Some weeks ago, I attempted to set up an automated response in my mail system to notify the senders of emails that I would be consolidating my multiple email addresses and changing to an address related to my website domain name. Unfortunately said automation was interpreted retroactively and set about responding not only to new emails, but also the 5,000 odd prior emails I had received which were still in my inbox. I managed to halt the process when I realised what was occurring, but many of you who have sent me emails in the past may have received the same message en masse!
I do apologise for that...
It did, however, provide me with food for thought and thought, in fact, about thought. The process set in motion was a simple rule which propagated itself through a diverse group of people, and through emails addressing a plethora of topics. Similarly, poorly constructed thought forms can propagate themselves temporally long after the originating thought is set in motion, and can apply themselves across a wide variety of situations, most of which bear very little relation to the original situation which set the whole structure in motion.
Now these processes churning away beneath the surface of conscious awareness can cause havoc in the lives of individuals, with the repetition of patterns of behaviour which persist, despite conscious intent to change said processes. Using the metaphor of the email rule, the process may continue in the background, giving the user no demonstrable evidence of it's actions. In that particular instance, it was only the receipt of a swathe of returned emails which alerted me to the process. Had I left the computer, the process could have gone on until all 5000 emails were responded to. Similarly unconscious process can continue unabated beneath the threshold of conscious awareness until life events signal warnings to the individual. The astuteness and diligence of the individual is usually a factor in how quickly that unconscious process is halted, or it's symptoms ameliorated.
Certainly that is a relatively simplistic metaphor for the incredibly complex functioning of the human psyche, but many process' are simplistic and simply need articulation so that they can be recognised and dealt with in future. What struck me, however, was the impact of one thought upon the lives of others. In the instance of the email, the initial thought to send communication was multiplied exponentially, and my brief action had very broad reaching impact. Admittedly an inbox full of the same message is merely a nuisance, but the issue of non-local interaction between individuals as a result of thought I felt worthy of expression.
It was recently suggested to me that perhaps my examination of the less salubrious aspects of consciousness was in some way contributing to negativity. I disagreed, pointing to the the Buddha's meeting with Mara and his entourage of demons just prior to his enlightenment as an example of clear thinking yet honest appraisal of the manifest reality at the moment of experiencing. The Buddha recognised the demons for what they were and addressed them as such. I am certainly no Buddhist scholar, but the story seems quite clear to me. The demon, when addressed directly admits his efforts to break the Buddha's concentration and mocks his achievements, but the Buddha remains steadfast in his practice. The end result of which caused the Earth to tremble, as the story goes, in that moment and it certainly has had that effect historically as the impact of one man's awakening has spread around the world and through the passage of centuries.
My point? Well I often don't feel the need to have one, nor do I profess to, but I feel it certainly worth considering that the eschewing of the examination of our own negativities for the sake of "projecting positivity" can have (and has had) disastrous consequences, and I feel strongly that there is plenty of room in the debate about consciousness and how it relates to health of the individual, the cultural body and the body of the Mother Earth for the examination of what is actually there, rather than what we would like to be there.
Many of us take delight in the telephone call from the person we were moments ago thinking of, enjoying the feeling of connectedness, but few perhaps consider the possibility that our less than compassionate thoughts of others may also have an impact outside of our immediate sphere of consciousness. In fact this possibility has a received a fair degree of scientific study over the last 4 decades or so, and it seems more akin to a probability than a possibility.
Larry Dossey MD suggests that "unless health care practitioners acknowledge the capacity of our thoughts for harm, we will remain blind to the harm we cause others through our mental behaviours" in a heartfelt examination of the topic of The Dark Side of Consciousness and the Therapeutic Relationship.
Shamanic cultures have long held the flow of polarities, the realities of both light and dark in the human and non-human worlds, in full cultural view such that a balance could be maintained. The Gnostics suggested that the action of the Archons in the world was through "a kind of subliminal invasion at the level of thought and language (i.e., mental syntax)"1, yet these perspectives seem to elicit a distinct discomfort if brought to the light of conversation or debate.
I am certainly not suggesting that one wallow in the negativity that abounds in this epoch, but recognising it's existence and naming it, calling it for what it truly is, offers a very real possibility of personal and cultural freedoms from old, unconscious and extremely destructive patterns of thought and subsequent behaviours, something that all the beings on this Earth are now in need of.
As Dossey suggests at the conclusion of his own essay..
"Just so, if we stop during our hellish trials, Hell wins. But if we maintain our vision and carry on, we will come through and our world will be transformed. The vision that will carry us through, however, is not one that sanitizes consciousness and denies its dark side but one that recognizes its eternal polarities."
with Love Simon