Are Gurus an Endangered Species?
Article by Peter
Published in ‘Here and Now’, Byron Bay, November 1999
The latter half of this century has seen some scientific discoveries that will have as profound an effect on the Eastern spiritual view of the world as did the discovery that the earth was not flat and was not the centre of the cosmos had on traditional Western religious views.
In the 16th Century Copernicus proposed the concept that the world was not the centre of the cosmos, and this was later confirmed by Galileo empirical observations. This was to put yet another dent in the belief that the heavens above were another world populated by Gods and that below earth was a hellish world populated by Demons. This fact was to relegate the last of what was regarded as ancient wisdom to the realm of mere fairy-story beliefs. The idea of a white-bearded God sitting on a cloud and overseeing all this became silly to most. And as for sending his son down so he could do a few miracles, start a religion, be nailed to a cross, and after a few days, go back up to sit alongside Dad and see how it all works out...!!
Fierce battles were fought by the churches to deny and repress Galileo’s findings, but by the 19th Century the Christian church was beginning to bow to a general acceptance that their sacred dogmas and texts were allegorical fables and not factual. Darwin and the evolutionists were to further dent religious creationist theories and the cosmologists have stretched time further back than when most of the Gods were deemed to have done their ‘creation thing’. The de-bunking and de-mystifying of Western religious superstitions has been an on-going process since the studies of biology, astronomy and earth sciences broke free from the bosom of the churches some 400 years ago.
With the breaking free from the shackles of strict church dogma and its doctrines of belief and faith came the beginning of Western intellectual interest in Eastern spiritualism in the late 19th Century which flourished into a popular movement by the 1970’s. The spiritual search was a search for happiness and peace on earth fuelled by the emergence of a youthful generation dedicated to the pursuit of both. Parallel to this burgeoning Western interest in spiritualism in the last 30 years, neuro-biological science has been making some discoveries about instinctual human behaviour that could well have as profound an affect on Eastern spiritualism as Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin have had on Western religion.
At the core of the Eastern spiritual view of the world is the concept that humans are born ‘innocent’ and have only been conditioned with ‘evil’ thoughts since birth, and that it is possible to retain this natural innocence in this lifetime, on earth – hence the search to find one’s original face or divine self. Human behavioural studies and the recent neuro-biological researches by Joseph LeDoux, Steven Hyman and others are revealing that the passions of fear and aggression – the cause of human suffering and ‘evil’– are actually the result of a genetically inherited instinctual program instilled by blind nature in order to ensure the survival of the human species. Thus, there is explicit verifiable scientific evidence that we are not born ‘innocent’ but come with genetically-encoded instinctual passions of fear, aggression, nurture and desire which are the direct cause of human sorrow and malice.
The other fundamental Eastern spiritual concept is that life on earth is ultimately ‘unsatisfactory’ with some even believing in a continuous cycle of re-birth into earthly suffering and that the true meaning of human existence lies ‘elsewhere’ – ultimately after physical death. Journeying ‘in’ to find one’s true spiritual self or soul is deemed to be the answer, resulting in Enlightenment as a release from ‘gross’ earthly suffering.
However, the studies of the genetically inherited instinctual program, located within the primitive section of the human brain, reveal that the survival instincts are centred upon an instinctual self, which we share in common with other animal primates, namely apes and chimpanzees. Studies of our closest animal cousins reveal startlingly similar instinctual passions of fear, aggression, nurture and desire and very similar social behaviour patterns.
This instinctual sense of ‘self’ in humans is the very basis of the feeling of separateness and alienation that haunts human beings and fuels the spiritual search for oneness and unity. Undoubtedly the human brain is more complex than that of other animals but our prized ‘self’ is proving to be, at core, nothing other than our animal instinctual self. At present, 6 billion human beings are still ‘battling it out with each other’ in a grim primitive game of survival while those on the spiritual path seek to transcend it all, aiming to transform the animal self into a divine Self.
The scientific proof that humans are not born ‘innocent’ and the implication that the feeling of separateness that drives humans to seek solace in spiritual pursuits is but an instinctual ‘self’-ish program is as heretical to Eastern spirituality as Galileo’s proof was to Western religion. However, this genetically-encoded program, first evidenced by animal and human behavioural studies, is now able to be directly observed and empirically mapped in humans due to the extraordinary development of modern brain-scanning equipment and genetic research techniques. These scientific discoveries by LeDoux and others will prove as difficult to deny or repress as were those of Galileo and may well eventually prove to be fatally damaging to Eastern spiritual wisdom.
Which does beg the question – are the Gurus an endangered species?
LeDoux – http://www.cns.nyu.edu/home/ledoux/overview.htm
Peter's Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.