclusivity has been pervasive since time immemorial, and it has only been in the recent past that our current evolutionary status as a species is being more carefully examined from a scientific lens on what in our biology could be continuing to strengthen such a pervasive hold on this negative approach to our lives. Many of us believe, however, that we have come into existence with an “upgraded operating system” (Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus) already installed—one that will support us in accessing a much more favorable way to function in these human body suits. How do our brains really work, and what centers are most activated during this segment of our human development? Are we indeed wired for the upgrade in consciousness that the prophets through the ages have attempted to inspire us into recognizing (re-cog-nizant or being open to a more expanded perspective on how to look at things)? What is going on in this brain circuitry of ours and is it possible to optimize the blueprints, which are quite potentially already hardwired in us, ushering in an entirely new layer of expansion for our species? Haven’t we evolved before? I mean, at least we aren’t living in caves and hunting wooly mammoth anymore. And it must have taken enormous courage for our ancestors to transcend the challenges required of them to “listen” to the inner Force, which would support them in laying the foundation for our current evolvement. So isn’t it up to us to carry the torch, using our own will and fortitude to more fully activate that Inner Guidance system—the one that will direct us to our part in supporting the Divinely mapped course for human development?
The evolutionary model of the human brain posits that our modern anatomy consists of three parts: The oldest (reptilian); paleomammalian (including the amygdala where the fight or flight response stimulates our emotions); and the most recently evolved layer, the cerebral /neo-cortex, which has initiated a surge of interconnections among the neurons from the other regions of the brain (Damasio, The Feeling of Emotions).
The reptilian brain (the most primitive, roughly originating 4 ½ billion years ago) was designed to keep us alive and the arousal from this region appears to have maintained a strong and powerful influence over our behaviors, which emphasizes predatory tendencies and aggression (no room for loving kindness or forgiveness from this bully-beast); the limbic brain (paleomammalian or mid-brain) is a few million years old. It fuels a variety of functions including emotions, which instinctively respond with resulting behavior (if not effectively intercepted by the cerebral cortex/heart connection); and the most recent addition, the cerebral/neo cortex/frontal lobes (holding the higher centers of cognitive function capable of supporting conscious choices like “turn the other cheek.”)
Antonio Damasio (University of Iowa College of Medicine) and Joseph LeDoux (professor of Science in the Center for Neural Science at New York University) have made some important contributions to the study of human consciousness providing a multi-tiered picture on our development and where we now stand in the process. Here is what LeDoux (1996, The Emotional Brain) says about our current developmental status as well as some optimistic possibilities for where we could be headed. “As things stand now, the amygdala has a greater influence on the cortex than the cortex has on the amygdala, allowing emotional arousal to dominate and control thinking. …The amygdala pathways to the cortex overshadow the pathways from the cortex to the amygdala. Although thoughts can easily trigger emotions by activating the amygdala, we are not very effective at willfully turning off emotions by deactivating the amygdala.” So, too much juice from the amygdala can flood our cognitive functions and cause them to “drown” before reason and heart can even begin to have a voice. This is why when we get triggered by something, unless we have done a significant amount of work to prepare ourselves for this moment (like some form of a spiritual practice—I don’t care what it is but it must be a spiritual practice that requires discipline on your part), your reptilian brain, having the most numerable and firmly entrenched pathways to the cortex, will take over and retaliate. Of course this region is further powered by the mid-brain centers (amygdala), which will exaggerate the fight or flight response by firing up your emotions. Naturally, if all of this occurs in the absence of a balanced brain (and heart), the resulting scenario is predictable.
Good news. LeDoux goes on to say that human primates have more cerebral connections than other mammals and that these could be strengthened to transcend the current hold that the amygdala and reptilian centers have on our species, or if the nerve pathways between the two can somehow even equalize “it is possible that the struggle between thought and emotion can strike a balance.”
Einstein said that you cannot resolve a problem at the same level of consciousness from which it originated. Maybe he was onto something. Is that why Jesus is asking us to “turn the other cheek” with full awareness that you must operate out of a different perspective than the one that created the difficulty if things are really going to get resolved? “He was the first in Western Civilization to call people to a radical transformation of consciousness at least six stages ahead of where they were at the time”(Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus). And coming from this highly advanced view, “turn the other cheek” had a multifaceted meaning, which included self advocacy and complete spiritual integrity. An earlier interpretation on how to manage things (“an eye for an eye”) hadn’t seemed to be working out so well when Jesus arrived on the scene of an earthly quagmire roughly 2011 years ago. And of course, this “eye for an eye” thing, retaliation, force against force, etc., is still pervasive on our planet today. Make your own observations on how well you think that modus operandi is working in our current world.
As I have mentioned many times in these postings, my fascination with the subject of human consciousness and the evolution of our species has been a life-long passion. And in my ongoing pursuit for answers, I have meditated in ashrams, sat with my feelings until I thought my guts would fall out, studied, contemplated, and researched for over twenty years, like many of you. Occasionally I think I am may be making some progress in transcending the biological firm hold of my ancient physiology. Even so, I still give way to anxious thoughts and act on feelings that do not originate in love. Though when I am able to look through the lens of love, this is what I see:
“The self that God created needs nothing. It is forever complete, safe, loved and loving. It seeks to share rather than to get; to extend rather than to project. It has no needs and wants to join with others out of their mutual awareness that Heaven is the natural state of all of the sons and daughters of God (not just a chosen few). And that forgiveness (both of ourselves and of others—being temporarily more for those who are temporarily less by turning the other cheek) is the means by which we will remember our true Divine nature,” the interpretation for which could be as many as 7 billion versions. Even so, each perspective when operating through impeccable Divinely actuated love can make a contribution toward expansion, growth, and ultimate freedom when the path chosen is fully dedicated to complete spiritual integrity. And despite a popular belief system that we are all originally sinful Matthew Fox, Episcopal Priest and spiritual visionary, made a breakthrough point in his book, Original Blessing, 1983. We all originate from the same Divine seed and therefore are originally blessed—each and everyone one of us. “Holding no one prisoner to guilt and blame (including ourselves) we become free and therefore set others free. Acknowledging Christ (Buddha or whatever your vision of a Spirit is) in all of our brothers/sisters, we see His Presence in ourselves” and therefore recognize the universal connection of all life forms on this planet and beyond (all quotes from the Foundation for Inner Peace, 1985).
Yes, I still get triggered, I still have periods of despair, I still feel defensive at times, I am still tempted to blame and project, I still occasionally feel separate, isolated and alone, and I still often wonder where in God’s name humanity is headed despite my frequent optimism that we as a collective do have the capacity, fortitude, and good nature, to move into a more favorable way of operating. As I have said to you many times in these postings, I am a work in progress. And here is one of my most recent epiphanies. I don’t have to make it so hard. I don’t have to have impossible expectations of myself (and others). And if I keep on opening to the Divine inspirations which are attempting to access my conscious awareness through any opening that I am willing to make available, I am destined for delivery into a more awakened state of being, where I can just allow the amygdala/reptile to do whatever it does without letting it take over. I know I can strengthen those cerebral connections by refusing to let my fear and emotions take hold before I have a chance to bring love and reason into the picture. I know I can move fully into my most optimal destiny in this life-form, which includes a permanent state of well being, happiness, freedom and peace. And I also know that if I can do it, so then can you.
I believe that for every fundamentalist and narrow interpretation of each tradition, ideology, or political belief that there is a more expanded understanding if we are just willing to look. The animal in us (reptile) is narcissistic, scared, and sees itself as separate and alone (it so wants to be “right,” “chosen,” and “special”). And if I can practice emphasizing calm and loving states when I am not in a fizz, the likelihood of my being able to access feelings of peace and compassion when I do start to escalate (and I am tempted to let the reptile take over), increases exponentially. Further, I believe that when I engage in practicing tolerance and love for myself and others (even when I am the most challenged to do so), I am contributing to the possibility of tipping human consciousness to another level.
The prophets and teachers, who have come to assist us in expanding into the upgrade for which we are fully wired (study the brain if you don’t believe me), taught us based on our limited ability to receive and translate the information into some version that could make sense to us based on our evolutionary development at the time. And regrettably we have interpreted much of their loving and wise teachings through the lens of fear. From this perspective what they shared can be twisted into a convoluted quagmire that ends up not even remotely resembling the wise and simplistic messages they were hoping to convey. Nonetheless, there has been help all along the way. All we have to do is pay attention.
Jesus made it very simple. He had no theology—just a direct line to God without the veil of ignorance and temporary amnesia to which humans have been subjected for reasons that may be beyond our understanding. The theological part of Christianity came later by those who invented it a few centuries after Jesus’ death. He simply said, “these things so can you do greater than I…and whenever two or more are gathered in “my name” (Love), the possibilities are endless.” Could He have meant that when greater numbers of us wake up the momentum from such a phenomenon will provide a much more substantial influence than with only one person (Him) operating out of conscious awareness? Kahlil Gibran a Sufi (the mystical side of Islam), is said to have “channeled” Jesus in his famous work “The Prophet.” Here is what he said on Reason and Passion: “Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgment wage war against your passion and your appetite. Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody. But how shall I, unless you yourselves be the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements?” And so from this vantage point, isn’t it up to us to exaggerate whatever positive qualities we possess to become those “peacemakers and lovers of all our elements?”
According to the ancient Maya we will enter a time when enlightenment (transcendence, the end of suffering, etc.) is more readily available but it will not be imposed. Instead, we are given free choice on whether or not to engage in the obedience, discipline, detachment, and surrender necessary to show the way for both ourselves and others (Redfield, The Twelfth Insight). With this potential in mind, is it possible that everyone on the planet is on a quest shared by all to access the soulful part of ourselves from which this consciousness springs, regardless of how it may appear? And I believe that it is the duty of those of us who are aware of such a possibility to become a beacon of light rather than feeding the dark forces of negativity, seemingly pervasive in every corner of our existence at this time. Then together, instead of protesting this darkness, we will transcend it.
Please join me in the practice of just being aware the next time you resist or feel yourself being betrayed by anything, whether it be Obama, war, Boehner (Speaker of the House), the government in general, a religious belief, your friends, intimate connections, family, etc. If we could just stop for a minute and consider what is happening in our physiology, caused by this trigger maybe we could take a breath and ask ourselves a simple question. “What would be most helpful here—to fire up and strengthen the ambush of chemicals that are telling me to retaliate? Or could I ask my head and heart to negotiate a more loving outcome? And maybe if I can keep practicing the latter method of operating over and over and over again, who knows how many of those cognitive pathways I will light up with the “God-fuel” that is destined to transcend all human error? My part is to enforce the discipline, determination, and obedience necessary to stay true to such a practice.
If we can persist in expanding our awakened hearts, by “loving enough” through this Divinely seeded soul of ours, eventually we just might see that each and every one of us on this planet is chosen, and that the only thing separating us from such an understanding is our fear that it may not be so. Let us join together in creating a reservoir of love so deep and vast that the sheer magnitude of its influence will fully transcend our fears and anxious imaginations. And this “love tank” is already available. All we have to do is keep making our donations and then watch in wonder as an unlimited supply of love, peace, and hope abundantly flows back in our direction. And all the while, the entire universe is benefitting because you have decided to become the change that you want to see in the world (Gandhi).
Believing in us,
The Twelfth Insight, by James Redfield
The Power of Constructive Thinking, by Emmet Fox
One River, Many Wells and The Original Blessing, by Matthew Fox
The Wisdom Jesus, by Cynthia Bourgeault
Happily Ever After…Right Now, Luann Robinson Hull