Introducing a Natural Philosophy: Spiritual Freedom
“Telling people that civilization is a mistake, when their sense of self and of place depends utterly on civilization’s institutions, is like telling slave owners that slavery is a mistake, when their sense of self and of place is entirely dependent on owning slaves. So powerful is the propensity of emotions to trump reason, that the significance of either proposition cannot possibly sink in.”—Chet Shupe
The Cost of our “Little Lies”
What Life has Lost Since Humans Came to Fear the Future
Having to lie about anything is work, and never more so than when having to lie about one’s feelings. Yet, as modern humans, we often find ourselves in situations, both domestic and work, where such dishonesty is necessary. For instance, in a March 26, 2013, Wall Street Journal article entitled “The Little Lies that Spouses Tell,” couples were advised on how being secretive could benefit their relationships. One quoted therapist said, “Often, the more open partners are with each other, the less happy they are.” According to another, “Sharing too much is a source of relationship dissatisfaction.” Though such advice might seem to improve things, for awhile, isn’t there ultimately a price to be paid for our lies?
Yes, there is a price. Lying about how we really feel dishonors the feelings through which we value our existence. The question is: Is it necessary for us to exist in such a state of emotional estrangement from life? To address that, we might start by asking: Why do we often feel closer to our pets than to one another? I believe it is because, in our relationships with our pets, neither party lies about how they really feel. If the relationship inspires delight, then both parties fully share in the pleasure. And if we are angry with our pet, we hold little back, until the issue is resolved. In our relationships with our pets, as opposed to our relationships with humans, we fully exist.
Why does being honest with our pets seem so natural, while being honest with our spouses is so fraught with difficulty that we are often well advised to lie about how we really feel? There could be many reasons, but the main one is that our relationships with our pets exist in the moment, while our marriages are defined far more by culture, society, and concerns about our future, than by the honest spontaneity of the participants.
Feelings Govern Relationships in the Natural World
I can’t get inside an animal’s head, so I don’t really know why animals do the things they do, but I suspect that all activities in the animal world are governed by feelings. In relationships, for example, there are animals who spend most of their lives alone, because they are happy only when alone. Other species pair bond, because they are happiest with a lifetime mate. Then, there are animals who bond in social groups. They are happy only in the presence of their extended families. Whatever we see going on in the natural world regarding relationships, we can be reasonably certain that it’s governed by feelings.
There was a time when humans also lived in the natural world and feelings governed our relationships. Indeed, the archeological record indicates that for most of the 200,000 years humans have inhabited this planet, we have functioned as a social species. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know, but I presume that we bonded in extended families because we were happy with those relationships and, conversely, lonely without them.
In that earlier time when feelings still governed our relationships, I’m guessing, we didn’t have cause to lie very often about how we really felt: Gifted by evolution with the emotional nature of a social species, we were essentially pleased with our relationships. We existed in a state of unconditional love; our relationships were everything. When circumstances aroused the need to express feelings of anger or saying no to someone, we were free to do so. We didn’t worry that it might result in a falling out, because, as a member of an extended family, there were others to turn to. In other words, back when we lived in a natural setting, our relationships existed in the moment, as do our present-day relationships with our pets. And, when we lived in the moment, we felt as-one with those around us, much as we now feel as-one with our pets.
In our modern human relationships, we are far more concerned about how we might feel in the future, than how we actually feel, now. Indeed, we are so focused on our future that we form pair bonds and secure them in lifetime contracts, to ensure our future happiness. But, as members of a social species, we are all-too-often unhappy when pair bonded, for the same reason that members of a pair-bonding species would be unhappy if socially bonded. Social bonding would be an affront to their emotional natures. When we presume that our future happiness is dependent on maintaining a relationship that does not satisfy our emotional needs, we have both cause to be unhappy, and a reason to keep our unhappiness a secret, especially from ourselves.
To compare humans with animals, in this way, may seem like comparing apples and oranges. The issue, however, isn’t whether we are referring to an animal or a human, but whether that individual, whatever it is, is being true to its feelings of the moment. If not, it is not likely to be very happy.
Until about ten or twenty thousand years ago, there was no basic difference between how humans and animals functioned. All beings were true to what life wants because they were true to their feelings of the moment. Feelings evolved as expressions of life as surely as arms and legs did. Indeed, feelings are expressions of the very instinct that inspire individuals to behave in ways that enable our species to flourish. Since the advent of civil cultures, and some tribal cultures, however, there’s been a big difference between animal and human behavior. Animals remain agents of life, because they have never stopped being true to their feelings of the moment. We humans, on the other hand, have been forced to lie about our feelings of the moment, in order to realize the future we have in mind. We have, thus, become agents of our own imaginations. Little wonder, then, that we find the human condition disquieting. The cost of our lies is not only the unsustainability of a way of life based on lies, but more importantly, the unhappiness that is inherent in spiritual imprisonment—the state of not being free to honor our feelings of the moment.
The Dream of an Ideal Future
Since the earliest civilizations, humans have dreampt of a future of eternal peace, in which all human need is forever satisfied—a dream so potent that it, alone, is sufficient to justify our emotional subjugation to civil rule. But the dream is an illusion. It cannot be attained.
Though no one actually anticipates an ideal future, civilized people institute laws in the belief that if everyone obeys them, the future will be good. But, instead of the good future we intend, civil rule results in economic classes, social classes, domestic violence, divorce, discrimination, economic and/or legal slavery, wealth and privilege, poverty, crime, greed, and habitat destruction, all of which eventually culminate in holocaust. In our effort to explain the unintended consequences of civil rule, humans rationalize that it’s human nature that is to blame for things not working out according to plan. This is why most religions of the Western World preach that humans are, by our nature, sinners. According to the doctrine of sin, each human is possessed by a satanic force that biases us towards self destruction, despite our godlike intentions.
Early civilizations were ruled by religious institutions, which required their subjects to worship a god, or a specific orchestration of gods. Now that secular institutions rule much of the modern world, we are required to worship in a different way—by devoting our lives to the governing institutions that authorize the social and material contracts on which our future plans are based. Indeed, from the perspective of both religion and the state, salvation lies in our being true to our institutionally-authorized plans, not to our souls, as revealed by our feelings of the moment.
Crucified for Questioning the State
Demonstrating one’s devotion to the state by recognizing its laws as sovereign is absolutely required. Failure to do that is to invite punishment. Consider what happened to Jesus, whom I see not as a god, but simply as a man who recognized the state for what it is, an artificial construct born of our fear of the imagined future. I often refer to the story of Jesus’s life and death because it is my view that he is the only figure of historical significance, other than, to some extent, Socrates, who had any real clue as to what is going on with humanity. Jesus understood the nature of life. He realized that we are like the animals, in that we must be true to our feelings of the moment to save ourselves and know spiritual/emotional fulfillment. For instance, he beseeched us to “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”—Mathew 6:36. Jesus also implored us to stop concerning ourselves with the future. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”— Mathew 6:34. Instead of focusing on legally securing their personal needs for life, if people were actually to follow Jesus’s advice and take care of one another in the moment, according to our innate sensibilities, there would be no need for civil rule.
Because Jesus practiced what he preached, while getting significant portions of the populace to connect with his message, his existence so threatened the institutions of his day that, by the authority of both religion and the state, we crucified him, without apologies. (I use “we”, rather than “they,” because, even today, we secure our futures with social and material contracts. Consequently, if Jesus were with us today, making his point as effectively as before, we, too, would eliminate him as surely as did the people of his time.)
The crucifixion of Jesus demonstrates, like no other event in human history, how terrified we humans are of the emotional nature of our own beings—so terrified that we take ultimate offense at the idea that we can flourish, both individually and as a species, by simply being true to our feelings of the moment.
Satan Is Our Institutionally-Authorized Plans
I am loath to define Satan, because, as a creation of the human imagination invented to explain the unintended consequence of civil rule, Satan doesn’t actually exist. But, for the sake of argument, I will. Regarding Satan, you see, we couldn’t have it more wrong. Satan isn’t a mysterious force bent on having us destroy our plans. There is no mystery: Satan is our plans—that is, the destructive forces in our lives are our institutionalized plans.
How do our plans destroy? They obliterate the natural order that all species enjoy whose lives are not subject to institutionalized plans. They place us in an irreconcilable state of conflict with our emotional natures, by forcing us to lie about our feelings of the moment in order to honor our institutionally-authorized plans—or, to put it another way, in order to be good.
Plans among individuals, where people remain directly accountable to one another, are not a problem. But, once plans were authorized—when institutions came to exert control through universally-imposed systems of laws and punishment—they rendered us subjects, not of life and one another, but of centralized power structures. This single event, which I associate with the our metaphorical expulsion from the Garden of Eden, was all it took to separate us from one another and tear apart the social fabric that is natural to our species.
For a sense of how vast is the malign influence of legally-authorized plans, think of the things we justify in the name of good. The nations of the world have deployed enough weapons to destroy the world two or three times over, all to defend institutions that authorize people’s good plans. In the name of good, many of us have spent the larger portion of our lives seeking emotional fulfillment in relationships that offend our souls—relationships in which we have no hope of finding the satisfaction we seek. In the name of good, we justify all the conveniences of our modern world, though their production and use continue to denature the environment on which life depends.
By the authority of our institutionally-authorized plans, we presume to have dominion over the forces of Nature that created us. But, it’s the forces of creation that are sovereign, not our plans. So, Nature, as expressed through our very own souls, eventually annihilates all institutions that authorize our “good” plans—a fact which explains the fall of every civilization that has preceded us.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions: The fall of a civilization represents the utter failure of a state, which—though people created it in the name of good—requires its subjects to persistently lie about their feelings of the moment, in order to comply with its demands. When we lie about the essential expressions of life—our feelings of the moment—we not only deny the nature of our own existence but we deny life its existence. As current subjects of civil rule, every time we are compelled to lie about how we really feel—whether for the sake of a relationship, or to be respectable, or to realize a plan, or just to make a buck—we are participating in the same worship of institutions that resulted in the crucifixion of Christ.
Lying in the Name of Good
But let’s not blame ourselves for our deceit. Jesus knew, and would know, if he were with us this day, that we are culturally trapped into our state of deceit. This is why he did not blame the soldiers who crucified him. He knew that their souls—with their irrevocable connection to Nature—were with him, even in the face of what they were doing. Instead of blaming, he expressed his love for the soldiers, when he said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do,” Luke 23:34. And what did the soldiers not know? They didn’t know that, as they crucified Jesus, they were lying to themselves about how they really felt.
We have noted that animals are true to how they really feel. Given a choice, we would be true to our feelings of the moment, also. But, as subjects of institutions, instead of the human soul, we are not allowed that privilege. We, therefore, lie about our feelings of the moment when going to school, if school is not where we want to be. We go along with marriage plans when, as the day approaches, our feelings increasingly warn us that we may well be doing the wrong thing. We remain in painful and abusive domestic relationships for years, in honor of our institutionally-authorized plans. We go to work, even though it is the last place on earth we would be, if free to do otherwise.
Lying about our feelings of the moment is so intrinsic to our existence that, like the soldiers who crucified Christ, we are virtually unaware of how we really feel. Though our lies about how we feel in the moment result in the immediate pain of spiritual alienation and, ultimately, chaos, we commit each of them in the name of good.
In the context of modern reality, it’s good that you go to school. It’s good that you honor the institution of marriage. It’s good that you go to work. It’s good that you honor the proclamations of the state. It’s good that you deploy weapons to protect institutions. In the name of good, we are trained throughout our lifetimes to faithfully comply with all institutional demands. Little wonder that we—so practiced in the skill of compliance—would stand ready to crucify Christ, should he again effectively question the authority of the institutions that spiritually enslave us.
In compliance with the institutional requirements of their day, not only did the Roman soldiers crucify Christ, but, as with all good soldiers, in doing so made their home folk proud. Think, for a moment, of what might have happened to one of those young men, had he got in touch with his heart and refused, at the last moment, to fulfill his commission. Not only would it have ruined him financially, he would have suffered the disgrace of a deserter. As good citizens (agents of the state) we are each in the same position as that young man. Should any of us, one day, be true to our feelings of the moment and embrace an illicit romance, refuse to go to school, break a contract, or refute the papers of citizenship, we would be financially ruined and disgraced, also. Little wonder, then, that Jesus neither blamed the young men who crucified him, nor would he blame us, for continuing to function as agents of the state.
Living an Effective and Meaningful Life is Easy—Far Easier than the Lives we are Living Today
Reader: Why all this bad stuff? We would prefer to focus on things that make us feel good—like the heaven where we’re going to live after we die, or the technology that will someday allow us to inhabitant the universe and eventually save the environment it is presently destroying. After all, human possibilities are limited only by our imaginations, aren’t they? Instead, you insist on telling us that our lies, and the activities required to survive our sociological circumstances, are just recapitulations of the crucifixion of Christ. What’s the point of making us feel bad, particularly since there seems to be nothing we can do about it, anyhow?
Shupe: Maybe we can do something. I’ll start by putting it this way: Regarding my discussing painful things, it’s sort of like the guy who whacked his mule over the head with an eight foot long 4×6. His friend said, “I thought you told me that to get your mule to do what you wanted, you had to treat it kindly.” To which the owner replied, “Yea, but first I’ve got to get its attention.”
I do have something to share that is kind and hopeful. But it is so simple that, for you to find it significant, I had to get your attention, first, by reminding you of the grave nature of our circumstances.
My simple message of hope is this: To live an effective and meaningful life is easy, far easier than the lives we are living, today. Indeed, living an effective and meaningful life is so simple that animals do it all the time. If an animal could speak, how would it reply to the question, how do you know how to live? The conversation would probably go something like this:
Animal: It’s simple. I eat when I am hungry, build a nest when I need one, have sex when I feel amorous, associate with others I like, avoid others I don’t like, join groups when lonely, separate myself from others when I feel crowded, play when I feel like playing, grieve when I lose a loved one, defend my territory when it needs defending, sacrifice my life when necessary for those I love, and kill when lives are threatened.
Man: Okay, so that is how you survive. But what makes you happy?
Animal: What do you mean, happy?
Man: Happiness is basically what occurs when our feelings are satisfied. For example, if you are lonely, hungry, and cold, then you are not going to be very happy until you have found others to be with, something to eat, and shelter from the elements.
Animal: Well, in that case, I guess everything I do makes me happy. I can’t imagine moving a muscle for any reason other than to satisfy a feeling.
Man: Okay, so you are happy. But what makes your life meaningful?
Animal: What do you mean, meaningful?
Man: I’m not sure, exactly. Even we humans get hung-up on that one. But I guess it means having a sense of purpose, feeling connected with others, and with your surroundings.
Animal: Hmmm…. I can’t think of anything in my life that isn’t meaningful. Isn’t taking care of my offspring meaningful? Eating meaningful? Sex meaningful? Storing supplies for the coming season meaningful? Putting one’s life on the line for the sake of others meaningful? Intimacy meaningful? Hanging out with friends meaningful? Grieving meaningful? Defending territory meaningful? Finding shelter from a storm meaningful? Come to think of it, the only meaningless thing that has happened in my life is this conversation. Would you please quit bothering me with your pointless questions so I can get on with life?
Shupe: An animal’s life may not be perfect or easy. But at no instance is there any question as to what it should, or should not, be doing, even if it is just hanging out with friends, or surfing the evening ocean breeze, like seagulls. The animal has a sensory system that connects it to its surroundings, and it has feelings that tell it how to react to those surroundings. An animal’s objective, is survival, not happiness. But, because it survives by figuring out how to resolve its feelings of the moment, happiness is the unavoidable consequence of its success at survival.
As for meaning, every niche of an animal’s reality is saturated with meaning. By knowing, through feelings, how to be true to life in every instance, and having no reason to do anything other than honor life by being true to its feelings, the animal’s life is not only effective, but immersed in meaning. Indeed, presuming that an animal is not suffering from environmental distress, physical issues, or brain dysfunction, it receives all the emotional rewards life has to offer, which are immense.
Regarding rewards other than emotional, there are none. Life is all about how we feel. If we feel great, life is great, and conversely, if we feel miserable, life is miserable. To seek rewards other than by satisfying the feelings of our souls, through which we are each informed on how to be true to life, is to take comfort in illusions. It can be done. Indeed, the comfort offered by illusions is the primary source of happiness available to civilized people. But the satisfaction we find in illusions is far less than that which comes of being true to life. For instance, very little love, which is life’s greatest reward, is found in illusions. Furthermore, when pursuing happiness in illusions, we become destroyers, rather than sustainers, of life.
Reader: Okay, so an animal’s life is effective, happy, and meaningful, and this all occurs naturally. But what does that have to do with humans? We are different, aren’t we?
Shupe: Yes and no. If we want to spend the rest of our days pursuing happiness, then, how animals live has nothing to do with us. But, if we want to be happy, instead of merely pursuing happiness, then how animals live has everything to do with us.
Reader: Okay. Say I decide to be happy. What do I do?
Shupe: That’s easy. Be true to your feelings of the moment.
Reader: You must be kidding! How can I be true to my feelings of the moment when I’ve got a mortgage to pay, kids to educate, a spouse to please, a career to manage, and a retirement to plan?
Shupe: You have a point there. Within the context of modern reality, being true to our feelings of the moment is not possible. If we want to be happy, instead of pursuing happiness, a reality reset is required.
Reader: Reset reality! How can reality be reset?
Shupe: Well, it can’t be reset globally, at least not now. But if a small number of people were to anchor their lives in relationships, instead of a story, I believe reality could be reset on a small local scale, at any time, even in the midst of a modern city.
A Fantasy of Drudgery
Reader: You say that, to reset reality, we must stop anchoring our lives in a story. What story?
Shupe: The story of the rest of your life. Write down on a tablet everything you think will happen to you for the rest of your life, and you will have your story. It will include such things as the relationships you will have, the education you will need, the technology you will use, how much money you will need, the work you will do, the places you will live, and who you think will be at your funeral. When you are finished, you will have in hand the story of the rest of your life, your “life story.” Then, after you have carefully memorized every word of it, burn the tablet on which it is written.
Reader: Memorize, then burn it! Why?
Shupe: I want you to have clearly in mind all the things you must be prepared to forget, if you are to be happy.
Regardless of how important your life story may seem, it represents little more than a flawed burden on your existence. It is flawed because when you created it you believed you were foretelling the future—which can’t be done. You are divorced, right? Was that in your life story when you proposed marriage? I also see that much of your time is occupied by your iPhone. Would an iPhone have been in your life story ten years ago? See, your life story is largely a fantasy.
Secondly, there is no spontaneity—no life—in your story. Life only happens in the moment, while your story happens in an imagined future. No matter how good you make the story of the rest of your life, it is really mostly drudge, drudge, drudge until the end, except for isolated moments of pleasure or excitement. But the most troubling aspect of your story is that it places you at risk of devoting the rest of your life to things like education, marriage, and work, in your effort to make that fantasy of drudgery come true.
Nature has Life’s Reins
By authority of our institutions, our long term plans, and our dreams, we believe we hold life’s reins. But Nature has the reins. All we can really do is fight with Nature for control. The more we attempt to exert control, the more we suffer burdensome and difficult consequences. Each time we lie about our feelings of the moment, whether by word or deed, we are taking life’s reins from Nature and handing them over to our life’s story. Given the state of our affairs, it is evident that our presumption that we control life isn’t working out so well. To live effective and meaningful lives requires that we hand the reins back to Nature. Only when no longer burdened by our life stories, can we cease lying about our feelings of the moment. At that point, the story of the rest of our lives will unfold, as it happens. No longer a fantasy, the story of our lives will become real.
When Nature is in control, everything is on our side. Our emotional natures support us. The people close to us are there for us, as we are for them. And the habitat that sustains us is our sanctuary. On the other hand, when we try to realize a prescribed story, everything is against us. We must endure the emotional pain of spiritual repression. Instead of experiencing unconditional love, we compete with the people around us for wealth and privilege. And the habitat is our enemy, to be conquered and subdued.
With our emotional natures against us, we, in effect, exist without our souls. As Jesus said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” – Luke 9:25. That’s what lying about our feelings of the moment is costing us: Our souls.
There is a vast difference between our souls governing life according to natural law, and our intellects presuming to control life by force of instituted law. When our souls govern, it’s like swimming downstream. With our intellects presuming control, on the other hand, we find ourselves struggling against a current that is flowing faster than we can swim. Though all kinds of activities and efforts are required when going along with nature’s flow, there is no such thing as work. How can there be work when our every act is the result of being true to our feelings of the moment? We are always doing what we want to do. When going against Nature, our lives are increasingly burdened with work—doing things we don’t feel like doing. Furthermore, despite our best efforts, we lose ground with every stroke, only to be swept, in the end, over another thousand-foot waterfall.
Reader: When you told us that to reset reality we had to anchor our lives in relationships, instead of a story, what did you mean by anchoring our lives in relationships?
Shupe: Anchoring our lives in relationships is simply a matter of being true to who we are. Above all else, Nature created us as members of a social species. A social species flourishes, not because of each individual’s devotion to an imagined personal story, but because its individual members are taking care of one another’s needs in the moment. I lay odds that if you have ever been in a situation where you were there for another, or have been helped by another in a moment of real need, you will be unable to think of any other time in your life when you felt more alive, awake, real, connected, and attuned to your soul. How different that is from our modern lives, where, we find ourselves using our associates, even lifetime mates, to whatever advantage we can, for the sake of realizing the future we have in mind!
As members of a social species, it’s not our own lives, but the lives of those around us that are naturally most important to us. If you ask men in the thick of armed conflict about the meaning of life, they won’t tell you a life story. National identity, politics, and the future are of little significance to them. They will talk about their relationships—who has their back, and whose back they have. Their greatest fear is not that they may lose their lives, but that, by failing in their duty, they might cost one of their buddies his life. A soldier doesn’t have to live with the loss of his own life. But if, through dereliction of duty, he costs a buddy his life, then he does have to live with that.
Only when we are more concerned for the needs of others than for our own do we know relational intimacy. This characteristic of human nature is revealed when soldiers, wounded in Afghanistan, can think of nothing other than getting well, so they can rejoin their compatriots on the line of fire. Having once known the relational intimacy of the battlefield, the idea of risking one’s life is no longer an issue, if that’s what’s required to experience the unconditional love accessible to civilized men only on the field of battle.
From Spiritual Alienation to Relational Intimacy
This is not to glorify conflict. It is to make the point that Nature created us, as members of a social species, to know unconditional love. Were we being true to life, we would be there for one another every day of our lives, whether in a state of conflict or not. Unconditional love is our natural state of being. Anchoring our lives in relationships, instead of a story of the rest of our lives, is the only way to reset reality from the spiritual alienation of our present-day existence to the unconditional love of natural reality.
But no one can reset reality by his or herself. I, for instance, maintain a monetary and legal identity, and therefore firmly remain an agent of the state. To reset reality, we must again function as the members of a social species that we are. To begin, it would suffice if only a small number of people decided to trust their lives to the living human spirit, as it resides within each one of us. In a world owned by money, the family will have to maintain a monetary and legal identity, at least during the early stages of spiritual freedom. But that money must be kept by the family in common: For spiritual freedom to exist, there can be no place for separate monetary or legal identities, or posted rules prescribing how the members intend to serve one another.
Rules and abstract identities must be avoided for a fundamental reason: They subjugate us to an imagined future, thereby emotionally imprisoning us with the requirement that we realize the story of the rest of our lives. Because rules and abstract identities endure for life, they unfailingly repress the human spirit, whose sensibilities apply only to the present. Abstract identities result, not in love, which is an expression of the soul, but in its opposites, spiritual alienation and estrangement. Indeed, abstract identities are what created abstract reality, the reality that we must reset back to real.
States are Massive Communes
It isn’t that people don’t recognize the need for a way of life that inspires love and community, instead of the ever increasing alienation and isolation inspired by our present lifestyle. The great commune movement of the 60s and 70s was borne of the same need. But, instead of resulting in intimacy and community, communes represent only another example of how rules offend our souls. Communes are planned communities, not places where people are free to be true to their feelings of the moment. Like the state, communes are governed by enforceable rules; they place no trust whatsoever in the human spirit. Consequently, they mirror, on a small scale, the massive spiritual prisons offered by states. Indeed, states are nothing other than gigantic planned communities.
Communes disband for the same reasons states eventually collapse: Access to material and/or emotional needs eventually becomes so scarce that, at some point, people turn against the “systems” they once worshipped. States last longer than communes only because of their size.
Regaining Our Spiritual Freedom Requires Perspective More than Bravery
Reader: But wouldn’t the larger populace be offended by people living without personal monetary or legal identities?
Shupe: Offended? More than offended! Look at what happened to Jesus, whose only crime was that he would not subjugate himself to the state, either by owning things or by acknowledging the state’s presumption of sovereignty. They imprisoned Jesus. They tortured Jesus. They killed him.
Resetting reality will be dangerous. But having to risk one’s life is not the primary problem. More than bravery, resetting reality requires that we have a clear perspective on the nature of our circumstances. By virtue of our emotional natures, what we all want more than anything is for our lives to count. We must recognize, as did Jesus, that, for our lives to count requires that we be true to our feelings of the moment. If and when we succeed in creating circumstances in which we are free to be true to our souls, part of being true will be our willingness to surrender our lives, should our devotion to life require it.
Reader: But isn’t there a middle ground, a way to be true to life without putting ourselves in danger?
Shupe: No. We either stand with the soldiers who crucified Christ—shrouded, as they were, in legal identities to resolve their fear of the imagined future—or we stand with Jesus, in trust of the human spirit: “No one can serve two masters,” Matthew 6:24.
If there were a middle ground, Jesus would surely have chosen it. He didn’t want to die anymore than any of us: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done,” Luke 22:42. That statement makes clear that, not only did Jesus not want to die, but in doing so he was placing life’s needs above his own. He surrendered his life because he knew it was his only hope of making his point.
And what point was Jesus trying to make? This, in my words, is what I believe he was trying to say: “When I walked among you, I told you of the cost of complying with the demands of the institutions you good people are worshipping. It is costing you your souls. And now those same institutions are having you celebrate the crucifixion of a man whose only crime is being true to his soul.” (States want subjects, they will not tolerate humans.) “The cure for all of this is but to trust your lives to the human spirit.”
Jesus was just a guy—though a quite remarkable one at that—who, through the gift of his life, implored us to place our trust in the human spirit. But, failing to recognize him for what he was, subsequent institutional authorities turned him into an idol—a God even—by making Christianity a state religion. His life thereby became a steppingstone along the path to imposing even more institutional compliance—the antithesis of what his life was about.
The above words represent how I see things. I don’t presume to know the truth. Only the future contains the truth regarding issues of survival and sustainability, as will be revealed in the ultimate consequences of our decisions. What I do believe in is the human spirit. As the conduit of life’s wisdom, only the spirit possess the ability to inspire us to actions that sustain life.
Emotions Trump Reason
However, the prospects for spiritual freedom may not be as bleak as they first appear. From science, we are learning ever more about the brain. Civil rule is based on the belief that reason is the brain’s ultimate power, a power so potent, grand and all-encompassing, that it entitles us, by the authority of law and order—and science—to use Nature to our own ends. But, as the result of neurological research, we are discovering that emotions trump everything, even reason. Indeed, science is learning that, without feelings to satisfy, reason could not exist.
Consider this quote from How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer’s book based on the latest research in neuroscience.
Far too long, people have disparaged the emotional brain, blaming our feelings for all our mistakes. The truth is far more interesting. What we discover when we look at the brain is that, if it weren’t for our emotions, reason wouldn’t exist at all.
Emotions Value Life’s Needs Above the Individual’s
Having recognized that emotions trump reason, just a small gap remains between the rationale that justifies civil rule, and the recognition of what’s required for happiness and a flourishing species. To bridge that gap, we need only grasp the implications of a simple fact: A species must exist before an individual can, or, to put it in another way, no individual can exist once the species is extinct. It is for that reason, alone, that: The emotional natures of living beings, which provide the inspiration for all natural behavior, value life’s needs above those of the individual. In other words, the life of our species—not our lives—is sacred to our emotional natures.
Civilized people have no difficulty figuring out why, in a world governed by institutions, those institutions and their laws must be held sacred relative to the individuals they govern. So, it should be easy for humanity’s vaunted reason to understand why, in a natural world governed by feelings, our emotional natures must see the species’ life as sacred relative to the individual’s. But, as it turns out, it is virtually impossible for people who are subjects of institutions to accept the simple idea that emotions value life’s needs above the individual’s.
They can’t accept that idea, because the emotion of fear—in this instance, our fear of the future—trumps reason every time. As a consequence, we citizens are finding resolution to our fear of the imagined future by subjugating ourselves to institutions. These institutions, whose laws presently control all human activity, see us only as individuals, not as part of the human species—the larger whole—which, like all living things, requires specific conditions to survive. Only our souls see us as part of a species, but our conscious minds and the institutional world that controls us are blind to their message. Thus, the very underpinnings of our existence go unnurtured, even though the powerful forces of Nature—and Nature’s wisdom—continue to abide within us.
The vastness of Nature’s power is evident in the pain we deal with in our day-to-day lives. It is a pain to which our belief systems and our plans nominally desensitize us, and which, without our belief systems—whether religious or secular, scientific or ideological—would otherwise be intolerable. The strength and scope of our belief systems is, in essence, the measure of that pain, since they must match it, in order to mask it.
This pain is not physical, but emotional. It comes from our souls. It is an unceasing message, an urgent warning calling the attention of our conscious minds to this clear-and-present danger—this cultural anomaly in which life is not being taken care of, in which the underpinnings of our existence are being systematically destroyed by our way of life.
With fear undermining our ability to reason, we humans might forever remain as we are—stone blind to the absolute sacredness of our species’ life—which trumps all—and to the import of that sacredness: The survival of our species, upon which will depend the lives of our future descendants, requires that our emotional natures regain control. They, alone, hold our species’ life sacred.
But they are not now in control, nor will they regain control unless humanity someday comes to comprehend this foundational principle of life, that emotions value life’s needs above the needs of the individual. If this does come to pass, then the point Jesus died on the cross trying to make might finally achieve acceptance. His idea, that we must trust our lives to the human spirit, will become a scientific fact asserted by every neurological research lab in the world—at least the ones that agree with the salient point in Lehrer’s book: “If it weren’t for our emotions, reason wouldn’t exist at all.”
But, again, in our present world, humanity remains blind to this crucial understanding. In this world, we exist in a state of emotional separation from one another, and from our own souls. Blinded by lifetimes of going along to get along, we law-abiding citizens seem unable to grasp what indigenous people have always known intuitively—that the human spirit values life’s needs above the individual’s. Consider this passage from The Soul of the Redman, Chapter II, “His Spirituality.”
The culture and civilization of the Whiteman are essentially material: his measure of success is, How much property have I acquired for myself? The culture of the Redman is fundamentally spiritual; his measure of success is, How much service have I rendered to my people” His mode of life, his thought, his every act are given spiritual significance, approached and colored with complete realization of the spirit world.
But how could our existence be other than material? The laws to which we are subject don’t even recognize that our feelings, our emotions, our souls, our spirits, are expressions of life that evolved for the singular purpose of enabling us to serve life. Instituted laws—whether religiously or secularly based—fail even to recognize, in their blindness to the essential role of emotions, that we have emotional natures. It is, after all, our emotional natures, functioning in a concert orchestrated by Nature, that create the “spirit world,” as it is described in the quotation above.
We are Not Happy when Pretending to be Pair Bonders
Something else that bodes well for the prospects of spiritual freedom is that the only family any civil authority could possibly authorize, the pair-bonded family, is in a state of abject failure. Our mind-body refuses to recognize its failure because of the importance of family to our emotional natures, and we have no notion of what other form of family a state or religion might institute. But, in the mere 150 years since women began gaining civil rights—gains that provided both women and men with options—the institutionalized family has devolved into a state of disarray. Not just the nuclear family, but male-female attachments of any kind are in such a state of collapse that over half of American adults now live alone.
The message from our souls is clear: We are, generally speaking, not emotionally configured to function happily as a pair-bonding species. With pair bonding being the only type of family our culture offers, our spirits are increasingly inspiring us to say: “No thanks, we’ll pass.” From our emotional nature’s perspective, we are better off alone.
This message is also made clear by the advice of the therapists quoted at the beginning of this document. If experts are advising us to lie about our feelings, in order to benefit a relationship, it’s clear that the relationship, whatever it is, holds little hope of ever satisfying the needs of our souls.
In our lifetimes we’ll probably never arrive at a time when there is no one trying to make pair bonding work. Sometimes it does work—just not for most of us. But, despite what we are taught reality should be, we can’t ignore what our personal experiences are telling us, forever. So, at some point, there will surely be a general awakening to the fact that the nuclear family isn’t working. At that time, a few groups of people may decide to trust their lives to the human spirit, by anchoring their lives in relationships. If they do, I believe that functional, stable extended families will begin forming naturally. (For further considerations on how families based on spiritual trust might form, refer to Eden—Regaining our Spiritual Freedom, Chapter 8—“Natural Families,” and Chapter 12—“Take Us Home, Girls.”)
When such families begin forming, more people—and eventually the masses—will be drawn to the essential grace of the emotional freedom that is inherent to natural families. Should this come to pass, we might not have to place our lives on the line to help make Jesus’ point, after all.
There’s Nothing to Learn
But won’t learning to trust the human spirit take time? No. There is nothing to learn. Spiritual trust is based on instinct, which is born into each of us and remains unchanged from birth to death. For example, we experience the color orange only when something that is orange is in our field of view. Likewise, all that’s required to know the unconditional love on which spiritual trust is based are circumstances in which our instincts/souls have cause to express those feelings. Our soldiers in Afghanistan didn’t take love training in boot camp, nor were they instructed on the subject in school. It’s just that, once in a situation where they were totally dependent on those around them—as were all humans before the advent of centrally-imposed rules and laws—they simply experienced the spiritual trust that is inherent to unconditional love.
Years ago, I saw a TV documentary about bringing civilization to an indigenous African culture. These were people who had depended on one another for eons, to survive. But there they were, being given separate legal and monetary identities that made them dependents of the state, instead of one another, and separate garden plots to cultivate, and separate access to rations. I will always remember the scene in which two of the men seemed almost ready to kill one another in a shockingly-ugly dispute over a sack containing what appeared to be about a ten-pound piece of meat. If they can experience spiritual distrust of that magnitude within days of having lived a lifetime of intimacy, then, I figure that the effect would work just as well in reverse. Thus, if we ever surrendered our artificial identities by trusting our lives to an extended family, then, in no time at all, we would know the same unconditional love that those people had shared for eons.
So, there really is nothing to learn. And the transition would be magically swift. Within days—or even hours—of experiencing the intimacy of relationships bonded in spiritual trust, we moderns would find that our present-day existence, its fears, its struggles, and its contradictions, would already be fading into distant memory. The speed and smoothness of our transition would be possible because the reality around us, for the first times in our lives, would be one that our emotions understand.
What About Rape?
We have noted that, because men in the thick of battle are dependent on one another to survive, they experience the unconditional love that is inherent to spiritually-free cultures. On the other hand, now that females are playing an ever greater role in our military services, women soldiers are being victimized by sex crimes at alarming rates. Surely, inappropriate sexual conduct is not also part of spiritual freedom. The question is: How would inappropriate sexual conduct be prevented in a spiritually-free culture? This is one of many questions about spiritual freedom—too numerous to deal with here—that are addressed in my book, Eden—Regaining our Spiritual Freedom. I will address this particular one for now, and in the process, touch on a few other related things.
The State Possesses Our Soul by Sanctioning Our Identity
First, it should be noted that, notwithstanding our devotion to law and order, the law is failing to protect our women soldiers. This makes it clear that the reason we believe in the state’s sovereignty isn’t because law and order actually works. We believe in its sovereignty, because the state authorizes everything—our citizenship, our family relationships, our property, and our wealth. In short, the state sanctions our identities. We are forced to pretend it is sovereign, despite its failures, because our personal identities—the only selves we have ever known—rest solely upon that sovereignty. Should the state collapse, we would be deprived of our sense of self and of place, making us feel as though life had come to an end, much as the pre-teenage rifle-toting boys on the streets of 1945 Berlin felt at the moment of the Third Reich’s collapse.
But, as the Methodist minister said, who was one of those twelve-year-old German boys and told me how they felt, they discovered that life didn’t end with the demise of their state, after all. And, regardless of how much we are dependent on our state for our sense of self and place, our lives wouldn’t end with its collapse, either.
With the state gone, we would be relieved of having to compete with each other over the two things the state offers—property and money. (Incidentally, because the state does not create land, it has, in actuality, no property to offer.) Indeed, we would have no reason to do other than be true to our feelings of the moment. In no time at all, the social fabric that is natural to our species would reappear. Then, for the first time in thousands of years, we would again be taking care of one another.
Wouldn’t that be cause for celebration? After all this wasted time and effort, during which we have been possessed by religions, ideologies, social classes, discrimination, wealth and privilege, poverty, greed, and the like, we will have discovered, in the end, that we really do care. By our emotional natures, we aren’t sinners, self centered, or selfish, after all.
But, because the state exists, we risk remaining as we are, for the rest of our days—competitors for wealth and privilege, the only things the state has to offer. As lottery winners, or children who are born into privilege often discover: Wealth and privilege, despite their promise, have pitifully little of spiritual value to offer. As subjects of states, we, in effect, are locked into lifetime struggles over nothing, at least nothing of spiritual value. What could possibly possess intelligent creatures like us to behave so irrationally?
By sanctioning our identities, the state, as if by sleight-of-hand, has taken possession of our souls. The degree of this possession was evident in the attitudes of Germans and Japanese near the end of WW II. Without their leader’s admission that their state had failed, those people were prepared to fight on to the last man, woman, and child. Why? Because their identities, like ours, were so embedded with that of the state, they suffered from the illusion that, if the state didn’t exist, neither would they.
Blind to the Lesson of History
As intelligent, reasonable beings, we think we can learn from past mistakes. But we seem unable to grasp the one thing that stares us point-blank in the face in every instance of recorded history: All civilizations eventually fail. Comprehending the significance of that statement is key to our personal happiness, and to the eventual survival of our kind. Yet, we remain stone blind to this crucial history lesson because of our need for a sense of self and place, thus, for the same reason the Japanese people remained blind to the fact that their state had failed, long after it actually had.
There is little point in telling people whose souls are possessed by a state that civil rule is a mistake. That would be like trying to tell a slave owner whose soul is possessed by the institution of slavery—that is, a person whose sense of self and place are dependent on owning slaves—that slavery is a mistake. Because feelings of the soul, even possessed souls, always trump reason, the significance of either proposition cannot possibly sink in.
In view of the fact that emotions always trump reason, the only hope for mankind is that we find something other than the state as a reference for our sense of self and place. Only then can we see civil rule for the disaster it is, indeed, a far greater disaster than slavery, because civil rule has made slaves of us all. The issue is: Is it possible to anchor our identity in something other than property and wealth, the primary hooks the state uses, albeit unintentionally, to take possession of our souls?
Hope rests in the fact that animals do not require a sovereign state in order to have a sense of self and place, nor did early humans or pre-humans. With their identities anchored in something real, they flourished, not just for a few hundred, or thousand years, but over epochs of evolutionary time.
The point is this: Unless we get our identities grounded in something real, not only must we continue enduring the pain of spiritual alienation, but, the whole globally-connected human race stands ready to go down with the next collapse of civil rule. And, if the next holocaust doesn’t get us, then the one that follows, in three- to five- hundred years, will surely do the trick.
Only Natural Law Can Protect Women Sexually
Does the fact that our sovereign state can’t seem to prevent our male soldiers from raping our female soldiers tell us something? Is it possible that, by accepting as sovereign the authority of our all-powerful states, we are overseeing the demise of our species? If we need any proof, the sexual mistreatment of women inherent to all civil cultures, should be all that’s needed. Women have so little confidence in the very entities that sanction their identities—our “all-powerful” states—that most sex crimes go unreported, or, when reported, women often end up wishing they hadn’t.
The message to women is clear: Instituted law has never, nor will it ever, adequately protect you or your children, sexually. Only natural law can protect life, which includes protecting women from inappropriate sexual aggression. And how does natural law provide women that service?
In Spiritual Freedom, Sisterly Bonds are the Foundation for Everything, Including Our Sense of Self and Place
If you read Eden, you will see why I believe that the nucleus of an extended family is the sisterhood. If I am right, regaining our spiritual freedom is dependent on one thing—that women step out of the slave status they have endured since they first allowed men to make lifetime personal claims upon them, whether those claims were imposed by tribal or civil cultures. The males and females of all species serve specific natural roles in nurturing their species. Once women were enslaved, both men and women ceased serving their natural roles. That a sisterly bond is the nucleus of a natural human family is not by design or intent. It is based on genetic predisposition, and is, therefore, both automatic and inevitable. In spiritually-free cultures, which have no instituted families or laws, sisterhoods could never be prevented, anymore than we can now prevent groups of girls from forming lifetime friendships on school playgrounds. In a spiritually-free culture a woman’s identity—that is, her sense of self and of place—is grounded in her relationships with her sisters, not on the illusion of state sovereignty.
Having never been among humans living in their natural state, I can only surmise how our souls would naturally organize things, if not possessed by institutions and states. To reveal the actual social fabric of a natural human culture, we would need to form one. That would require the participants to trust their lives to the human spirit. Whether or not natural social structure indeed takes the form I envision, we can be certain of one thing: A natural social structure for our species does exist. Otherwise, our species wouldn’t exist.
I cannot stress enough how strongly I have come to believe in the immense power of the sisterly bonds women form, when in their natural state. These bonds don’t break. These women function as a unit. They look out for one another. And, unlike men, they are territorial creatures. If there were no women, men wouldn’t have a reason to fight wars. We would have no sense of self, no sense of place, no sense of anything. We wouldn’t be fighting over territory, because we would need nothing to establish as ours. In our natural state, everything a man does is to please the women.
You see, it is the women, not the men, who require a defined territory called home—a place where they can have a reasonable expectation of safety, for themselves and their children, as well as a natural sense of belonging. Here, they have a sense of place, and only here, a spiritual home.
In the modern world, states—not sisterhoods—are seen as all powerful. But states have no real power, that is to say, power that is useful to life. Not only can states not save mankind, they can’t even to save themselves. Only because there is nothing with real moral authority—such as a sisterly bond–to confront it, can the state be seen as all powerful. And where does the moral authority of the sisterly bond reside?
In a world ruled by states, it is might—be it military or economic—that makes right. However, should groups of women ever reassert the power of their souls, by again bonding in spiritual trust, things could dramatically change! Those women would yield to need, not to might. Indeed, if their family had plenty, and a neighboring family was without, they would share what they could simply for the sake of being able to live with themselves.
There is no perfect world, where needs are always satisfied and territorial disputes never occur. That would be unrealistic. But women carry the instinct for creating a world in which standing is gained by serving need, not through attaining might and wealth. And should women ever spiritually bond, the men would fall into line. In our souls, we each know what we are really about, which is to help provide for and protect the women and their children. But this knowledge has for thousands of years been silent, because there are no sisterly bonds to call us to our natural sense of duty.
I firmly believe that if a group of women ever bonded in spiritual trust—for their own sakes, for the sake of their children, and for the sake of the men who joined to support them—they would possess the spiritual authority to face down empires. All they would have to do is stand their ground. Those women might not always win, but every victory of the state would knock another thousand legs from under the illusion that the state has any real authority whatsoever, moral or otherwise.
When will women step out of their slave status to reassert their spiritual authority? When they become sufficiently offended with what is going on now.
The unbreakable sisterly bond is the hearth of human existence. Not only is the women’s sense of self and place secured in her female relationships, a man’s identity is also dependent on the sisterhood. Indeed, each man is welcomed into the family, only by the grace of the women. Spiritually-free men behave themselves, not in adherence to a system of rules, laws and punishment, but simply to earn the privilege of being allowed into the women’s presence. Men may be physically larger and stronger than women, but we are your emotional dependents. In a world ruled by the human soul, being the emotional dependents makes all the difference.
Without sisterly bonds to serve, men are left to their own devices to find meaning in life. Possessed by a need to act without limits, they tend to run amok in the pursuit wealth, privilege and power. Only women have the spiritual authority to place limits on anything, whether territorial claims, armed conflict, or sex. But, individually, women do not possess the spiritual authority of a sisterly bond.
In spiritual freedom, the sisterhood is the foundation for everything. For instance, a man who fails to earn the acceptance of the women, has no home, no sense of place, and no opportunity to play his natural role in life. In a modern culture sisterhoods don’t exist, leaving men bereft of any sisterly bonds to serve. Without a natural sense of purpose or place, we men are spiritually/emotionally lost—so lost, in fact, that you will find some of us sitting around writing stuff like this.
Shallow-Minded Efforts to Fix Life
Men pontificating on our beliefs and ideas, as I am doing now, represent little more than shallow-minded efforts to fix life. Such efforts to fix life are the source of gods, religions, states, institutions, constitutions, politics, ideology, money, science, and modern technology. The practice has thereby launched the greatest destructive forces on earth.
There are some benefits, along with the destruction. But, if our subjugation to these forces deprives us of unconditional love, while simultaneously inspiring us to behavior that denatures the environment, then all the benefits imaginable—including even eliminating the “disease” of aging—will never pay the bill.
Our intellectual effort to fix life is unavoidably shallow-minded, because only the soul/instinct, not the intellect, possesses the complex, vital, and vast awareness required for a species to flourish. Not only are there unique aspects to each soul’s awareness, but each soul reveals what it knows only through feelings, and then only to the moment. Therefore, knowledge, at least the type that enables a species to flourish, can never be documented. This is one reason why the state, an entity that, by necessity, is based on documentation, is destined to fail even before it is conceived.
The issue isn’t whether a state will fail. The issue is: How much life does it takes with it when it goes, and how much suffering, both human and animal, does it inflict in the meantime?
Sticking my Nose Into Places where it Doesn’t Belong
It is fundamental to spiritual freedom that one should never intrude on the lives of those outside his own circle of emotional intimates for the purpose of informing them about what they should or should not be doing. Yet, I’m guilty of doing just that with this document and, in even more depth, with my book, Eden. I’m aware that these writings, by their intrusions into the lives of people with whom I am not intimate, are blatant transgressions of my own beliefs, and this makes me uncomfortable. But I press on with all good intentions, as did everyone who has ever been in my position. I can only trust and hope that this effort to communicate doesn’t follow in the footsteps of so many of its predecessors, by unleashing further forces of destruction.
Let me put it another way, a little more bluntly. By this effort I realize that I am sticking my nose into places where it doesn’t belong. My problem is, without a sisterly bond and their children to serve, I have no spiritual home, and thus, no circle of emotional intimates. Consequently, there is no place on this earth where my nose does belong. So pardon me for my transgression. I can only say that I would much prefer having a spiritual home, and thereby be experiencing relational intimacy, than writing about it.
A Thinly-Disguised License for Rape
As for protecting women sexually in spiritually-free cultures: If our identities were anchored in sisterly bonds, instead of a sovereign state, any man who sexually violated a woman or one of her children, would be lucky to escape alive. And the brothers would take care of the matter. Spiritually-free men wouldn’t be lost in the emotional funk where we find ourselves today, nor would we pontificate. Being in touch with our souls, we men would be serving our sisters and their children, and in that service we would not be spiritually lost, but found.
We have noted that our emotional natures see the species’ life as sacred, relative to the individual’s. As a result, except for the overall wellbeing of the species, itself, nothing is more sacred to the human soul than the sexual nature of women. Consider: In spiritual freedom, the choices that women make regarding sex determine, not only the number of births, but also the behavioral and physical characteristics of future generations. In view of this, we can trust that the free human spirit will see that women’s sexual natures are protected. Our collective souls will thereby offer women a service that our all-powerful states, from their very beginnings, have proven woefully inadequate to provide.
Indeed, though not officially intended as such, a marriage license all-too-often becomes, in practice, a thinly-disguised license for rape—a legally-authorized, unlimited, lifetime access to a woman’s sex. How do you think our souls, who are responsible for the future wellbeing of our kind, feel about that? Could that explain, at least in part, a fifty-percent divorce rate and overcrowded abuse shelters?
Love is Our Connection to Life
We say that love is the answer, and it is. But love is not intentional. Love is one of the fundamental, unchanging ways our emotional nature reacts to specific circumstances that arouse feelings of endearment. Our love response, like our hunger, anger, or grief responses, is fixed by genetically-encoded awareness.
Not only is love not intended, it cannot be summoned on demand, or learned, nor taught. For instance, can romance, which is one kind of love, be taught? Of course not. If it could, romance would be meaningless, because it would not connect us to life. Like all feelings of the moment, we fall in and out of love in concert with life’s needs. Romance is not governed by anyone’s intentions or plans. Being a powerful soul-inspired sensation, romance is a prime slayer of plans.
Relational intimacy, another kind of love, also connects us to life. Indeed, relational intimacy, which we also experience as unconditional love, is life’s reward to us for our commitment to life. But, through no fault of our own, our survival in the current institutionalized world requires our commitment to a personal bank account, not to life. As a consequence, we modern humans must endure the greatest spiritual insult possible for a member of any social species—a lifetime without relational intimacy.
For humans, as with any social species, unconditional love happens only in interdependent relationships where individuals are attending one another’s needs directly. Without the interdependence of extended families, we exist without the love that would ground our relationships in the natural world. Just as a person with only black and white vision doesn’t miss the colors of a beautiful sunset, we don’t miss being without the spiritual trust of unconditional love, because we have never experienced it.
It isn’t that we are emotionally colorblind. It’s just that, being without families bonded in trust, we have, figuratively speaking, never seen a sunset.
Part of the Problem, or Part of the Solution?
Unconditional love is so fundamental to our existence that it is the measure of whether or not we are being true to life. Only by individuals living in relational intimacy can the world’s problems be solved. When we are experiencing unconditional love for the men, the women, and the children who make up our extended family, we can rest assured that we are part of the solution, because the things we do will support life. But, if our material and emotional isolation prevents us from knowing unconditional love, then we are part of the problem, regardless of our intentions.
From this observation, it is clear that I, too, am part of the problem. My intentions are good, but they mean nothing, if I am not being true to my feelings of the moment in my relationships with those around me.
Love is so essential to our sense of wellbeing that love and happiness are, in essence, the same thing. If we think we are happy without love, it is because we have never experienced relational intimacy. Many of our soldiers returning home from Afghanistan know that they aren’t happy. They have experienced unconditional love.
A Journey Grounded in Love
When we humans again function as a social species, be it in isolated extended families, or in extended families across the globe, the strong bonds that define the family that supports us will have been forged by mutually-experienced material and emotional needs. In such families, our wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around us, will be as one. In this long-lost, yet newfound reality, though our sphere of influence will be limited to the people and terrain that we experience directly on a regular basis, that influence will be real and profound, and our lives enlarged. Whether we are angry or joyful, or should we one day turn up missing, it will deeply matter to a lot of people because, being dependent on us for their sense of wellbeing, as we are on them for ours, they will care.
This newfound world will be small, compared to the world in which we now reside, where our presumed sphere of influence is limited only by our imaginations. But that small world, the one to which we will be connected by powerful emotional forces, will be loaded with spiritual values, values to which we now have virtually no access.
Thus-bonded in spiritual trust, we will again experience the unconditional love of real human relationships, a depth of intimacy that our relationships with our pets now only hint at. Emotionally buoyed by the immediate and shared concerns of those around us, we will have regained our spiritual freedom. No longer spiritually imprisoned by our need to realize a personal life story, we will no longer have to lie about how we really feel. We will participate in life’s real journey, by taking care of life in every moment. Our journey will be a new one, for us, one that is grounded in love every bit as much as our current journey—our life of money and rules and laws—is grounded in our fear of the future.
“We cannot chop off a person’s head or remove his heart without killing him. But we can kill him just as effectively by removing him from his proper environment.”
—Alan Watts, author of The Book
“No one was ever born who agreed to be a slave. Of course, the moment I said that I realize multitudes of people enslave themselves every hour of every day, to this or that doctrine, this or that delusion of safety, this or that lie. Anti-Semitics, for example, are slaves to an illusion. People who hate negroes are slaves. People who love money are slaves. We’re living in a universe, really, of willing slaves, which is what makes the concept of liberty, of freedom, so dangerous.
Liberty is individual passion or will to be free. But this passion is always contradicted by the necessities of the state everywhere, for as long as we have heard of states. I don’t know if it will be like that forever. For a black American the Statue of Liberty is simply a very bitter joke, meaning nothing to us.”
James Baldwin, Writer, interviewed on the PBS Documentary “The Statue of Liberty”