Why are we experiencing all of what we are experiencing right now? Wars, rhetoric, divisive politics, where to pee, divorces, scandal, terrorism, death, and impending financial doom are grabbing headlines every day. We believe that we are civilized, but we sure don’t act like it. Ironically, I participate in spiritual organizations that preach “love, happiness, and enlightenment” and I am constantly amazed at how people in them are so hypocritical. Face it, ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t look like we have learned much on our journey on this planet.
So what is the cause of this constant competition and fighting? The answer lies not only in our inherent nature, but in our belief systems. The belief that causes most of us to behave unkindly is separation consciousness.
Separation consciousness is the concept of life that we are alone and separate from everything and everybody. Allegorically this concept is the story of Adam and Eve being cast from the Garden of Eden, or the belief that we are separate from God. Biologically it has its origins in birth itself, because at one moment we are safe, protected and nurtured in the womb and then BAM, we are separated from the womb and we are on our own. Then life is a continuous series of separations, we have to go to day-care as infants so parents can work, we have to go preschool and then school to be “headucated”, then we have to leave home to go to college and then make a life for ourselves.
My first indoctrination into separation was through organized religion. Religion is based on the belief that individuals are not God and they need someone to tell them what to do to be happy and good. Even worse is the notion that we are born damned and only through grace from God, who we don’t control, are we “saved”. I was an ordained deacon in the Southern Baptist Church for many years and taught Adult Bible Study for over ten years. I quit the church when they wanted me to teach that babies go to hell when they die because they weren’t saved. Organized religion has a lot to learn about the destructive effect of separation consciousness. It is ironic to the extreme that the messengers teaching unity consciousness (for example Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses) were all dismissed by established authority and condemned. Jesus in particular told us that we do not need priests or rabbis, we are one with God.
So how does separation consciousness show up in our lives? It is like a dandelion whose roots go deep and are almost impossible to eradicate and once the seed heads are set afloat are almost impossible to see. Here are some of the most common:
- Better than: If you have ever watched children play, they share their things and they tend to help each other with kindness. Somewhere along the way we learn how to compare ourselves to each other, and someone has to be better or less than. When we make comparisons we are separating us from the other. We tend to look for validation outside of ourselves which is counterproductive. We need to look at us and others as grains of sand on the beach, and without each other there would be no beach. We are all part of this world which we create moment by moment. Humans are the only living creatures that compare themselves to each other.
- Keeping score: One of the most divisive components of separation consciousness is the action of being ultra-vigilant of who is doing what. We believe that if we do a good deed, there should be a reward. The truth is that the reward of a good deed is the deed itself. Conversely, when someone doesn’t behave the way we think they should act, we take offense. Keeping score of good and bad deeds is truly a waste of time, but we love to do it to prove to ourselves that we are better than and therefore separate from each other.
- Drama: We are emotional beings, to be sure. However, when we create drama such as “oh woe is me”, “life sucks”, “shit happens” we are calling attention to ourselves because we don’t think we are enough. The only reason we don’t think that we are enough is the belief that we are alone, i.e. separate from everyone else. If we could change our belief from “I am all there is” to “I am a part of a greater whole”, there would be no drama.
- Manipulation: When we think that we are separate from everyone else, we have to try to take control of our environment to feel safe. The way most people try to take control of their environment is to manipulate everyone around them to behave the way we think they should behave. We do that with our loved ones, we do that with our perceived adversaries, we do that with our perceived competitors and we do that with our causes. A case in point is the current political scene. How do we handle elections these days? It is sophomoric and dishonest propaganda. This election year is particularly vicious with lies proliferating attack ads. Others threaten to leave the country if their candidate doesn’t win. We do this to manipulate people to vote one way or another. We manipulate people to fit into the box we want them to live in. The truth is we are only manipulating ourselves.
- Rejection: Rejection is the opposite of acceptance. When we reject something or someone, we are operating under the mistaken notion that we can separate ourselves from that thing or person. It is like rejecting your face, the consequences are severe. Despite the belief that face lift surgery will make us look younger and prettier, all you have to do is look at the end result of those who have rejected their face and tried to buy another one. Rejecting ourselves is the most cruel form of separation consciousness.
- Run away: It is separation consciousness that leads us to believe that there is anywhere to run away to. If people move to Canada if the opposition candidate wins, that is the ultimate separation move. The truth is wherever you go, there you are. You simply can’t run away from life nor yoursel. Some people take the ultimate step of running away by committing suicide. Death does not mean you cease to exist. I have had two temporary death experiences and I did not cease to be aware. The one thing I do remember about the time I was dead was that there was no feeling of separateness, there was only consciousness.
- Violence: Violence results from fear, and fear results from separation consciousness. I look at the world and it seems that violence is becoming more and more prevalent. I suppose that the internet has made the world more accessible so we know a great deal more now about what is happening all over the world. Short of war (the ultimate form of separation consciousness), violence seems to be occurring more frequently. We can’t even have a political debate without violence. We are either going to blow ourselves up or we will have to find a better way than separation consciousness.
There are many teachings by the spiritual masters that we are not alone and we are all one. Buddha spoke of compassion and the need to understand the flow of all that is one, the Old Testament speaks of treating strangers as equals, Jesus spoke of treating others as you would treat yourself, the Sadh gurus of India talk in terms of rejection being separation consciousness and acceptance being unity consciousness. Ultimately love is the true unity consciousness and fear is separation consciousness. This is the challenge of our times. We are not trapped in the separation consciousness born of birth itself. We have the wisdom and the ability to transcend these old ways of thinking and bring peace.