We all know how important belief systems are to our psychological makeup, and how strongly we are impacted by them. But how often do we examine them, beyond the constellation of obvious Self-Help style beliefs about abundance and/or self-worth? When do we tease out the underlying psychological currents that subconsciously (or even consciously) influence and direct our lives? Unexamined beliefs leave us blind and helpless to the strong influences of culture, society, religion, spirituality, peer pressure, and even perceived ‘guidance’. Examining belief structures, deconstructing them and looking at them (to the best of our ability) as they are, liberates us; it frees us to express ourselves, and live how we want to live, not how we feel we ought to.
It’s my intention in these posts to unveil some of the cultural/religious belief systems that influence our grounding. The belief systems themselves (“The body is sinful”, etc) won’t be new to you, but I hope that looking at the inherited beliefs in relation to our current, living, breathing sense of spirituality and grounding will be of use. This is the first in a series of posts looking at belief systems (unconsciously inherited, and consciously chosen) in relation to grounding.
A small caveat: I’m not Roman Catholic, or Hindu, or a ‘cultural’ Buddhist (someone born in SE Asia for example, who practices Buddhism as a religion-with-dogma as much as a philosophy). So this will just be a summary of the cultural forces. I’m not trained in feminist or social analysis, but from having just a brief look at these belief systems, the guarded interests of the historic power-classes will become apparent.
Let’s look at the two most obvious cultural ‘pools’ of belief conglomerates: Eastern and Western religious/cultural/social/spiritual beliefs.
Of the Eastern traditions that affect us most as Westerners, Buddhism and Hinduism are of the most interest, because they’re the traditions that have had the greatest impact on the modern new-age movement. Other Eastern traditions are also worthy of being looked at (Shinto, for example) but for now, we’re concerning ourselves with the major sources of influence, rather than minor ones. And as anyone who’s ever walked into a new-age shop knows, Buddhism and Hinduism are BIG influences.
In Hinduism, there is the caste system; the determined-by-birth hierarchy of class, status and profession, ranging from the untouchables at the bottom to the Brahmin high priests at the top. Which caste a person is born into is no accident, but set by the soul’s karma. By performing good deeds, and cultivating a good spirit, the soul can ascend the karmic chain (reincarnating in successively higher castes) until reaching enlightenment. ‘Low’ people and actions are to be avoided; the untouchables deal with excrement, the Brahmin’s with God. You keep to your own caste.
In both Hinduism and Buddhism, unfortunate life circumstances are one’s fate; there isn’t any point in resisting them. If bad things happen to a person, it is because they are a bad person (or at least, because they have done bad things). Maybe not in this life, but in other lives. Unpleaseant life circumstances are to be borne rather than changed; trying to break free would be to go against your karmic lot. Not dissimilar to European peasants, who knew their place and were kept there by the Church God’s law. I hope the vested interests of those at the top of the pyramid are apparent, how even the secularists of the time (or the agnostics) still had it to their advantage to maintain that system.
Even following compassion, or following one’s instinct, can be ‘wrong’ from the point of view of karma, of knowing and following one’s place. Here is an excerpt from the Baghavad Gita, adapted by Philip Glass for his opera Satyagraha, about Gandhi’s formative experiences. It takes place on the scene of a mythic battle. Seeing them, his kinsmen, thus arrayed for battle, Arjuna was filled with a deep compassion and turned to Krishna. And so Arjuna and Krishna talk.
Arjuna: “My very being is opressed with compassion’s harmful taint. I am confused about right and wrong. I am your pupil and put my trust in you. So teach me.”
Krishna: “See in this war presented by pure chance a door to Paradise. For sure is death to all that’s born, sure is birth to all that dies and for this, you have no cause to grieve. Recognise this war as perscribed by duty. Hold pleasure and pain, profit and loss, victory and defeat to be the same; then brace yourself for the fight. So will you bring no evil on yourself.”
To him thus in compassion plunged, Krishna spoke these words: “Whence comes this faintness? Give up this vile feint-heartedness. Stand up, chastiser of your foes!”
In this one passage we see something very interesting; a subtle (and possibly quite profound) snippet about the contextualising of physical pain, suffering and death (which is transitory, and apparently serves its purpose in evolution), the importance of ‘doing your duty’ in standing up to evil; and simultaneously the brushing aside of compassion, and the sticking to one’s place and fate. The first half of the message I quite like; the second half, not so much. I’m a relatively well-educated modern westerner, and that’s how I look at that passage. How would a typical person have interpreted it, 1,000+ years ago?
Is anyone else reminded of the Milgram experiments, where the natural human compassionate instincts of the subjects were over-ridden by their compliance with ‘authority’?
This Buddhist tale is an example of a different belief system. It tells the story of a prize horse that is too proud to wash in dirty river water. The moral of the story is quoted as “Even animals value cleanliness.”. I’m not so sure; I rather think the moral of the story is about condoning pride, and the distancing of oneself from those who are “lower”, and not letting oneself become “corrupted” or “dirty” or “impure”. Those are stains most unfitting for a noble being, after all.
How is this related to grounding again?
It isn’t, immediately. However, I’m highlighting the subtle (but powerful) presence of stoicism/fatalism on one hand, and the denigrating of the ‘lowly’ physical on the other hand, in human psycho-spiritual development. Hopefully you know what I mean by this. A millenia-old philosophy of accepting the earth as being a realm of suffering has it’s impact on human consciousness: a combination of “do as you’re told” with “only what is divine is good; what is human is sinful”. Even if I am not Hindu or Buddhist or Catholic, I am still human. We all share the same collective unconscious (filled with the same psychological and psychic history and material), although how that material affects me is surely different to how it affects you.
We’re building up a picture of how a picture has been built up: that the earth is unsafe, human bodies are impure, and we’ll only be “worthy” when we’re finished with physical evolution. I’ll explain how these sorts of beliefs lead to ungrounded Indigos in a later post.
So, how about the Abrahamic faiths?
I don’t need to say too much, as you’re already very familiar with this. Where to begin? Original Sin from Eve in the Garden of Eden, meaning that every child is born sinful and damned to hell? The many condemnations of sexual activity: masturbation; sex outside of marriage, homosexuality etc? The praise of physical suffering (in the form of Jesus’ self denial and trials tribulations, for example?)
It almost goes without saying: these teachings from both Eastern and Western traditions are not the original, core teachings of the faiths, but how humankind has interpreted the texts. There are many examples of homosexuality, incest, polygamy etc in the Old and New testaments. It’s the people who interpreted the Bible that made the declarations concerning sexual behaviour, not the authors.
There’s lots of resources out there if you’re interested in learning about the original “true” meaning of the texts. For example- witchcraft isn’t forbidden in the bible; being a poisoner is. One of the King James Bible translation errors.
Why do cultural beliefs impact us, if we’re not from the culture? The cross-cultural interchange of ideas is surely not that big an influence on my psyche
Good question! Two answers:
- The beliefs have been core in the new age and ascension movement have drawn heavily from them, and you’ve probably drawn heavily from the new age/ascension beliefs. So you’ve been impacted, second hand (this post has been the foreplay for the post on ascension in relation to grounding!)
- Because you’re still connected (by virtue of being human) to the collective unconscious, and are impacted directly by the astral manifestations of those belief conglomerates that have built up around such images as “the body is impure” and “sexuality is shameful” and “humanity is inherantly evil”. More on that in another post.
Also to come: a little look at ritual purification techniques in Eastern and Western religions; how they related to physical cleanliness; and how modern ‘energy cleansing’ relates to old dualistic/paternalistic views of energy as being either “pure” or “impure”.
I love to hear your thoughts, so please share them below. I look forward to hearing from you
This series of posts about belief systems & grounding is dedicated to Dean Ramsden, who inspired me to look critically at the New Age movement; without his grounding influence, I wouldn’t have thought to deconstruct or apply social analysis to this arena. Thanks Dean! Enjoy the Star Trek: The Next Generation entire series on blue-ray when it comes out 😉