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Editor's 1-Minute Essay:
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“The continuance and frequent fits of anger produce in the soul a propensity to be angry; which oftentimes ends in choler, bitterness, and moronity, when the mind becomes ulcerated, peevish, and querulous, and is wounded by the least occurrence." Henry Ward Beecher
When I was 17, my questionings of church doctrine having reached intolerable levels for my parents, Dad arranged for me to meet with the local parish priest. I did not appreciate this; it would be a turning point in my life.
It is difficult to objectively evaluate any individual, but this priest just might have been the most evil person, in terms of dark spirit, that I would encounter in my lifetime.
- Editor's note: It is not without reason that Religion, in all its forms, directly and indirectly, serves as a most destructive force in history, proximate cause to carnage of untold millions. The needy Small Ego, seeking bolstering for itself, will identify [literally, "to make equal to"] with worldly elements of power; for example, ostentatious wealth, a trophy-wife, a flaunting of knowledge and academic degrees, owning the right McMansion, the latest designer jeans, exotic vacations, expensive sports cars, etc., etc. - but the ultimate identifying enhancement to a needy self is offered by Religion. For the fearful Small Ego, nothing juices more, offers greater promise of surrogate-strength, than linking itself to the prestige of The Almighty, allowing it to bluster with supreme brashness about "my God" and "my one, true church" and "my one, true doctrines." This kind of exclusivity stokes the fires of egoic insanity to a degree not seen in any other context of life; and in this presumptuous, super-inflated, and imperious state of mind, most of the atrocities of history have been committed.
He was not accustomed to anyone disagreeing with him. Breathing out threatenings and slaughter, he attempted to belittle me with all manner of insult. I began to boil and inwardly rage as never before in my short time on this planet. Truly Nazi-like, with great pompous demeanor, he chided me for even daring to think for myself – as, who was I, no-account person to be sure, to doubt the ancient wisdom of Holy Mother Church?
I quickly shut down, realizing the futility of any attempt toward rational discussion. At age 17 I was not an expert in biblical studies or church history, but one thing I knew for sure – this man was lying to me, just an imposter to spirituality, with no more authority to speak to me on matters of God than a nearby alley-cat; my apologies to alley-cats.
As he continued his venomous diatribe, I silently conferred with myself in the quiet of my own mind, promising – vowing with blood - that, I would devote myself to becoming a man of knowledge; I would get the facts, I would learn more about these subjects than almost anyone in the world; but, most of all, I solemnly affirmed with myself as witness, that, as long as I lived, no one would ever again be allowed to rail against me, as this arrogant Nazi before me.
Anger would follow me like a hungry dog for many years to come. Here I am, a young man, at university. Behind me, on my dorm-room wall, is a news-clipping collage of events of the day: the Biafran famine, Ralph Nader's "unsafe at any speed," warnings of the "population bomb," the heady excitement of Woodstock - all this, Word Gems in the cradle. While I learned many things in those early years, I had lost myself; rather, anger had derailed the process of coming to know the true self. In that anger-induced fog, as we learn from the great psychologists regarding repression, I had cut myself off from what I truly wanted; 40 years would pass before eyes would open. Late at night now, in the stillness of existential darkness, as I approach age 70, I often see that young man in his dorm-room. I try to tell him that there is something that he must immediately do... but he will not listen... he is too angry.
anger as level of consciousness
Anger provided great energy and motivational impetus to my life. It powered accomplishment. However, the cost was high; far higher than I would have been willing to pay had I been of a mind to know.
Dr. David Hawkins’s “levels of consciousness” take us many steps in the direction of understanding the human condition. All of the levels below #200 are dysfunctional: shame, guilt, fear, pride, anger, and others stultify evolvement of the human spirit.
- Editor's note: This sordid litany, "guilt, pride, fear, anger, etc." reminds me of a question on Hollywood Squares concerning similar virtues. Paul Lynde answered that these were our "Bill of Rights" - one of the funniest things I've ever heard. (see the joke on the "Humor" page)
An occasional slipping into anger is one thing, but to “live” on the consciousness-level of anger is something else and very unhealthy. But that’s what happened to me.
The lower levels of consciousness are not directly related to IQ. One might do reasonably well academically or professionally while “residing” on the anger level, but only in a narrow sense. In retrospect I now see clearly that, when anger fuels one's work and efforts, one cannot become a true intellectual, or artist, or scientist, or any other advanced person, as the prism of anger filters everything that enters the mind.
For example, my exegesis of Galatians did not need 15 years for completion. I could have finished my work much sooner, but for one problem: I was not prepared to accept my own research findings. My anger, mixed with guilt, fear, and self-rejection conspired to keep me from better perceptions of life.
We see this dynamic of selective acceptance of data in the field of afterlife research. Some of its biggest foes are those who should be natural friends: clergy and scientists, with the former seeing it as a threat to private turf and the latter, not having looked into the matter, viewing it as Orthodoxy's superstition.
Tolle: anger as “instant ego-repair”
One of Tolle’s great insights into the human condition defines anger as “instant ego-repair.” How spot on! When the Small Ego is threatened by insult or slighting of any kind, it immediately goes into “ego-repair mode.” Resultant anger as defense-mechanism might take the form of counter-attack, shouting, threats, physical violence, and the like - all self-enhancement efforts directed toward rebuilding a loss of prestige.
Father Benson from the afterlife encourages us about our struggles with anger
In our world, to say the least, it is often more than difficult to exhibit the saintly attitude of Mother Teresa. Frequently, we are “jabbed and poked” with the daily unpleasant assaults upon our lives – as Churchill said, “one damn thing after another.” And so we despair of setting any records regarding equanimity of mind.
But Father Benson is very encouraging and says, to those trying their best, not to worry. In the “real world,” where there are no daily jabs and pokes, our truest better natures finally are allowed to blossom and settle into permanent state of mind.
Here are Father Benson’s own words:
The [modern] Earth, too, has advanced in many directions, making life vastly more complicated. Life is more harassing, it proceeds at a much swifter pace, and a great concentration of energy is crammed into a few hours that would scarcely be spread over the same number of days in olden times.
Now all these conditions bring with them a consequent infirmity of temper. Under stress of such a life we do not always appear at our best. We can become irritable, or cynical; we think we are possessed of all truth, and inclined to regard as fools others who do not think as we do. We become thoroughly intolerant. We may sneer just to give vent to our feelings, and those same feelings may have been induced by something which has gone wrong or not pleased us. We may suffer from poor health of the physical body. We may be overworked or under worked. We may have too much pleasure or not enough. And so one could go on multiplying causes for our giving exhibitions of character and temperament which are not really our own, which do not come from our ’better selves’, to use the old term.
That, broadly speaking, is life on Earth as it affects a large number of people. Now let us contemplate the altered state of life upon our coming to the spirit world. As we step into these realms we leave all the worrying cares of the Earth behind us. Gone is the poor health we may have had there. Gone, too, are the rush and bustle of Earthly life in every department of its complex activities. We do not even need to worry about the state of the weather in these perpetually sunny lands, and that alone, almost, is enough to cheer the heart immeasurably!
Here in the spirit world we stand revealed as we truly are. There is no longer any question as to what description of person we are. We can give voice to our thoughts without the fear of being considered foolish, simple, eccentric or childish. We cease to be intolerant here because we find that others are tolerant to us, and there is precious little, indeed, nothing at all, to be intolerant about in these realms. We are a happy community of numberless millions of people, with each one of whom we can be upon the most friendly, genial, and affable of terms, giving and receiving respect to and from everyone of our fellows. No single person has ever to endure that which is distasteful to him because there is no one here to cause that which is distasteful to others. The beauties and charms of these realms act like an intellectual tonic; they bring out only that which is and always was the very best in one.
Whatever was not the very best in one upon Earth will be swamped by the good nature and kindness which the very air here will bring out, like some choice bloom beneath the warm summer sun. There is no room for the unpleasant phases of human character that are so often exhibited upon earth. They cannot enter these realms. And in so far as such elements of character and temperament as we show upon Earth are not the reflection of our real selves, we shall at once cast them aside for ever as we enter the spirit world upon the moment of our transition.
I have previously said that a human being is exactly the same one minute after his dissolution as he was one minute before it. That is borne out by what I have just said. It is the great difference between our real selves and the personality which we present for outward view. We are just the same our true selves, but we may not be recognizably so. It is not so much that we have altered but that we are no longer subject to the stresses that produce the unpleasant qualities that were observable in us when we were on the earth.
Remove the causes of the distempers and the latter will disappear also. Here in spirit lands we have nothing to disturb us. On the contrary, we have everything that will bring us contentment Our true natures thrive and expand upon such glories and splendours as the spirit world alone has to offer. We work, not for an Earthly subsistence, but for the joy that comes with doing work that is both useful and congenial, and above all things, work that is of service to our fellow beings. The reward which the work brings with it is not a transient reward as is the case with so much mundane labour, but a reward that will bring us eventually to a higher state of living.
To us here in the spirit world, life is pleasure, always pleasure. We work hard, and sometimes long, but that work is pleasure to us. We have not the tiresome wearying toil that you have upon earth. We are not solitary beings fighting for our existence amid a world that can be, and so often is, somewhat indifferent to our struggles. Here in these realms wherein I live, there is not one solitary individual of whatever nationality under the sun who would not come immediately to the assistance of anyone of us upon the merest glimmering of our needing help.
And such help it is! There is no false pride that precludes our accepting help from a fellow creature anxious to give it. Millions of us though there be, yet there is not one sign, not one atom of discord to be seen throughout the immense extent of these realms. Unity and concord are two of the plainest characteristics to be observed and understood and appreciated to the full.
And so you see, my good friend, there are firm grounds for not returning to visit you upon Earth with exactly those characteristics by which we were so well known to you when we lived on Earth. Our tempers were very often sorely tried in those days upon Earth. Those times are gone now, and you know us as we really are. You did not know us for our true selves when we were with you in the flesh. That was no one’s fault but our own. Certainly it was not yours. We are sometimes sorry we were not outwardly of a more genial nature, but we were, and still are but, human after all, and it is upon this factor that we will all base our defence, if defence be needed.
Had conditions been different with us, perhaps we should have been different, too. When we come to the spirit world and look back upon that part of our life that we have spent on Earth, we are oft times rather shocked by the quite ridiculous importance which we placed upon some trivial incident in our daily life, an incident which caused us to appear intolerant, shall we say? or hasty or quick-tempered.
When we return to you, who are still upon Earth, we do our utmost to present ourselves as we now truly are, shorn of those Earthly disfigurations in our characters and temperaments by which we were perhaps too easily recognized. Such apparent change in our personality should not be so mysterious to you now, after this brief exposition. The change may seem amazing upon first acquaintance; it may even lead some of our friends to doubt our identity! It is rather pleasant to be doubted upon such a basis. At least it demonstrates to us that we have cleared ourselves of the trammels of Earthly inhibitions in the full expression of our real natures.
It must not be thought, however, that we lose our individuality in this process. We retain that always. It is something which we have built up during our lives on Earth, something that will characterize us and distinguish us, each from the other. We are not all reduced to an insipid uniformity. We retain our tastes and predilections; but our virtues never become as vices in their outward expression. We are healthy in body and mind, but our outlook has in so many things undergone a fundamental change.
The joy of living is a phrase of which you cannot have even the barest understanding while you are yet upon the Earth-plane. It is not surprising, therefore, that we should exhibit a little of that joy when we visit you on Earth.
Editor’s note: We appreciate, so much, the encouraging words of Father Benson. And regarding these “pokes and jobs,” I am reminded, too, of something Victor Frankl observed, about himself, just after the liberation of the camps in 1945. Having endured one of the greatest times of trial and atrocity in the history of humankind, assessing his own mental state, he noted, with relief, not only a recaptured sense of elation but a feeling, as he put it, that he would soon become a “human being” again. In light of Father Benson’s comments, we understand Dr. Frankl’s meaning; albeit, in his case, a most extreme example of regaining oneself after an ordeal of ultimate “poking and jabbing.”
Eckhart Tolle, The New Earth
what looks like weakness is the only true strength
"Instead of trying to be the mountain, teaches the ancient Tao Te Ching, 'Be the valley of the universe.' In this way you are restored to wholeness and so 'All things will come to you'."
The ego is always on guard against any kind of perceived diminishment. Automatic ego-repair mechanisms come into effect to restore the mental form of “me.” When someone blames or criticizes "me," that, to the ego, is a diminishment of self, and it will immediately attempt to repair its diminished sense of self through self-justification, defense, or blaming.
Whether the other person is right or wrong is irrelevant to the ego. It is much more interested in self-preservation than in the truth. This is the preservation of the psychological form of “me.” Even such a normal thing as shouting something back when another driver calls you “idiot” is an automatic and unconscious ego-repair mechanism.
anger as ego-repair mechanism
One of the most common ego-repair mechanisms is anger, which causes a temporary but huge ego-inflation. All repair mechanisms make perfect sense to the ego but are actually dysfunctional. Those that are most extreme in their dysfunction are physical violence and self-delusion in the form of grandiose fantasies.
A powerful spiritual practice is consciously to allow the diminishment of ego when it happens without attempting to restore it. I recommend that you experiment with this from time to time.
don't fight it, just feel what it's like to be 'diminished'
For example, when someone criticizes you, blames you, or calls you names, instead of immediately retaliating or defending yourself – do nothing. Allow the self-image to remain diminished and become alert to what that feels like deep inside you. For a few seconds, it may feel uncomfortable, as if you had shrunk in size.
perceive a sense of 'space' around the bad feeling, which instructs that you and the bad feeling are two different things
Then you may sense an inner spaciousness that feels intensely alive. You haven't been diminished at all. In fact, you have expanded. You may then come to an amazing realization: When you are seemingly diminished in some way and remain in absolute non-reaction, not just externally but also internally, you realize that nothing real has been diminished, that through becoming “less,” you become more.
'space' around the bad feeling helps one to perceive that 'Being', the true self, is separate from the ego, the false self
When you no longer defend or attempt to strengthen the form of yourself, you step out of identification with form, with mental selfimage. Through becoming less (in the ego's perception), you in fact undergo an expansion and make room for Being to come forward. True power, who you are beyond form, can then shine through the apparently weakened form. This is what Jesus means when he says, “deny yourself” or “turn the other cheek.”
This does not mean, of course, that you invite abuse or turn yourself into a victim of unconscious people. Sometimes a situation may demand that you tell someone to “back off” in no uncertain terms. Without egoic defensiveness, there will be power behind your words, yet no reactive force. If necessary, you can also say 'no' to someone firmly and clearly, and it will be what I call a “high-quality no” that is free of all negativity.
the great Spirit Guides speak of God's apparent weakness as strength
If you are content with being nobody in particular, content not to stand out, you align yourself with the power of the universe. What looks like weakness to the ego is in fact the only true strength. This spiritual truth is diametrically opposed to the values of our contemporary culture and the way it conditions people to behave.
Instead of trying to be the mountain, teaches the ancient Tao Te Ching, “Be the valley of the universe.” In this way you are restored to wholeness and so “All things will come to you.”
Similarly, Jesus, in one of his parables, teaches that
“When you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place so that when your host comes, he may say to you, friend, move up higher. Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
be content as 'nobody' until your own burgeoning competence unavoidably elevates you
Another aspect of this practice is to refrain from attempting to strengthen the self by showing off, wanting to stand out, be special, make an impression, or demand attention. It may include occasionally refraining from expressing your opinion when everybody is expressing his or hers, and seeing what that feels like.
Editor's last word:
We must grow beyond what the Small Ego perceives as a need to become angry; anger is used as a means to get what we want in life - it doesn't work, of course, but the Small Ego remains unconvinced. A true remedy will be similar to that discussed regarding "guilt."
The path of anger onto which I stumbled at age 17 - courtesy of my pastor friend, but also via another major loss in my young life - exacted its greatest toll. Living in the confusion and stupor of anger - a "moronity" said Henry Ward Beecher - as I did for decades, produces a state of blindness toward the higher aspects of life. The angry mind plays and replays "bad movies and scripts" of the past, casting itself as victim or vengeful perpetrator, either of which creates a dense "static on the line," a constant mental din of clamoring base spirits, disallowing the mind of God to be of influence.
In that wounded bitterness, one will be incapable of giving or receiving love, though it be all around. As the Beatles expressed,
"There were bells on a hill, but I never heard them ringing, no, I never heard them at all... There were birds in the sky, but I never saw them winging, no, I never saw them at all... There was love all around, but I never heard it singing, no, I never heard it at all..."