From the archives of some theosophical e-mail lists.

English

Universal Seekers

Race, identification, and spiritual freedom

From: Ulla de Mora
Date: Tue Feb 20, 2001
Subject: Re: [US] Re: Gnothi Seauton

Hello Paul, 
that search into ones roots is indeed revealing. I grew up in an
environment of that type of research. An uncle of mine was an archaeologist
and came over to our farm regularly to enthuse about his latest discoveries.
But IMV this type of "revelation" can come from all directions. It depends
which directions one is open to. My viewpoint today is to try and perceive
the *signs* that appear under my nose, and find the correct interpretation
and guidance from them.
While living in Barbados I was friends with a group of young blacks, most
of them were studying law at the University of the West Indies, and it was
a collective endeavor among them to search or investigate their African
roots.
But after a while I noticed that they were not really making progress as
spiritual human beings, as they were denying themselves their forward
direction, i.e., the integration with the whole "human" race. Their destiny
as global citizens.
Instead by focusing on their past as a race they reinforced racism inside
themselves, which led to further alienation from the whites in their midst.
I used to tell them (semi-challenging) that were I to get into my roots,
the first thing I would find there was the Nazi regime. And although I
consider it vital to be informed about that part of German history I have
no desire to search for "identification" with those ancestors.
My family had an obsession with that search into their roots, and had
managed to close all gaps as far back as the 14th century, and even found
an old church record of someone of our name already in the 11th century
paying dues to his feudal lord, and living at the same spot where our farm
stood today.

I found that because of that family obsession I needed to go about
self-knowledge in a totally different way, nothing to do with blood lines
or genetics, and so found Gurdjieff. Studying the self by observation,
which can be done anywhere, anytime. Also studying how others respond and
perceive one. Others can see more than oneself, especially of the part we
are in denial about.
I'm not denying you your search, don't get me wrong. Just adding my opinion
to the discussion. All search is ok, as long as it doesn't lead to regret
but furthers ones self-acceptance, and leads to an understanding of one's
real goals in life.

Ulla


From: Kym Smith
Date: Thu Feb 22, 2001
Subject: Re: [US] Digest Number 55

Ulla wrote:

 
>But after a while I noticed that they were not really making progress as
>spiritual human beings, as they were denying themselves their forward
>direction, ie, the integration with the whole "human" race. Their destiny
>as global citizens.

I'm not quite sure what many people mean when they say "global citizens."
It seems to me that one can be both a member of a group which celebrates
itself and, at the same time, be a global citizen. Is this not what makes
for diversity?

Does global citizenship require races, sexes, philosophies, and religions
to merge into one collective body?

There certainly seems to be some reason why one is born black, brown,
white, yellow, or red. There certainly seems to be some reason why one is
born male or female. Each 'group' offers lessons not found in other
groups. For a person to be born into such different circumstances would
appear to offer, at least to me, an opportunity to become even more learned
of the Self; rather than the other way around. The universal is understood
only in the context of the un-universal.

>Instead by focusing on their past as a race they reinforced racism inside
>themselves, which led to further alienation from the whites in their midst.

I suspect this goes both ways. A group attempting to understand its place
on this earth can be threatening to other groups. When women delved into
their history and found, contrary to societal mantras, that females have
always possessed the ability to think, create, and triumph, men (and some
women) got nervous. The natural reaction of many females was one of anger
and alienation from males. But what else would occur upon learning that
one has been lied to? Hugs and kisses would seem a peculiar reaction to
such news.

Eventually, there will come a time when one moves through the prodding
emotions of anger and alienation. The resulting human being is far more
compassionate, sophisticated, and globally conscious than the human being
who skipped such difficult and trying soul work.

In the short term, the anger of many groups and individuals is scary; one
can be killed by such entities. However, in the long term, again,
globalism can only be understood when taken in context with nationalism.
Further, 'universalism' can only be understood when taken in context with
globalism. And on and on.

For many, studying one's roots is a fundamental step in learning one's
place in the world. I don't feel such an urge in this incarnation, but I
may of in the past or may in the future. To discourage others from such
seeking, though, may hinder, rather than aid, in their growth - there are
many paths toward Truth.

The trick is learning when to keep one's head down in the presence of those
folks entering the most dangerous of times. . .the discovering of the
un-Truths. After that. . .gravy.

Kym

From: "Bill Meredith"
Date: Fri Feb 23, 2001
Subject: Re: [US] Digest Number 55

--
> From: kymsmith@mi...
> To: UniversalSeekers@yahoogroups.com
> Subject: Re: [US] Digest Number 55
> Date: Thursday, February 22, 2001 1:50 PM
>
> Ulla wrote:
>
> >But after a while I noticed that they were not really making progress as
> >spiritual human beings, as they were denying themselves their forward
> >direction, ie, the integration with the whole "human" race. Their
destiny
> >as global citizens.

Kym wrote:
> I'm not quite sure what many people mean when they say "global citizens."
> It seems to me that one can be both a member of a group which celebrates
> itself and, at the same time, be a global citizen. Is this not what
makes
> for diversity?

//Kym this is an interesting and thought provoking question. It seems to
assume that diversity is a desirable state of affairs, and yet our
religious and philosophical underpinings at the spiritual level seem to
call for a Oneness, a joining with the One, Unity, Universality, etc.

> Does global citizenship require races, sexes, philosophies, and religions
> to merge into one collective body?

//I don't know. It seems that spiritual progress denotes a passing beyond
these subclasses into a more universal appreciation of Self. Self seems
not to have a race, sex, philosophy, religion, or body (collective or
otherwise)?

> There certainly seems to be some reason why one is born black, brown,
> white, yellow, or red. There certainly seems to be some reason why one
is
> born male or female. Each 'group' offers lessons not found in other
> groups. For a person to be born into such different circumstances would
> appear to offer, at least to me, an opportunity to become even more
learned
> of the Self; rather than the other way around. The universal is
understood
> only in the context of the un-universal.

//I agree with you that different circumstances appear to offer different
opportunities, however it seems that each opportunity is an opportunity to
free oneself from one's whiteness or one's sexual gender more so than an
opportunity to immerse oneself in one's particulars.

Ulla:
> >Instead by focusing on their past as a race they reinforced racism
inside
> >themselves, which led to further alienation from the whites in their
midst.

Kym:
> I suspect this goes both ways. A group attempting to understand its
place
> on this earth can be threatening to other groups. When women delved into
> their history and found, contrary to societal mantras, that females have
> always possessed the ability to think, create, and triumph, men (and some
> women) got nervous. The natural reaction of many females was one of
anger
> and alienation from males. But what else would occur upon learning that
> one has been lied to? Hugs and kisses would seem a peculiar reaction to
> such news.

//Yes, and if a woman chooses to spend this incarnation immersed in her
femaleness then it is her business. But at death one's womaness will pass
away. Only one's Self will continue. As Ulla points out, much seems to
depend upon one's focus. If Ulla were to study her German ancestry with
the purpose of freeing herself from it, then she might expect to improve
her Self in the process. But if she studies in order to identify herself,
then she is limiting her Self to such an identification in some respects.

> Eventually, there will come a time when one moves through the prodding
> emotions of anger and alienation. The resulting human being is far more
> compassionate, sophisticated, and globally conscious than the human being
> who skipped such difficult and trying soul work.

//Your assumption that eventually there will come a time is difficult for
me to grasp. Black militants die black and militant. White supremist die
white and supremist. Of course there are exceptions, but they do seem to
be exceptions rather than the norm. The difficult and trying soul work is
the work of overcoming one's particulars and seeing beyond them to
universal truths. If the only way to overcome a drug addiction is to
immerse oneself in the drug culture, then so be it, but it seems like a
hard way to go to me.

> In the short term, the anger of many groups and individuals is scary; one
> can be killed by such entities. However, in the long term, again,
> globalism can only be understood when taken in context with nationalism.
> Further, 'universalism' can only be understood when taken in context with
> globalism. And on and on.

//I would agree with you and take it one step further. I would go so far as
to say that in the short term, one's Self can be killed (for this
incarnation) by the very groups one immerses oneself in.

> For many, studying one's roots is a fundamental step in learning one's
> place in the world. I don't feel such an urge in this incarnation, but I
> may of in the past or may in the future. To discourage others from such
> seeking, though, may hinder, rather than aid, in their growth - there are
> many paths toward Truth.

//I also feel no such urge in this incarnation. I therefore cannot say
what studying one's roots is for many, however, for me the time and energy
spent learning my place in the world is better spent trying to learn my
place in the universe.
For me these are not the same. The first is physical and the latter is
metaphysical.

> The trick is learning when to keep one's head down in the presence of
those
> folks entering the most dangerous of times. . .the discovering of the
> un-Truths. After that. . .gravy.

//Most true! Good post Kym! I appreciate your thoughts on this topic. I
would like to see your lists of un-Truths to compare with my own!
>
Bill

From: Paul Johnson
Date: Fri Feb 23, 2001
Subject: Race, identification, and spiritual freedom

Dear group,

The discussion among Ulla, Kym, and Bill raises many interesting
questions. The central issue seems to be how a sense of racial (or
gender, or national, etc.) identity helps or hinders one on the
spiritual path. A month ago I, like Bill, would have said that
genealogy is a waste of time and energy. And when it goes further
back than a few generations, I still don't see much use for it
personally. But in my own case, racial issues have been crucial in
family history in my own lifetime, so learning more about the 19th
century helps me understand the 20th.

My own father was run out of the state by his family (brothers,
mother, aunt) in the early 1960s because they were scandalized by his
taking up with a black woman after my parents' divorce. They tried
to have him committed to a state institution over it but the judge
said that interracial romance was not prima facie evidence of
insanity, even in Virginia. From the age of 8 to 16 I had no
knowledge of where he was or what he was doing and indeed was fed a
bunch of lies by my grandmother. Then when she died he reappeared
and I learned about my black stepmother, 5 black stepsiblings, and 2
half-sisters. A heavy thing for a Southern teenager in 1970, but
since I had become a Baha'i a few months earlier I viewed it all
positively. Have been alienated for 30 years from the relatives who
disowned my father, though.

Thus it comes as something of a revelation to realize that they
themselves had been hiding the "half-breed" Indian origins of the
family as well as their Union sympathies and military records. (In
their NC county, there were almost as many who joined the Union army
as the Confederate, but 2/3 of them were escaped slaves.) People who
had themselves been racially and politically marginal in the 19th
century turned around in the 20th to disown a family member over
racial/political issues.

Don't know if "tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner" is true, but at
least some understanding leads to some forgiveness. Knowing how
vulnerable they felt in their "whiteness", and how many secrets they
already were keeping about family history, helps explain why they
reacted as they did and thus why my childhood was shaped as it was.
So in my own case, roots research is about having a deeper
understanding of people I actually knew and loved, and not primarily
about knowing the more distant past for its own sake. As well as
giving my sisters' children, already dealt the hand of interracial
genes, a better understanding of their own heritage.

As to the more general questions, it seems to me that Bill and Kym
exemplify here what Ken Wilber calls the "ascender/descender"
polarity. "Ascenders" view the spiritual path as being one
of "rising above" the physical and worldly; "descenders" see it as
being about "thy kingdom come, thy will be done *on earth as it is in
heaven*." Thus in determining whether giving time and energy to
questions of racial identification, these biases lead to different
conclusions. If we see the Universe as something in opposition to
the World, then worldly things are snares and delusions. If we see
the World as enveloped by and fully a part of the Universe, then
worldly things are signs and revelations of God. Personally, I lean
to the "descender" POV, as does Cayce, whereas Blavatsky and
Theosophy are definitely more "ascender" oriented.

Bottom line-- I don't think "identifying yourself" racially (or
sexually or nationally etc.) and "liberating yourself" are
contradictory, but rather mutually supportive. Until you fully
understand the social identity you've inherited and acquired, you
don't really have a basis for knowing what to liberate yourself
from. And stages of liberation aren't stages of freedom from *all*
identifications IMO, so much as progressively understanding different
levels of identity in their collective and individual aspects
intertwined.

Cheers,

Paul

From: kymsmith@mi...
Date: Sat Feb 24, 2001 1:53am
Subject: Re: [US] Digest Number 56

Bill wrote:

>//Kym this is an interesting and thought provoking question. It seems to
>assume that diversity is a desirable state of affairs, and yet our
>religious and philosophical underpinnings at the spiritual level seem to
>call for a Oneness, a joining with the One, Unity, Universality, etc.

Yes, my statement does assume that diversity is a desirable state of
affairs - especially on the material plane. It would seem to me that we
pass through different kingdoms (plant, animal, human, etc.) for a reason,
or many reasons. One of the reasons may be to understand the different
manifestations that Spirit can create and/or undergo. This opens up the
Mind to the concept of 'possibility'. If we do not fully experience our
humanness, then we will never truly understand it and its place in the
Puzzle. I believe that many spiritual writings tend to minimize or even
'shame' the material form and, again, I believe this may be an error.
Rather than try to balance life, many attempt to go overboard under the
guise of 'being spiritual'. We cannot skip steps - we must master the
human before we can master the spiritual. If we don't have patience with
ourselves while in human form, how will we find patience in spiritual form?
Further, how can we be comfortable with Oneness if we fear or are suspect
of its Diversity?

But, this doesn't mean that all forms Spirit takes are 'good' or necessary
or well-meaning. . .but that's another issue.

>//I don't know. It seems that spiritual progress denotes a passing beyond
>these subclasses into a more universal appreciation of Self. Self seems
>not to have a race, sex, philosophy, religion, or body (collective or
>otherwise)?

I kind of agree and disagree. I believe that Self takes on sex, race,
religion, gender, etc. when It incarnates; moreover, it holds on to
specific characteristics through many incarnations. For example, some of
us are drawn to a particular religion or thought process or concept of what
is beautiful. What is precious to one means nothing to another. The Self
does not appear to remain as neutral and unaffected as much literature
would have us believe. The Self constructs a 'map' and then alters or
adjusts as necessary. This is why it is so important to study, practice,
and think 'rightly.' If the Self always remained above the fray, then the
argument about needing to live ethically, morally, or spiritually is moot.

I'm not entirely convinced that Self is as 'pure' as it's often portrayed.
But this may be a matter of semantics - what Self means to you may not be
what it means to me. I don't think Self is Ego, nor do I think Self is
Love (or the Big Kahuna God). Self is a human concept, a name for
something we don't understand, a thoughtform (which takes on its own power
and role). Self, as described in human terms, is an illusion, but
nonetheless very useful and important. Self may even be the next step up
from humandom, but for me, it is not the end goal. Something lies beyond
Self.

>//I agree with you that different circumstances appear to offer different
>opportunities, however it seems that each opportunity is an opportunity to
>free oneself from one's whiteness or one's sexual gender more so than an
>opportunity to immerse oneself in one's particulars.

But this philosophy requires that one immediately adopt a belief that
humanness is an undesirable state of affairs. Again, this strikes me as
schizophrenic - we are to 'love' humanity, but at the same time strive to
eradicate it.

Not even Jesus or Buddha succeeded in "freeing" themselves from their own
human particulars (fear, panic, suffering). Even more strikingly, it was
the particulars that helped them spread their message. If Jesus had not
been born Jewish and male, but instead, Pagan and female, do you believe
that it would have had the same impact on humanity? The importance of
particulars did not escape the wisest of ones. Indeed, just being a human
is a particular - Bill is a particular, Kym is a particular. Humanity is
NOT a universal.

>//Yes, and if a woman chooses to spend this incarnation immersed in her
>femaleness then it is her business. But at death one's womaness will pass
>away.

I've neither seen nor heard anything that factually backs this up.
Theories and supposition, yes. . .but unless one chooses to throw something
off, I don't know why a throwing-off would necessarily be automatic upon
death. That theory would toss the "free will" argument out the door, would
it not?

>If Ulla were to study her German ancestry with
>the purpose of freeing herself from it, then she might expect to improve
>her Self in the process. But if she studies in order to identify herself,
>then she is limiting her Self to such an identification in some respects.

What do you mean "freeing herself"? What does freeing oneself mean? In my
freedom from whiteness, I now free from the collective karma of white
people? If I free myself from all previous experience which occurred
during my whiteness, what takes its place? Now that I am free of my
whiteness, can I go study blackness? If I free myself from my femaleness,
will I cease to menstruate? Will my breasts drop off and a penis appear?
How will a brain, wired to male experience and hormone, function in a body
which has freed itself from maleness? Will a male, freed of his maleness,
cease desiring female sexual partners?

Perhaps you're referring instead to "roles" - men being aggressive, women
being passive. But freeing oneself from societal roles does not mean that
one has freed themselves from their maleness or femaleness or whiteness or
blackness.

>//Your assumption that eventually there will come a time is difficult for
>me to grasp. Black militants die black and militant. White supremist die
>white and supremist.

Only if they choose to - and this can be out of ignorance or desire or
Compassion. The motive behind the choice is paramount. But to suggest
that black militants or white supremists will always remain so goes against
all natural and spiritual laws. Nothing stays the same. Change is
constant; the only exception is the creamy, dreamy taste of chocolate - a
few rare things are meant to stay the same. But even the most extreme
humans must change. . .the speed of the change is something we may have
some control over, but change we will.

>If the only way to overcome a drug addiction is to
>immerse oneself in the drug culture, then so be it, but it seems like a
>hard way to go to me.

It may be, but the most successful stories of recovery are from those who
"hit bottom" - which means total immersion. It may be wisest to avoid some
things altogether, but to completely conquer anything, one must know it
intimately. And this occurs through many lifetimes. I think we pay way
too much attention to the immediate incarnations of people and other living
entities, rather than taking into account that the lives we possess today
are mere short threads in our total incarnation tapestry.

>//I would agree with you and take it one step further. I would go so far as
>to say that in the short term, one's Self can be killed (for this
>incarnation) by the very groups one immerses oneself in.

At the risk of coming off too flippant, my first response was "So?" Death
of anything, even the Self, is not the end. Death is an illusion.
Premature death may delay understanding, but a person does possess the
right to choose the speed of their growth. Taken out of context, one may
read this as a go-ahead to kill and murder, but these two issues are far
separate. What we perceive as someone's "death of their Self" may not be
that at all - we cannot know what has transpired before.

I judge other people and the way they live their lives freely and eagerly
all the time, but I am aware, deep in the bog of my being, that my judgment
rests solely on mere circumstantial evidence. Yet, even so, my arrogant
judgments get me up in the afternoon and help me cope when someone dares to
challenge my thinking. It is one of the perks of being human.

>//I also feel no such urge in this incarnation. I therefore cannot say
>what studying one's roots is for many, however, for me the time and energy
>spent learning my place in the world is better spent trying to learn my
>place in the universe.

Bill, if you don't have the time and energy to learn your place in the
world, what makes you think you will have use of these qualities in trying
to learn your place in the universe? Just gonna leap from kindergarten
into graduate school?

>//Most true! Good post Kym! I appreciate your thoughts on this topic. I
>would like to see your lists of un-Truths to compare with my own!

Learning that the God of the Bible lacks the Royal Robe was the biggie for
me. Everything, and I mean everything, changed after that. My hair even
turned gray (ok, that's a filthy lie).

Kym