Who we are individually is the question at the core of all paths leading toward spiritual growth. The Oracle at Delphi in ancient Greece had written above its main portal a simple dictate: Know Thyself. The encouragement implied by this statement is among the deepest truths yet known to human-kind. Whether it be Kemetian Sages, African traditionalists, Gnostics of the Judaic, Christian or Islamic persuasion, Wiccan adherents, Hindu or Buddhist practitioners, knowledge of Self has always been considered to be the key to Enlightenment.
But what the Self is has been a contentious topic in philosophy, psychology and religion. Determinations of differentiation between the ego and the Self have resulted in the delineation of different forms of consciousness residing within one body. Spiritual traditions the world across have discovered and explored the causal, astral and higher forms of consciousness that we hold in common despite where we come from. Psychologists have come to accept the existence of an ego, an id, super-id and a collective unconscious. The higher aspects of spiritual being-ness comprise the Self, while the lower aspects of material being-ness comprise the self. All of these understandings combine in ascending order to comprise a holistic unity of consciousness with varying degrees of accessibility by the normal, waking or egoistic construct that we call our personality.
Whether we should give more attention to some deity outside of ourselves has been the oppositional yet concurrent thread running through the historical record of human spiritual aspiration. Cultures around the world are at their cores primeval expressions of consciousness interacting in matter with the world. Environmental conditions in different climate regions play a role in determining the types of religious structures that you find. Ethnic religions are generally unique and spatially distinct, while Universal religions span the globe. Projecting consciousness within upon the world without results in the formulation of nature deities that live in streams, in forests, in mountains, in the skies and below the ground. Explanations about what happens after death sooth the predominant fear that threatens ever. As evolution of the worldly cycles continue on in ever-repeating spirals of matter progressing through time, so birth, death and rebirth become constant themes in human societies.
The evolution of culture, then, is an expression of both collective and individual interaction and intention imposed upon a sub-stratum of fundamental reality that is virtually inaccessible by egoistic perception. Because of the intense conditioning that proceeds from birth onward by family, friends and society, each individual is indoctrinated into how the world should be seen and defined. These definitions then make up the totality of a person’s perception of the world.
Because of the differences in cultural evolution across the world, people from different geographic locations perceive the world in sometimes subtly and sometimes grossly different ways. Spiritual ideals held in common across the human family express themselves according to the importance applied to them by individual cultures. For Hindus, reincarnation occurs as a form of spiritual evolution within the context of a hierarchical caste system based upon class and race. For Africans, reincarnation occurs as a form of spiritual evolution within the context of immediate and extended family.
Genetics and spirituality are contentious topics when examined alone. When taken together, their potential to cause trouble, predictably, doubles. The drive of the Nazi Third Reich was more than a xenophobic expression of nationalism, it was a spiritual movement designed to crown a “Master Race”, enthroned upon the bones of the sub-human masses. The world-wide expansion of Christianity from Europe into the Americas and Africa was driven in large part by a European zeitgeist of pre-supposed racial and cultural superiority. Smaller, less universal religions that people are born into such as Hinduism and Judaism are notoriously ethnocentric and strict in their determination of who is righteous and who is not. And yet, despite the inherent dangers of mixing genetics and spirituality, the unified nature of reality demands some acknowledgement of the fundamental interrelationship of all phenomena as being integrally intertwined.
There is only one human race. There are many ethnicities that span the gamut in varieties of skin color, sizes, shapes and temperaments. No individual is bound to stereotypical behavior because each possesses free will and is responsible for his or her own outcomes. This truth cannot be overstated. We are souls on a human journey.
Religion and spirituality as expressions of collective ethical aspiration agree in the assignation of responsibility to the individual. Each person must achieve his or her own spiritual advancement primarily through behavior-change. Behavior-change can proceed either from the adherence to group norms, or from a shift in intention and thought on the part of the individual. By adhering to group norms, an individual does not have to change his or her thought processes. She or he only has to act the way others act in order to conform. By shifting intention and thought, by contrast, a person’s behavior automatically changes to reflect their new mental state. The Self seeks to shift intention and thought, approaching the highest spiritual expression, while self seeks the gratification of ego and the needs of the reptilian brain, which are imminently material and worldly in nature and have to do with fear and security. The Self which seeks spiritual attainment is individualized and responsible to higher principles and the evolution of the soul, while the self which seeks security and comfort is the personal manifestation of group norms and irrevocably tied to the world.
Conforming to group norms is how stereotypes are created and evolve. Coming into the American zeitgeist through the southern states and slavery, Blacks in America of necessity were limited to certain types of cheap and abundant food sources, chicken and watermelon being among these. Individually, people have varied likes and dislikes and yet because of their group-identification, they may be stereotyped as to these personal choices to a greater or lesser degree. The stereotype of Asians as being inscrutable may have more to do with an erroneous perception based upon both cultural and physiological differences between Asians and Caucasians, primarily having to do with less demonstrative cultures and the epicanthic fold. These superficial determinations are primarily material and irrelevant. Of greater import is the recognition of the continuation of genetic streams of karmic responsibility at the personal and collective level.
Given the difficulty in determining truth from falsehood when considering the heavily manipulated historical record of the human family, it serves little purpose to speculate as to the nature of original causation, or, who did what to who first, when and why. All that is necessary is to look at the world as it currently exists, the position of different peoples and cultures around the world and the nature of immediate, potential future time-lines. The Future-Past Manifest is an inexorable machination of Divine will as expressed materially through time and across space, as each intention, thought and action recorded in the collective unconscious seeks its resolution. What has been birthed what is and what is will form what is to be. The ideal of karma – or, reaping the whirlwind in the Judeo-Christian vernacular – serves well as an expression of the natural law declaring the outcome of equal and opposite actions and reactions.
Those who conform to group norms accept culpability in group behavior. The karmic destiny of their chosen group is an acceptable one. The safety and comfort the self experiences by being a part of a larger group outweighs questions of morality and karmic debt. On the other hand, deviating from group norms and shifting intention and thought to reflect a more individuated and soul-based expression of Self as opposed to self releases individuals from the group. Of course, there are groups within groups, as individuals conform to greater or lesser degrees, all existing within one, super-group that is comprised of the entirety of the human, earth-bound family.
For the individual, recapitulating one’s life – going through the memory banks and seeking clarity regarding conformity or non-conformity to the highest potentiality of each experience – results in a clear understanding of the original question pertaining to who we are. From there, taking a sober accounting of our present circumstances, our relationships, jobs, family, our states of mind, desires and needs, reveals the current constellation of our perceived responsibilities as well as the potential path forward. Partaking of the norms of our chosen groups links us to those groups in simple and complex ways: from the neighborhoods that we live in to the entertainments that we enjoy, from the people we vote for to the unspoken prejudices we share with friends, all of these choices bind us in time and space to other people and groups and to genetic and cultural ways of being-ness that are, in truth, illusory and digressive from the lesser-traveled paths of individuated spiritual attainment.
For many, being bound to the genetic and social groups of our primary life-experiences is a satisfactory outcome. That choice is honorably made by the majority of those who follow the wide highway of material and spiritual evolution, as the traffic is heavy, the destination ponderous, ritualistic and seemingly irresistible. Following the Self’s often-subtle encouragement to explore for ourselves, to seek out a different way, to look for that which lies beyond the simple and stereotypical facade, is a quiet choice, one often drowned out by the boisterous sub-vocal exhortations of the self and the external imperatives of the group.
Whatever the path we each choose, individually, it is the correct choice. The gene code is the expression of our ancestral lineages, up the wending path of the evolutionary ladder, to the present day. Each ancestor contributed fundamentally to who each of us is, right this moment. Each of them is still with us, hidden within the dna spirals of our body, right this moment. Our genetic codes, as an expression of life’s fundamental imperative to seek the highest potential outcome of each individual path, require us to honor Creation by our very presence and soundness of mind and body, which is all the encouragement needed for us to manifest all of who we are in each moment of our lives. We are each where we are supposed to be, no soul is better than another, no path is better than the other, just different.
To know thyself is a worthy goal, promising bounties beyond conception, experiences beyond the mundane. To seek to manifest the sublime aspects of spiritual attainment by going within to find the knowledge of Self is to seek the path less traveled, winding up steep paths into the light-enhanced heights of awareness and potentiality, seeking the unity of the material and the spiritual, beyond desire, pain or need. Choose well.