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The Human Condition - Thomas keating-3

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The Human Condition - Thomas keating-3

Children who are deprived of security, affection and control needs develop a desperate drive to find more and more symbols of these basic human needs in their culture. This is called compensation. It can also happen that when experiences in early childhood are unbearable, they are repressed into the unconscious. The body seems to be a kind of warehouse in which all our experiences-the whole of our lives-are recorded. We don't need to have our lives recorded by the Angels anymore, because we know that there is a neurological process that takes care of that for us. Some who have had near death experiences report that they experienced reruns of their whole lives.

Here, then, is the beginning of what might be called the addictive process, the need to hide the pain that we suffered in early life and cannot face.
We repress it into the unconscious to provide an apparent freedom from the pain  or develop compensatory processes to access forms of pleasurethat offset the pain we are not yet prepared to face. We are thrust because of circumstances into the position of developing a homemade self that does not conform to reality. Everything entering into the world that makes survival and security. affection and esteem, and power and control our chiefs pursuits of happiness has to be judged on the basis of one question: Is it good for me? Hence, good and evil are judged not by their objective reality, but by the way we perceive them as fitting into our private universe or not.

At the age of four or five the situation gets more complicated. As we begin to socialize the values of family, peer group, religion, ethnic group, nationality, race, gender, and sexual orientation. The combination of these two forces-the drive for happiness in the form of security and survival, affection and esteem, and power and control and over identification with the particular group to which we belong-greatly complicates our emotional programs for happiness. In our younger days, this development is normal. As adults, activity arising from such motivation is childish.

The homemade self or the false self, as it is usually called, is programmed for human misery. Temperament of c ourse also plays a part. Our emotional programs are filtered through our temperamental biases, number on the Eneagram, or identification with a particular archetype. If we have an aggressive temperament and like to dominate as many events and people as possible, the drive increases in proportion to the felt privations of that need that we suffered in early childhood.Without facing those early childhood excesses and trying to dismantle or moderate them through the exercise of reason  (in Christian tradition this means the practice of virtue, they continue to exert enormous influence throughout life. For example, people who want power always want to dictate what is going to happen in every situation. They cannot be happy unless they do. As soon as they are frustrated, off go the afflictive emotions: grief, despair, and anger.

There is nothing wrong with these instinctual needs. But because there was no experience of God at the age that would have modified their excessive importance, such individuals mistakenly sink all of their hope of finding happiness into the pursuit of one or all of these needs. As soon as we notice we are annoyed or angry about something, we tend to protect ourselves by projecting the cause of our upsetting emotion onto a situation or another person:" They" this to me. "They" are always a problem. But, in fact the real problem is not "them" but us. All biases and prejudices are the attitudes of a child from ages four to eight. If they are present in us, we are still functioning at the level of preadolescent.  

Our innocence as children is the innocence of ignorance. Consciousness in the first stages of human life is very limited. The enfant is at one with everything, that is happening, until that unity is lost somewhere between the ages of two and three. When thinking and self reflection begin, since the experience of God is missing, some other form of happiness has to take its place, just for the sake of survival.

The distortion of human nature becomes habitual and is supported, like the Sufi master's disciples, by others who are doing the same thing-trying to find happiness where it cannot possibly be found. When Jesus said,-"Repent, to his first disciples, he was calling them to change the direction in which they were looking for happiness. "Repent" is an invitation to grow up and become a fully mature human being who integrates the biological needs with the rational level of consciousness.


They open up to the experience of God's presence, which restores the sense of happiness. We can then take possession of everything that was good in our early life while leaving the distortions behind. The false self is deeply entrenched. You can change your name and address, religion, country, and clothes. But as long as you don't ask it to change, the false self simply adjusts to the new environment. For example, instead of drinking your friends under the table as a significant sense of self worth and esteem, if you enter a monastery, as I did, fasting the other monks under the table could become your new path to glory. In that case, what would have changed? Nothing.

We can be converted to the values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and do the best we can to moderate the excesses of our desperate search for security, affection and esteem, and power and control, while our basic attitudes remain the same. This is how conversion is distinguished from external changes of lifestyle.

Conversion addresses the heart of the problem. Jesus has some harsh sayings that are incomprehensible unless we see them in the light of the harm that our emotional programs are doing. For example, Jesus said, "If your foot scandalizes you, cut it off." He wasn't recommending self-mutilation but was saying that if your emotional programs are so close to you that you love them as much as your own hand  or foot or eye, get rid of them. They are programs for human misery that will never work. They will interfere with all your relationships-with God, yourself, other people, the earth, and the cosmos.

When we are converted to a new way of life, to service or to a particular ministry, we often experience a wonderful gift of freedom and a radical change of direction. Perhaps you have made enormous sacrifices in your business or profession, maybe even in family life, to be able to begin a journey into the service of the Gospel. But watch out! All the emotional programs of happiness, over identification with one's group, and the commentaries that reinforce our innate tendencies have sources in the unconscious as well as in the conscious.

Reference: The Human Condition-Contemplation and Transformation: Foreword:Elaine Pagels

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