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Historical Origins of our Conditioning

December 10, 2013

If we want to break our conditioning we have to search deeply not only into ourselves, but into our history. The formative influences on us are many and profound, reaching into vast and obscure domains. They constitute layers upon layers added to our conditioning as we have spiritually evolved through various eras. I imagine some of the first layers were very basic taboos and superstitions spread through a tribe or small group by their spiritual leaders. Here maybe was when the incest taboo developed and various superstitions about dead bodies and how to treat them. I think most of us are quite happy to keep this conditioning! But of course these had a strong rationale and have served us well for millennia, and have been internalised to an extent that we hardly see them as conditioning us at all.

As we come to more and more recent times you can imagine the various layers of conditioning added by the agricultural era. Some of what this era initiated is with us still in the pronouncements of religions. The Judaic tradition is a classic example of this. It’s many prescriptions are all centered around an agricultural way of life in the face of its many nomadic and tribal enemies. It found ultimate expression in man as the sacrificial lamb of god. Rome adopted this approach in the end, and due to its empire, this spread throughout Europe and led to the dark ages. An age, despite its name, in which the agricultural revolution was in full swing, taking over all the land, undermining nomads, tribes, barbarians and placing all in the hands of a King or Queen, hereditary ruler.

Thus mobilising and preparing us for the coming modern era with its renaissance, reformation and scientific revolution. And here is our most recent layer of conditioning that I want to consider in greater detail. The purpose of this layer, as far as its conditioning of us goes, is the isolation of the human mind. This came to fit in neatly with the coming individualism and capitalist politics. It was all a crucial part of our spiritual evolution, but we have yet to settle down with a proper awareness of the limits of the domain of this layer of conditioning. And so for many it has become a layer without limits, a layer controlling and conditioning us way beyond its area of value, way beyond the purpose it was created for.

There have already been reactions against this conditioning. We saw it in the efforts of communism and fascism. Both tried to overcome our mental isolation, but failed by creating something that was not informed by our deeper sense of self. They created an abstraction, an ephemeral ideal. We see how it was fragmentary in that it failed to cohere with deeper layers of our conditioning, such as our moral sense of compassion for the people in our immediate surroundings. (Equality for all is great, but what about the people right in front of me whom I care about? Following a leaders orders blindly may be an efficient way of running society in the short-term, but what about my individual discernment of situations?) Our minds fought an internal war, mirrored ultimately externally by the two world wars, between different layers within our own sense of self. In the end the deeper layer of our conditioning  inevitably won.

So this is an outline of the history of how we got to where we are. We continue to test the boundaries of our conditioning. The next stage is to go into more detail on how our minds became isolated. What purposes it serves, what beliefs it has entailed, what its conceptual background is, and what the rationale behind it is. Once we understand this we can begin to pick it apart a bit.

Through a growing awareness, we can be more creative about how we use it in our perception of the world. Bringing it under our power, rather than it having power over us, making us act unthinkingly and compulsively in line with it. We can then start to consider creating our own next layer of self conditioning. To spiritually evolve to the next level, and beyond a conditioning that has been constricting and holding us back now for some 300-400 years.

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