"METAPHYSICS: A Branch of Philosophy That Deals With 'First Cause' and 'The Nature of Being'"


- PART I -

“ THEN ”

The recording of activities is an age old custom whose earliest examples may be cave drawings relating to hunting and foraging techniques and locations. Valuable lessons if a family or clan were expected to flourish from season to season or, for that matter, generation to generation. We might imagine that the one among them who proved best at comprehensively recording such information was an honored member of the group, regarded with some degree of reverence, perhaps even considered in possession of qualities so incomprehensible to his peers that they seem magical. From the humble beginnings of an ability to diagram a day’s or season’s activities so all could understand what accounted for their successes and mistakes, evolved a talent capable of becoming the clan’s keeper of their history or lore. An individual with the vision to transcribe a three dimensional object into a two dimensional likeness displays a capacity of abstract thought necessary to make the vital connections witnessed in the day to day habits of creatures sharing their range of habitat. The behavioral instincts of wildlife surely would have piqued the curiosity of these primitives, influencing every aspect of the relationship they had with their surroundings.

Instinct still ruled however and for good reason. Those were the days, after all, where brute strength and reaction time, spelled the difference between hunting and being hunted. It would still be tens of thousands of years before our ancestors amounted to little more than prey themselves in that now long extinct food chain. That same “survival instinct” told them to hold on to what they had. Additionally, if they saw something they wanted, they took it if they could, setting the stage for what would come to be called “pecking order”. Its continuation from pack or herd, to clan was seamless because it still served the same purpose. Simply put, it worked. Before rules and laws, the strongest was the leader who had the most of everything, and did so until being usurped by the next strongest leader wannabe. The clan in the neighboring valley, by the way, was surviving by the same possession oriented mind-set, making the sudden appearance of any stranger a matter of immediate concern and suspicion.

Longevity speaks to the success of any practice and so we see that the order of authority is virtually unchanged in most species of animal today including, sadly, ourselves. The oldest habits are the most difficult to gain freedom from. Instinct laid the foundation for many of the behaviors, positive and negative, practiced still. Too often we act no more civilized than did the first branches on our family tree with regard to the feeling of being threatened, and its associated fear, when interacting with someone who appears different than we are. Masking our fear with expressions of disdain and mounting a defense by way of character assassination, we’re in denial about the “problem” being our own insecurity and opt for a “solution” framed in anything from gossip to outright bigotry. While such scrutiny, and more, might have had a basis in protecting the hard fought for and carefully guarded stores relied upon by a closely knit clan twenty-thousand years ago, there is, despite its wide spread continued practice, no place for it in a world community. Its origins, however, are so deeply rooted in instinct we may not be entirely out from under the spectre it represents, for another twenty-thousand years.

As the embryonic imagination began to supplant instinct in that brutish excuse for a brain, it took ever so long for any evidence of its “head-way” to manifest in the lifestyle of these primitives. The trickle of original thought that would one day flow from so many creative minds into every corner of our lives, started its sojourn into the niches of our psyche at a rate that made glaciation seem supersonic. Still, advance it did from what must have been its earliest expression, vocalizations.

We witness an infinite variety of communication behaviors among most species of animals. Be assured all communicate, those we are unable to witness are simply outside our capacity to perceive in a physical sense. The most obvious of course are the songs, calls, chirps, rattles, growls and snorts, not to mention the elaborate vocabularies of body language, or posturing, we’ve come to accept as part of our rich natural surroundings. It seems the vast majority, perhaps as much as ninety-nine percent, of these examples of social intercourse are instinctive and no doubt survival based. Then, there are the exceptions. It’s increasingly apparent that more than a few families of creatures demonstrate communication skills that can only be considered learned and in some cases, original! Whales, for instance, teach their calves “songs” with connotations and dialects peculiar to their pod or family. Primates identify objects, places and each other with sounds clearly understood by members of their family group and, lest we forget; the very real success they’ve had in learning the basics of American Sign Language. If accurate, this in particular could represent the first evidence of true communication between species. Additionally, the subjects involved in these efforts are alleged to have taught others of their kind the same things without being prompted to do so! The totality of this behavior, alluded to herein by but a few examples, increases at the same rate as our ability to understand it, which could lead us to the inference that; the probability of its commonality exceeds our understanding and is only realized as our comprehension of it improves.

Is what we’re seeing in this something of ourselves, when the first seed of imagination germinated? To be sure, the conduct we are only beginning to grasp in others has been playing some part in the nature of things long before we were players ourselves. If the primal utterances that stemmed from our beginnings led to a higher path, it’s because creative thought and the inroads it made on our neural network, helped each small successive step viable. Supported by the roots of everything that came before us, a terminal node on that seedling sprouted a branch that flourished into what would be called Ego. From that point on our ancestral tree, a new central and primary trunk diverged from what had been and grew toward recognizing Self! The world would never be the same! Imagination empowered Ego to separate us from the whole. We were no longer a part of, but apart from the family unit we had always been identified with.

Ego gave us personal choices we didn’t have before. This precursor, as it were, to independent thought and action was no doubt most confusing to these brutish minds largely because it meant exploring unfamiliar changes in themselves, not the least of which were emotions. Instinct had always satisfied what ever circumstances arose in their world, but its involuntariness started to get fuzzy around the edges when feelings got in the way. Life was no longer cut and dry. Shades of grey began clouding what was once purely black and white. The need to make decisions kept popping up. Survival for these “hunter / gatherers” was complex enough when the only requirements were to to eat and procreate. The stirrings that the onset of imagination were responsible for caused members of the clan, who were accustomed to following blindly, to question or, at least try to inject a suggestion of their own now and then.

As should be expected, an individualistic ego was commonly met with the wrath of his peers, who might not have yet experienced the same stirrings offered so selectively as an alternative to instinct. Most threatened perhaps would be the leader who was quick to interpret otherwise unexplainable actions, i.e. behavior out of character or hesitations to act, as a play for his position in the group. If the strongest one among them caught himself acting, instead of reacting instinctually, he too might be startled at the degree to which his anger could be provoked, now generated by feelings instead of being an expected measured reaction to circumstances. Should his authority be threatened, it may not be just the younger, healthier males doing so anymore. The autocracy of his command might slowly require more and more of his attention to suppress the curious confusion seeming to well up, with increasing frequency, at every turn. He might sense something wrong with his family, as well as himself. He wasn’t comfortable with this new uncertainty and lashed out at any provocateur so as not to appear weak under the increasing scrutiny of those followers whose eyes once avoided his, out of respect for his position.

As leader, his fledgling ego sated its growing appetite––while holding uncertainty and its telltale hesitancy at bay––on the fear he saw in the eyes of all who now dared challenge him. Experience was demonstrating, that of those emotions clouding his once clear, single minded view, fear could be his ally. He too knew its grip personally, for all had occasion to have been threatened by predators. The notion that others might exhibit the same response toward him, as they would when in mortal danger, endowed him with a sense of power enabling his role as leader to be set apart from his followers in a very different way than had been the custom. Having then enjoyed the taste of being the object of fear, and with no concept of what lay ahead or reason to contemplate beyond his “now”, the “Leader Ego” set about cultivating that strength into an advantage capable of overcoming any future confrontations his limited imagination could foster. Once the use of, or more accurately, the abuse of fear was recognized and energized as a control, the path that leadership––or anyone else obsessing about their personal agenda––would choose, far more often than not, has since been forged as a “means to an end” throughout every page of history.

The shifting centers of consciousness, from the clan oriented “group spirit” to the soul that manifested as Ego, meant, from the physical perspective, going from a sense of belonging and the security inherent with being a part of the whole, to what must have felt like, for the first time, being alone. That was exactly, after all, the physical manifestation of the spiritual event that separated us from the “Oneness” of our Creator’s Unconditional Love, to become the innocent child empowered by His Grace, so that we may find our way back, through the choices exercised of our own free will. While in the physical and focused on the “now” though, the onset of that free will overwhelmed us with feelings of being different from those who once seemed so familiar. Consequently and seemingly contrary to the freedom our increasingly independent thought pattern should represent, we subconsciously made every effort to offset our initial sensation of isolation, by seeking out others who were experiencing similar disorientation––if only in the increments suggestive of trail and error––in order to fashion a fresh foundation from which to come to terms with the confusion wrought by all the self doubt our awakening had brought to bear. From this “seeking out” then, as in any commonality or need to belong, grew a social behavior in people heretofore isolated––first in their “oneness” as a group, then in their freedom as individuals––by exploring the irony of Ego, using its recently realized freedom of choice, to establish relationships so soon after giving up the most intimate relationship of all, that of being “One”, and thus proving; freedom lies not in the longing to be apart from, nor in belonging to a part of, but in the choice to do so.

The apparent contradiction of giving up the unity of a group spirit (which all flora and fauna have in common with every other member of their specific species) for belonging to a unified group of individual spirits, only emphasized that the path to spiritual advancement had to navigate through the emotional experiences unique to Ego. It is this transmigration of identity from group spirit to soul, initiating self-actualization through the exercise of free will, that commenced our personal spiritual quest. A journey of discovery and disappointment, ecstasy and heartbreak, expectation and fear, love and hate. Lessons in living, giving, caring and sharing. Growing and learning as an individual through the opportunities that are not available to the blindly led members of a group who don’t possess free will. Life experienced as an Ego would, out of necessity, lead us down paths that are not open to those living by instinct alone.