Tag Archives: Erik Erikson

THOU SHALT NOT MURDER

 

10 commandments

A friend recently drew sharp attention to a little known mistranslation with enormous cultural implications.

Like most pacifist vegetarians of my generation, I grew up taking a misleading translation of the Old Testament sixth commandment quite literally. “Thou shalt not kill.”

Currently, however, the generally accepted wording is, “Thou Shalt Not Murder.” World of difference.

Murder is a very specific type of killing, defined as unlawful killing committed with malice aforethought, anti-social behavior often associated with other crimes like robbery and political intrigue. Murder is synonymous with assassination and extermination on the one hand, but also with mutilation or mangling.

At the very least, there are two outstanding differences between an across-the-board prohibition on murder versus a blanket prohibition on all killing whatsoever, whensoever, whysoever.

First, according to I Ching wisdom, mirrored by King Solomon’s famous words in Ecclesiastes, there is a time and place for every purpose under Heaven. Within the cyclical laws of nature and nature’s God, purposeful killing is intrinsic to life’s rhythm.

ecclesiastes

Second, if one is prohibited from killing regardless of context, this prohibition, in extreme circumstances, is misconstrued as a guilt-inducing, paralyzing, self-defeating command: “Thou shalt not protect thyself.”

Further, examples of murder are less obvious that one might first think. There are many more forms and levels of crime than those acknowledged by legal systems designed to protect human life and property.

As psychologist Erik Erikson, quoted by Jonathan Kozol in Death at an Early Age, wrote:

Some day, maybe, there will exist a well-informed, well-considered, and yet fervent public conviction that the most deadly of all possible sins is the mutilation of a child’s spirit; for such mutilation undercuts the life principle of trust.

To this point, in Rethinking CRIME I wrote:

Those who dismiss, demean or control children with fear condemn them to empty lives of masked conformity on the material surface of the Life Wheel. Instilling extreme ideas about death, as if it were either a reward or ultimate punishment, one’s only hope or worst enemy, results in living inappropriate to reality.

To take another tack, I’ve more than once observed that the people who on the surface of the Life Wheel give the appearance of being the most conformist, are at deeper levels, the least so. They simply have the most to hide.

Conversely, those who may not be so strict in social correctness have less to hide. Often, they live more faithful to the heart of human kindness. In fact, this is the consistent pattern.

The Laws of Nature explain this consistent inconsistency. Consistent with I Ching wisdom, Michio Kushi lists “Twelve Principles of Order in the Universe.” They include:

1. Everything is a differentiation of ONE Infinity.

2. Everything changes.

3. All antagonisms are complementary.

4. There is nothing identical.

5. What has a front has a back.

6. The bigger the front, the bigger the back.

The dynamics of this natural law explain why what appears so on the surface inevitably has a shadow, complimentary opposite side lurking beneath. Those who know them best find the nicest people can be shockingly cruel.

The most seemingly non-violent – apparently squeamish and helpless when it comes to physical self-defense can be extraordinarily violent in non-physical ways – ruthless when it comes to money matters or partisan politics.

The bravest and most accomplished of performers, if naive about the ways of the financial world, can be undone by a ruthless agent and end up ruined.

Herein lies the stuff of human tragedy. As the Greeks understood, a hero’s greatest strength, untempered, becomes (ironically) the cause of his downfall.

These dynamics repeat on every scale of magnitude. We find them in operation within the family, played out in communities, corporations and nations. In some cases, murder is a question of degree. How different is it from character assassination, for example? Or invalidating others. Or wearing them down, depleting their energies and resources.

People who pride themselves on being powerful in terms of economic and social resources adopt extreme yang lifestyles. This includes using the force of personality and, in extremes, physical violence, to get what they want.

In contrast, those who lack external, material resources take refuge in extreme yin strategies. They too maneuver to get what they want, just in more subtle ways, including psychological warfare. They are just as violent. Just in ways and on levels hidden from most of us.

A current example is a politician who as an outsider, superficially seemed the most liberal and egalitarian. Once inside, however, the opposite side came forward. Outward appearances belied the character of a despot with no qualms about lavishly squandering tax dollars to fund an extravagantly opulent lifestyle.

Hence the virtue of a middle path, free of extremes in any direction. The ideal of health, on every scale of magnitude, is balanced strength on all levels rather than imbalances – excesses on one level masking deficiencies at another.

Understanding the levels and layers of life and the dynamic interplay amongst them is critical to social and economic survival. Adhering to that deepest, infinite core from which integrity, balance and wisdom flow remains the key to ultimate survival.

Especially in troubled times such as these, I think back on the Psalms of King David, equal parts musician, warrior and ruler. In all aspects of his reign, he survived by allowing his life to be ruled by that ONE Infinity acknowledged throughout time as the bedrock of life.

Although in family affairs and matters of state, he suffered dearly from the inconsistencies of human behavior, he inevitably found the safe way through trouble.

David-sized

Thus in Psalm 27 he sang:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

2  When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

3  Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

4  One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

5  For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

In all, the survival path is marked by adherence to the Law. Conversely, it requires avoidance of that which is unlawful. This includes both refraining from acting unlawfully — violating the laws of nature and nature’s God —  and protecting oneself and those one loves from unlawful behavior perpetrated by others.

Therefore, thou shalt not murder. By extension, thou shalt not murder the language, rendering the God-fearing defenseless before enemies and foes.

victory-sized

Contemplation of Mortality

Overnight, I received an email from LinkedIn connection Katherine Morris, who’s currently living in Switzerland.

She wrote, “I just read your last 3 posts on linkedin, and just want to say that I find you to be a very refreshing, very honest writer. I would even say that this is pretty scary to a lot of people. The idea of being able to be honest and not be destroyed, this is quite an accomplishment in modern civilization!”

Katherine added that she’s working on her dissertation right now . . . “very busy writing a review of the scientific and other literature on the topic of contemplation of mortality.”

WOW! Now that’s a subject many find really scary. Reminded me of the Essay on Death included in Conscience: Your Ultimate Personal Survival Guide.

So Katherine, this post is for you. Hope it’s helpful.

globe

2. DEATH

Merging with the eternal source,

sages travel safely through life

and survive intact

to begin anew,

unchanged by physical death.

  Patricia West, Two Sides of a Coin: Lao Tse’s Common Sense Way of Change. #16

—————

Dying patients went through the five stages, but then after “we have done all the work we were sent to Earth to do, we are allowed to shed our body, which imprisons our soul like a cocoon encloses the future butterfly,” and . . . well, then a person had the greatest experience of his life.

— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, The Wheel of Life

—————

Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished.

If you’re alive, it isn’t.

— Richard Bach, Illusions

—————

Some day, maybe, there will exist a well-informed, well-considered, and yet fervent public conviction that the most deadly of all possible sins is the mutilation of a child’s spirit; for such mutilation undercuts the life principle of trust.

— Erik Erikson, quoted by Jonathan Kozol in Death at an Early Age

THE FRONT

Webster’s definition of death is the act or fact of dying — the permanent ending of all life in a person, animal or plant. Personified, death is pictured as the grim reaper, a hunch-backed, black-robed skeleton wielding a scythe. The term refers to extinction, as in the death of hope.

These definitions, however, represent an extreme cultural bias with important effects on behavior. They reflect the materialistic belief that the physical is all there is. When the body fails, there is nothing else. There is no essence which survives to travel on.

The I Ching embodies a more inclusive, comprehensive view. Like the learned amongst most ancient cultures, Chinese sages regarded birth and death as natural changes, complementary stages of an ongoing cyclical life process.

Sages continue to regard death not as extinction, but the culmination of a winter season most wisely spent preparing for the coming spring. They teach that a soul, having learned the lessons and completed the work of one life cycle, separates from its used up shell. The shell, once the spirit moves on, collapses. The life essence, however, simply migrates, possibly to take on another form.

Meditation practices are instrumental in reconnecting the alienated rational mind with the life principle, restoring trust. They prepare advanced souls to depart the physical form consciously at the auspicious time of their choosing. They also induce the changes of heart and mind that the Bible alludes to as rebirth. To be born again is not necessarily emotional self-deception. Technically, from I Ching perspective, it’s very possible.

As described by healer/teacher/author Barbara Ann Brennan, total transformation and rebirth can also take place within the same body. She describes spending two years in prayer and intense discipline. As a result of her efforts, by the end of that time, every aspect of her life had changed for the better. Going through stages similar to those described by Kübler-Ross, she released her old life, so that new attitudes, better relationships, and a significantly more satisfying lifestyle replaced that which had been outgrown and put away.

Country music star Naomi Judd, another example, refused to accept a death sentence placed on her by the medical establishment. Instead, she took it as a blessing in disguise. Taking responsibility for her health, with a combination of faith and true grit, she educated herself in a broad spectrum of healing arts traditions and succeeded in regenerating herself from the inside out. She not only survived, but became healthy enough to endure the ardors of another music tour, “The Power to Change,” calling on fans to rise to the challenge of change as she had.

butterfly

THE BACK

Fear is the natural outcome of limited materialistic beliefs equating the end of physical life with total extinction. Those who experience the True Self as immortal and indestructible are not plagued by fear of mortality. No doubt the courage and solace which sustained Socrates as he calmly accepted his death sentence — not as an escape, but an affirmation of principle — came from the depth of his soul awareness.

Permanent extinction, however, is possible. Real death is not dissolution of a temporary form, but the annihilation of the soul itself. According to learned traditions, a soul beyond redemption by its own repeated wrong choices can be extinguished forever. Even the thought is cause for horror, powerful incentive to make right choices.

—————–

West, Patricia .E., Two Sides of a Coin: Lao Tse’s Common Sense Way of Change. # 16. (+A Positive Action Press: Madison, WI, 2004).

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying. (Touchstone: New York, 1997.) p. 189.

Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. (Dell: New York, 1977.) p. 159.

Erik Erikson, quoted by Jonathan Kozol in Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools. (Plume: New York, 1967.) front page.