“Releasing the Reins” is about the enormous difficulties that face anyone who wants to regain spiritual freedom, and how I believe humanity may overcome them, by placing our trust in the human spirit.
Releasing the Reins
One of the difficulties I face in writing about spiritual freedom, is that I’m not practicing what I preach. I decry the existence of legal identities, yet my life is defined by one. My legal identity provides me with a place to live, food, respectability, the ability to move about freely, and other privileges that, if I am lucky, will hold out until the day I die. By clinging to my legal identity, I am placing my trust in institutions, not in love, which is the opposite of what I believe Jesus told us to do. By virtue of my dependence on a legal identity, I, in effect, am standing with the people who wanted Jesus crucified, so many years ago. I do this, not because I really want to, but because I want to survive. And, in our world, a legal identity is the key to survival, not loving and being loved.
Forgive them, for they Know Not What they Do
Jesus implored us to place our trust in love, but he never blamed anyone for choosing institutions, instead. He recognized how powerfully our desire to survive institutional subjugation dictates our behavior. His message also called into question the state’s sovereignty, and thereby the validity of legal identities—something that civilized people could only see as an existential threat. So, he didn’t blame any of the people who clamored for his crucifixion—not the good citizens who stood by in silence, not the Jewish priests who cried out for it, not the Roman officials who wanted this troublesome heretic removed from the scene, nor the soldiers who were commissioned to do the deed. I feel obliged to acknowledge that, as a subject of the state, I would not have refused the commission to crucify Jesus, particularly if I had a family to support.
Among Jesus’ last words were: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That statement does not apply to me. Through my studies, I have come to see institutions as a threat—not only to human happiness, but to the very existence of mankind. Therefore, I have had to face the fact that Jesus’ forgiveness doesn’t apply to me. I know what I am doing. In other words, by maintaining my legal identity, despite the fact that I no longer believe in having one, I know that I am standing with those who wanted Jesus crucified, but I’m doing it anyhow.
Readers of this book who find themselves in concert with its precepts, may find themselves suffering the pain of that same epiphany. But, we can take comfort in the fact that being cognizant of our error does not disqualify us from forgiveness, because no subject of a state can survive without a legal identity. In view of how clearly Jesus understood how our circumstances dictate our behavior, let’s trust that he would forgive us, even though we know what we are doing is wrong.
But, how are we to answer the accusations of hypocrisy that may be leveled against us, for not practicing what we preach? I don’t have a good answer for that. But, however you decide to reply, keep this in mind. Jesus would understand why we aren’t practicing what we preach. And, having no need to explain ourselves to Jesus, we need not answer to anyone. For those who are unable to understand, it is their problem, not ours. But, in order to show respect for their souls, regardless of the circumstances that compel them to denounce us, however we reply, let us be kind.
The largest question is the one that remains: Trapped as we are by the necessity of survival, how are we humans to slip our institutional bonds, and re-enter Heaven/Eden—the state of mind in which Jesus lived? Addressing this question returns us to the issue of blame: To re-enter Heaven, we, ourselves, must first recognize what Jesus knew, which is that there is no human to blame, not us, not anyone else, regardless of what happens. Consider Hitler, whose name carries the full stigma of the holocaust and WWII. Hitler would have been powerless in a world where humans were subjects of Nature, because that would be a world without chiefs, kings, gods, institutions, or governments. In the natural world, Hitler would have been a social misfit, in which case he may not even have survived. In the real world—the one that sustains human life—the key to survival is social acceptance, not a legal identity.
Consider how Hitler came to power. The German people were subject to institutions, not to Nature. Their lives were being marginalized, not just by their institutions, but by the institutions of the world. This made them eminently vulnerable to Hitler’s illusions, the ones his mind created to emotionally survive the fact that his own life was being marginalized by those same institutions. That situation brought upon the world its greatest human tragedy, to date.
Was Hitler the problem? Or was it institutional subjugation? To answer, let’s consider why human beings lay blame. We lay blame in the belief that, by pointing out who is at fault for our tribulations, we are doing something about them. But, do we really think that blaming Hitler for the human tragedy of WWII, will prevent future Hitlers? When people feel their lives are being sufficiently marginalized, we can be assured that another Hitler will appear.
The reason we lay blame isn’t to actually solve problems. We do it for a much simpler reason—to sanctify, rendering blameless the institutions upon which we depend to survive. We blame people for our difficulties, instead of institutions, because our sense of wellbeing is far more dependent on our belief in legal identities, than on our belief in any human being. We are so blinded by our dependency on legal identities that it has never even occurred to us that our institutions could possibly be at fault. So, we routinely seize upon human beings as the cause of our suffering. We are so desperate to identify the source of our troubles that we work overtime seeking out which human targets to blame—targets as diverse as Hitler, identifiable human subgroups, our national leaders, the leaders of other nations, our bosses, our spouses, and, worst of all, even ourselves.
Blaming people enables our brains to overlook the real problem, by implicating people for the spiritual insults that institutions inflict upon us. So, we remain possessed by the illusion that, if we could just get every human on earth to do the “right” thing, we could control our destiny by the force of instituted law. But, because of the vast diversity of religious, ideological, and other beliefs, we are hopelessly deadlocked on what constitutes the right thing. As long as we humans continue sanctifying institutions by blaming one another, we will continue suffering from the illusion that we can control our destiny…until we are no more.
The Shock of Seeing through Illusions is a Threshold that Must be Crossed
But, does that mean that all is lost? Illusions, after all, can be seen through. If we recognized that there are no rational solutions to the problems that face mankind—only natural ones—suddenly our institutions, which exist for the sole purpose of authorizing rational solutions, would have no platform on which to stand. Yes, this would place us in a state of shock. But that is the state of mind that is essential to any awakening.
Seeing through any illusion/belief is shocking. Beliefs bring the comfort of order to our minds, a comfort that is wrenched away when beliefs are challenged. To guard against this shock, it is the modus operandi of all human minds to blind themselves to any rationale that refutes their beliefs. This is of particular concern with humanity’s worshipful attachment to the belief in institutions of mass civilization, because it is an attachment based on the illusion that there are rational solutions to our problems. The vastness of the implications of this belief must be understood, in order to grasp what is at stake.
Indeed, the larger, more overarching the belief, the more resolutely the mind clings to it, which intensifies the shock for anyone who ceases to believe. The core belief that the mind’s ability to use reason to solve all human problems underpins the sanctity of our institutions, by whose laws the individual lives of all mankind are determined and defined.
Considering our dependency on institutions, it is quite a shock to be wrenched away from the comfort of that belief—indeed, the ultimate shock. But, the shock of relinquishing beliefs is a threshold that must be crossed. It is the cost of the expanded awareness we need, if we are to grasp the difference between the directed institutional lives we are now living and the living-in-the-moment lives that constitute the only other alternative. In fact, it is because this is a case of either-or that our minds so resist the change. Until we relinquish our belief in the “rational” solutions imposed by institutions, we can never comprehend the crucial role that feelings play in the survival of every species.
Should our minds relinquish that belief, by necessity we will be desperate for a new sense of order. We will ask, “If there are no rational solutions, what are the solutions? The answer is: We already have the solutions. They are built into each of us, because evolution has worked them out and placed them there. These are the solutions by which all of humanity once thrived.
This is what the process of evolution does. Over countless eons of trial and error, it works out solutions to the unimaginable number of difficulties that face the life of every species on earth. No species could exist, nor could it thrive, without this intrinsic ordering influence at its core. Our problem is, we moderns are ignoring the solutions that Nature has worked out for the human species, by denying our feelings of the moment in deference to institutionally imposed solutions. Little wonder that we find our lives difficult.
Once we have endured the shock of understanding that our feelings of the moment express the survival wisdom of the species, we can easily explain the human experience, without the need to make reference to gods, devils, or other magical forces that somehow control us from “out there.” By its nature, the mind is hungry for common sense explanations—explanations without mysticism. This is why, once reality is seen, it can’t be unseen, regardless of how painful the shock.
And finally, realizing that there are no rational solutions to our problems, we will never again have reason to believe in the future that institutions promise. With that awareness, the question becomes: Would you prefer to spend your life chasing false promises—promises that, even if realized, do not result in the happiness you anticipated? Or would you to prefer to experience the happiness you were born to know—the happiness that can be experienced only by loving and being loved?
Looking for a Savior
It takes only common sense to see that what we are now doing isn’t working. But, without understanding why it’s not working, we have little choice other than to go on, taking what comfort we can in the belief that, in the end, something will appear on the horizon to save us—maybe Jesus, a political leader, an economist, an environmental guru, a new ideology, a computer with limitless intelligence, technological progress, etc. (Looking for a savior is what makes us vulnerable to the next Hitler.)
Think how gratifying life would be, if we could live with the abiding sense that what we were doing was working. This is how all humans once lived, and all other species still do. If we could do that, then we too would have no need for a savior.
Regardless of the comforts I find in my present circumstances, and there are a number of them, my life remains largely about self. I would much prefer to be in a place where the wellbeing of those around me is more important to me than my own. Then I could be what I am, an expression of Nature, not of the state. But, as long as I, and the people around me, have legal identities, that place is inaccessible to me. The question is: How can we free ourselves from legal identities? Only our souls know. But, what our souls know is far beyond verbalizing. Trying to put into words what our souls know would require specifying millions of situations, each one requiring thousands of words to adequately describe. For each situation, we would need hundreds more words to specify how to react. Not only would such overwhelming documentation be unworkable, we never know what our souls know about a situation, until that situation develops. Only then do our souls reveal their wisdom about how to react—communicating to us directly, through feelings like hunger, anger, empathy, or romance.
Returning to the question about how to free ourselves from legal identities: That is a dangerous question. Should we arrive at an answer, that would be unfortunate: Then, we would have a plan! Along with plans comes the knowledge of right and wrong—those who go along with the plan are right, those who don’t are wrong. And, right and wrong inevitably morph into their superlatives, good and evil. In other words, by establishing a plan, we would be right back where we started from—spiritually estranged from ourselves, from those around us, and from life, by the “knowledge” of good and evil. This is the very knowledge that the authors of Genesis warned us to avoid, by calling it the forbidden fruit.
If we look back on our own individual lives, I am guessing we would find that most of our happiest experiences were neither planned nor anticipated. Circumstances just developed in such a way that happiness is what happened. The soldiers who crewed battle tanks in WWII certainly didn’t anticipate experiencing unconditional love on the field of battle. But, because they had no choice other than to trust their lives to one another, love is what happened. When they were interviewed in their later years, it was apparent that, because of the love they had felt for one another, their battlefield experience had been the highlight of their lives. Unlike those young soldiers, we will never be forced to depend on one another to survive, which is tantamount to saying that nothing in our sociological environment will place us in circumstances where unconditional love could exit. If we are ever to experience unconditional love, we have a choice to make.
The choice is: Do we place our trust in the future promised by instituted law, or in the promise of the free human spirit? Unfortunately, we are not in a position to make that choice. We would first have to experience the shock of disillusionment in the future promised by instituted law. So long as we believe in that future, there is no hope we will ever choose interdependent relationships over institutionally defined ones. But, should there come a day when we no longer believe in the promise of instituted law, there will be only one thing left to fall back on—the one thing that has always been there—the promise of the free human spirit. That promise is activated by placing our trust in the human spirit as manifested in our own lives, and the lives of those around us. If we place our trust in the human spirit, its promise is that we will not only know love, but will no longer have reason to be concerned about the future.
Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.
—Jesus (Matthew 6:34)
Forgetting About the Future
You see, there is no “how-to” involved. The key to losing our legal identities is to see through the false promise of institutions. By the word promise, I refer to the preposterous notion that there is some viable means, legal or otherwise, by which we can find happiness, by assuming individual and full responsibility for all the problems we can imagine we might face, in the indefinite future. We human beings, living in modern society, carry the burden of that unrealistic promise in every moment of life.
Only when no longer possessed by concerns about tomorrow will we be spiritually alive to the moment. Being alive to the moment is a prerequisite for both happiness and love, and, for that matter, our species’ eventual success.
Another thing that stands in the way of choosing to place our trust in the human spirit is the atmosphere of emotional estrangement in which we now live. Without others who are inspired to trust their lives to the human spirit, there is no ground on which to place our trust. Keep in mind that the “survival unit” for a social species is not an individual, a pair bond, or a herd, but a social group—that is, a group bonded by mutually experienced needs. That is the only reality our emotions, our souls, our spirits, understand. How can we expect our spirits to fulfill their promise by rewarding us with love, if we cannot provide them with sociological circumstances that they understand?
To accomplish that, the people with whom we bond must be individuals with whom our spirits fit. This applies particularly to women. By instinct, women recognize the souls with whom they do and do not belong. The point is that not just any group of women can function as the core of a spiritual home. Their souls have to fit. But, that is an issue that will probably take care of itself.
So, there are a number of things that must coincide, if we are ever to place our trust in the human spirit. But, for us moderns, possibly the greatest obstacle standing in the way of regaining our spiritual freedom is our propensity to make everything a goal. Goals are as dangerous as plans. Despite our good intentions, if we make regaining our spiritual freedom a goal, we will inevitably overlook our feelings of the moment, in the hope of realizing the goal. This would put us in the same situation we are in now—spiritually imprisoned by our designs on the future.
How will spiritual freedom ever happen, with so many essential, but difficult, prerequisites that must first fall into place? Maybe it won’t happen. To not accept that spiritual freedom may never happen is to ignore reality. Modern humans ignore reality in fundamental ways. One of the most pernicious of these is our conviction that, if we want something to happen, then somehow we should be able to make it happen. We can certainly make things happen by force of instituted law. But that’s the problem. Imposed happenings are attempts to quiet the anxieties that are inevitable in a sociological context that allows no spiritual freedom. They have nothing to do with love or with sustaining life. To presume that our intention to achieve good things justifies our attempts to dictate the future, is the very illusion that robbed us of our spiritual freedom, in the first place. The same illusion that empowered Hitler and his followers.
Simply put, if we wish to regain our spiritual freedom, we must forget about the future, as Jesus implored us to do. We moderns need to clearly understand that every expectation we have about the indefinite future—good or bad—is a belief, not a fact. Regarding the future, there are no facts. For example, the “fact” that I expect to wake up tomorrow morning is a belief. It’s not a fact, until it happens. Every action we take, regarding our concerns about the indefinite future, is based on a belief, and is grounded in anxiety, not reality. This is how our imaginations, and the beliefs they inspire, dissociate us—emotionally, conceptually and behaviorally—from the reality of the moment, the only reality that can sustain life.
This disassociation from reality is exemplified by emotionally heated religious, ideological, economic, ethnic, and environmental arguments. As subjects of institutions, we are anxiety ridden over issues that we cannot control, issues that did not even exist, when humans were subjects of Nature. When subjects of Nature, humans are true to the situation at hand. They live according to the sensibilities of their souls. Instead of arguing over an issue that is troubling them, they do something about it. Have you ever noticed how little we miss the news of world events during a vacation, when we take a week or so off to gain at least some sense of normal contact with one another and the natural world? Living in a state of intimacy would be like a lifelong vacation, because it would perpetually connect us with the wisdom of our souls. The real tragedy isn’t the sorry state of world affairs over which we find ourselves in endless and pointless disagreement. The real tragedy is that modern humans are living largely in a state of spiritual estrangement. But, being so focused on the future, we overlook that tragedy. The subject never comes up.
Unfortunately, as a subject of the state, I can’t honor Jesus’ request to not worry about tomorrow, because I want to survive. This is why I continue to maintain my legal identity, the source of my spiritual estrangement. That is the conundrum that I, and all civilized people face—the one that disconnects us all from reality. In essence, given the fact that we are institutionally subjugated, our only “sin” is that we want to survive.
Releasing the Reins
People wax mystical about the human soul and spirit—so much so that many see the soul continuing on for eternity after we die, without a physical embodiment. We do this, because the soul contains so much wisdom. We don’t know why we get hungry at a specific time, one day, but find that we are not hungry at that time the next. We can’t explain why romance is there for two or three months, and then it’s gone—much less fathom our romantic attachment to any specific individual. We do not know why we experience anger, joy, or grief, or why one man will lay down his life for another. To the rational mind, the soul is an incomprehensible mystery, which, I suppose, is why so many judge it to be supernatural. But, to the process of life, there is no mystery. Only by honoring soul-felt needs, without question, can we know the happiness of interdependent relationships, and simultaneously contribute to our species’ success.
I figure that if we are ever again to know spiritual freedom, we must look at the soul from virtually the opposite perspective from which we have traditionally seen it. We must understand that it is real, not supernatural. Only then will we understand that the reason it is so wise is that its wisdom has been accumulating throughout evolutionary time. It’s because of that massive accumulation of awareness that the spirit is able to inspire behaviors that seems magical to the rational mind.
If the soul knows so much that the activities it inspires seem like magic to us, then, despite the difficulties arrayed against it, regaining our spiritual freedom might simply be a matter of letting the spirit be—as my father did by releasing the reins while lost on horseback, in the middle of a blinding western-Kansas blizzard, years ago. If we have the courage to release the reins, by focusing on our feelings of the moment, not the future we fear, maybe we’ll discover that the human spirit knows what my dad’s horse knew—how to work the magic of taking us back home. And, if intimacy, happiness, and the elimination of anxiety indeed result from placing our trust in the free human spirit, it could result in a far more widespread transformation of the human way of life than we can presently imagine—a movement back to the natural homes in which all human spirits once thrived. As for the specific events that lead to the formation of a spiritual home, in no two instances will they be the same. As for the families, themselves, each will be unique in countless ways, though there will be characteristics common to them all.
But, what about the future? Will regaining our spiritual freedom mean there will no longer be refrigerators, skyscrapers, modern medicine, television, smart phones, etc.? In a modern society, whose hallmark is our present state of spiritual estrangement, success is largely a measure of the number of conveniences acquired and our longevity. To us, a better future would require even more conveniences and longer lives. But, if I understand the laws of Nature, as they apply to the existence of any social species, the best possible future we can have—whatever it entails—can be realized only by attending to one another’s needs, through interdependent relationships, now!
The only real measure of success is the happiness and contentment we find in our relationships. To live in a state of love is to be absorbed by the love experienced when our survival depends on the people and habitat around us. That’s when we know that life is working. That’s when we stand with Jesus, not those who wanted him crucified. That’s when we comprehend what Jesus understood—that only our souls know the way. That’s when life is organized so that our souls can have their way, empowering us to serve the needs of the people who surround us and the land that sustains us all. And, just as importantly, that’s when we serve the needs of the uncountable generations yet to come.