A.I.R., Crazy Men Mumbling On The Street Corner

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Crazy Men Mumbling On The Street Corner

The personality you have developed to survive has no more basis in reality than do images projected onto a movie screen. Yet we all think "they are us," and so we go through life like crazy men mumbling on the street corner – Men who see the delusions in their mind as the only reality. Our accepted notions of ourselves – the masks or personae we all wear – are but made up projections we use to gain acceptance in the outer world. Our true Inner Self is waiting to be discovered, or better put, to be realized.

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We have commenced our Hero's Journey and of course the first thing we want to do is take sword, ax, or hammer to the head of the first thing we see as a monster in our personality. After all, these items need to be destroyed, right? Well not so fast Ulysses and Minerva – if there is one thing that our nervous system is good at, it is protecting us. "What!?" you might say, "The nervous system protects us?" Yes. Besides sending signals throughout the body about what is going on within the body, it also sends, interprets, and unconsciously reacts to the information that the sense organs relay about what is going on outside of the body. When reactions are perpetuated many times over, the nervous system becomes programmed to respond without the necessity of input from the conscious mind. In matters of life or death, the nervous system knows that it can not always reliably wait for the conscious mind's reaction. Let me illustrate.

In the days when we were still hunting and gathering for our sustenance, there were certain reactions which needed to be initiated without the intervention of the conscious mind. Should we run when we see a tiger? If the nervous system waited for the conscious mind to intervene when it saw what it thought was the outline of a tiger in the bush, and then waited for it to decide if the tiger was approaching, and then waited for the command to run – well that individual would have been lunch by the time the conscious mind had made its decision, for the tiger can cover 30 to 40 feet in a single bound.

So a tiger is one thing, but how and why would our nervous system protect us from ourselves – from our own efforts to change? And besides, personality change isn't a matter of life and death...is it? Well dear aspirant, this vigilance of the nervous system extends to protecting the original innocence within all of us. That innocence and uniqueness is indeed just as crucial to our life as our life itself, for contained within the core of that innocence is our integral Self. It is our connection to the One Only Thing, the fount of our existence, and gazing into its mirror, we see all those quirks and supposed anomalies of behavior that make and shape the art within us, allowing us to express our life purpose in a unique way.

Unfortunately, aspects of this true innocence have been questioned and ridiculed by those whom (especially in our formative years) we were dependent on for our very survival. Whether through deliberate intent or through uninformed ignorance, our parents, siblings, other family members, teachers and society all contributed to this reprogramming. Sometimes subtly, and other times perhaps abusively, we were programmed to understand what was acceptable if we wanted to survive. We could not act like this, think like that, or say those words. We instead needed to do this or that to conform and gain approval from the family unit and of course the larger society.

And so you see why a self-initiated personality change can be treated by the nervous system as a threat to your own survival. Your personality has been deliberately created and allowed by your nervous system to subsist because it has gotten you thus far, just as it is. It reminds you:

"You're alive aren't you? Your caretakers fed you did they not? They gave you affection in exchange for obedience, did they not? Even when they didn't, we found our own ways to acquire sustenance and affection...

"Societal economy provides for you the way you are, does it not? And it will provide even more for us if we ascribe to and put forth the effort to perpetuate its values, will it not?

"Your religious beliefs have appeased you thus far, have they not? They coax you towards your heaven, and scare you from your hell, and you're a better person for it, aren't you?

"All of this has gotten us thus far, and yet you have the audacious insanity to even approach the threshold of change!? Alter even one core belief, reprogram even one of my trained reactions, and we could be rejected by our religion, our society, and our caretakers all at once! I ought to kill you myself for even toying with the idea!

"And don't even speak of unleashing your original innocence from its iron prison! Don't even think of removing but one piece of its heavy armor. It is caged, yes, but it is safe. It is weighed down, yes, but it is protected. Uncage it, strip it of its protection, and God help you in your state of vulnerability! You will be obliterated within the hour! You will lose your life and your innocence, and I will no longer be able to make certain you go on!"

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When I was growing up in the 1960's a woman who wanted to play sports was frowned upon. They were judged as not exactly embodying the feminine ideal. Young African American males were told by the images on TV and the news that society thought them to be thieves, pimps, or drug dealers, and African American women were fit only to be domestic help or prostitutes. And the LBGT community lived a mole like existence in their closets. These are just extreme examples of some of the things people of my generation have had to deal with, and it is not surprising that the nervous system has built a bulwark around the original innocence.

So again, approaching issues that have sprung up because of the suppression of that innocence will be seen by the nervous system as an attack on the innocence, and it will marshal its defensive forces to fulfill its prime directive.

Yes we all have parts of ourselves we want to change. We have even been taught to loath certain aspects of ourselves, and cherish others. But here is the kicker: all of those aspects are just patterned, programmed responses, or better put, projections that the nervous system has developed to win the greatest approval and acceptance from (or in some cases to show our disdain for the rules of) our family, tribe, and society. We call these patterned projections our personality, and judging our personality to be the "real you" is equivalent to judging an actor to really be the person they are portraying.

I remember once hearing an interview with Sean Connery. He was talking about how some men would come up to him and challenge him to a fight, wanting to prove they were tougher than the James Bond character Sean Connery played. I would bet the first few times this happened to Mr. Connery he was nonplussed and thought, This guy's cheese has slid off of his cracker! Sean Connery’s response was always something along the lines of "I am an actor playing a role – get real!"

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Those performing the programming – or to use a better metaphor, psychic-plastic-surgery, usually use scalpels with names like 'taboo', 'law', 'justice', 'civilization', 'obligation', 'piety' etc. Again, conformity for the sake of approval actually contorts our original innocence and beauty into forms that are wholly unrecognizable, sometimes in the most hideous manner. Let us once again delve into the pool of mythology to find a fitting illustration of this principle.

Some many years long ago in the misty annals of history, King Cecrops a half-man, half-snake creature founded one of the most beautiful cities on earth. It was so beautiful indeed that the all the Gods of Olympus wanted the city named after them. The two most ardent rivals for the honor were Poseidon and Athena.

It was decided that a contest would be held to decide which God would receive the honor. At the appointed day and hour, the king and citizens of the city gathered and watched the Gods materialize before their very eyes. Poseidon was the first to display his power, striking a large rock with his trident, causing an enormous eruption of water to issue from the rock. This signified to the people that they would never have to suffer through drought. I suppose Poseidon forgot that humans do not possess gills, because the water he provided was salty and thus not of much use to the people of the city. Next was Athena. She planted a seed into the earth, and from the seed grew an olive tree. The King and people truly appreciated this gift, because from it they would receive food, oil, and wood.

In conjunction with naming the city after her, the people built a great temple to Athena named the Parthenon. The temple had priestesses who were sworn to chastity for Athena. One of the priestesses was truly a rare beauty. Every man whose eye fell upon her wanted her; even, I would suppose, some of the male priests. But this priestess kept her vows, and in doing so fanned the flames of her suitors' ardour all the more. It is said that even the male Olmpian Gods desired her. One God was not content to admire her beauty from afar. Acting out of lust, revenge, or a mixture of both, Posidon came down to earth and tried to seduce our young beauty, but she firmly rebuffed his advances. So enraged he became over the slight, that he raped the preistess, and while engaged in the act was caught by no other than Athena herself.

Now, one would think that Athena would stand up for her pristess who had, according to all accounts, kept her vows and virtue intact. Yet the law can be harsh -- blind justice enforcing the need to seek conformity above all else, as well as preserve taboo, led to the conditions of a dehuminizing endeavor. It is under these circumstances that Athena created the Gorgon Medusa. So twisted and mishpapen had she become by the blind application of law that to simply gaze upon her would cause any to be transformed into stone.

It is interesting to note that the only way Medusa could be viewed was by the use of the mirrored shield of Athena. The mirror reflects that which is, and as it was Athena who had originally transformed our beauty into the hideous Gorgon, she knew the original innocence and beauty which resided under the persona of horror, and made it visible through the mirror.

Some versions of the myth say that Medusa got what she deserved because she was vain to the extreme about the beauty of her hair and overall looks. That because of this beauty she seduced Poseidon (either willingly, or just by virtue of possessing such beauty). Misogynist myth-weavers aside, the true backdrop of this entire interaction between Athena (representer of law, justice, civilization) and Medusa (our original selves) is simply this: The conditioning received either from family or society distorts and contorts the visage of who we truly are, but it does not destroy it. With the proper tools we can look past the hideous form and approach the power of true being safely.

The story of Medusa is so ripe with food for thought, that I must harvest some of it for you.

King Cecrops represents our true self at its highest expression and fulfillment, hence his ability to create a city that even the Gods envied and desired to have named after themselves. Note also that Cecrops is half-man, half-snake. The snake is representative of wisdom and power which is why one of the names for the energy of Kundalini is "serpent power."

Again, Medusa represents the original innocence and what happens to that innocence and power once it has undergone psychic-plastic-surgery, performed by family, society, etc.

There is also the turning or reversing of male and female roles in this story. It is Athena who plants the seed into the earth. Besides being lord of the sea, Poseidon's name also means lord or master of the earth. So the woman planted the seed of life into the earth (man) which then gives birth to a tree.

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Here is another way of thinking about it. Suppose you had never seen your reflection, and someone told you there was this thing called a mirror. The mirror, you are told, is a wonderful item as it will show you exactly what you look like, and who you are. This magical device, you are told, can be found in the attic of an old house. You of course would go straight to the attic to behold the wonder of yourself. You find the mirror and look into it, expecting to see…well, you are not sure what to expect, because you never have seen yourself. Surely you hope to see something beautiful. But when you look at the mirror, you see that it has been encrusted over with so many years of dirt that you can barely even distinguish a murky distorted reflection of your self through the grime.

Now let me draw your attention to another important factor: How would you feel about the dirt that had obfuscated the mirror? Would you hate it? Yell at it? Condemn it to every level of hell and then some? "Bad dirt, bad dirt, I hate you for confusing me!" I truly doubt that you would feel that way towards the dirt. While you might not want to touch the dirt with your bare hands, you would realize that in order to see your reflection in the mirror all you would have to do is clean the mirror. You would accept what needs to be done, and then go about doing it.

It is the same with our inner work. We do not hate or judge that which obfuscates the original innocence – we accept it as a matter of course. The persona, like the dust, developed as a natural reaction of exposure to the environment over time. To clean it, we do not beat the mirror. That would of course break it. We might however have to apply a solvent to those areas of the soul where things have been caked on with such fixation that they appear as if they have become cemented to the mirror. What are the names for such a universal solvent? Love and Acceptance. If we go about this work with acceptance for that which is present, all the while cherishing and loving that which we work on, the nervous system will have no defense. The barriers will fall like the walls of Jericho, for the trumpet is sounded with unconditional Acceptance and Love.