“We must be the change we want to see in the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
As a result of the personal decision to make a greater commitment to the empowerment of my fellow human beings and to the protection of the health and well-being of this beautiful planet we all call home, I have been going through a period of self-reflection and a close examination of the way I have behaved in my relationships with other people and with all that which can be called the sacred.
Although it has been somewhat uncomfortable to look honestly into the mirror and to recognize my transgressions and my capacity for self-delusion, it has also been a liberating experience. It is clear that in order to become empowered to help effectuate change in the world, I need to change my own way of being.
And, fortunately, this is not difficult. It is simply a question of identifying the ideals I aspire to exemplifying and, in each moment, each choice point, to make a conscious decision to think AND to act in the way that will best serve to bring me ever closer to those ideals. It is also necessary to identify the opposite end of the spectrum in order to honestly assess when I have erred in the past and what aspects of my personality I need to be aware of in order to make those conscious decisions that take me closer to my ideals.
After some thought, I decided that if I was a more fully self-realized human being, I’d be a lot more like the Dalai Lama; and if I was completely at the opposite end of the spectrum, I’d be a lot more like Dick Cheney.
After doing some research and looking closely at the personal attributes of each example, I discovered that the attributes of someone who is completely the opposite of a fully self-actualized human being are those of a psychopath.
A psychopath is incapable of feeling empathy and is totally without remorse; while a self-actualized human being is comprehensively compassionate and is capable of feeling great anguish.
A psychopath is parasitic, power hungry, egocentric, manipulative, materialistic, narcissistic, amoral, feeds on fear and refuses to accept responsibility for his choices and actions. On the other hand, a self-realized human being is contributory, empowering, altruistic, sincere, spiritual, has a high degree of morality, a sense of connectivity to other human beings and all life, is nourished by love and accepts responsibility not only for his/her own choices and actions, but also for the way the world is unfolding.
About 5% of the human population is a psychopath and the overwhelming majority (at least 80%) are men. Also about 5% of the human population can be considered a fully self-realized human being; with a smaller majority (about 60%) being women.
Most people, including me, fall in between the two extremes and show some degree of the characteristics defining either the psychopath or the self-actualized human being. 90% of the human population is in this intermediate range somewhere between the complete psychopathic personality and the fully self-realized human being.
For example, most people feel some level of empathy for family, lovers and close friends. However, they do not allow themselves to feel compassion for strangers; and can even justify the suffering of those who are distant and/or different. People who are more self-realized tend to feel a sense of compassion for all humanity and feel empathy for others, no matter how remote from their own lives these others may be.
A fully self-realized human being’s sense of compassion includes all life forms and is saddened by the suffering of any living thing. On the other hand, a psychopath has no empathy at all and feels no compassion for any other person or living creature; and, in many cases, actually takes pleasure from the suffering of others.
Let’s take an example, the American invasion of Iraq, and examine the variety of response to a simple statement of fact: OVER 500,000 innocent women and children have been murdered during that ongoing event.
For most people, this is just an abstract; these are just numbers, they are not really real people… they are just too distant and too different to cause any anguish. For many other people, this causes a real feeling of sadness. For fewer people, those who are more fully self-actualized, this engenders a profound sense of empathy and even outrage. The 5% who are true psychopaths feel no pity or compassion at all; and some of these, perhaps 1% of all human beings, actually take pleasure from this suffering.
Take a look at the photo below and honestly analyze your response. Do you naturally tend toward the psychopathic or the self-actualized end of the spectrum?
This is how a self-actualized human being responds to the evils of war…
Now take a look at how a psychopath responds…
Psychopathic personalities are parasitic. Self-realized people are contributory. This is really very simple: parasitic people feed on other people’s energy; contributory people feed energy to other people. To fully understand this, we need to talk a little bit about energy. In the broadest sense, the entire universe is composed of energy, so all things can be considered energy and that understanding is important to anyone who walks the path to self-realization. However, in this discussion, I want to narrow the discussion to human energetic output.
Human energetic output is varied and complex and a full discussion would take up more time and space than is available in this essay, so I will only provide a few simple examples.
There is physical energy as exemplified by work. There is creative energy as exemplified by ideas. There is emotional energy as exemplified by fear and love.
When work produces something of value to other human beings or to all life, then it is contributory. When work does not produce value or extracts value from other life, then it is parasitic. The farmer who plants a crop in the spring and sends it to market in the fall is contributory. The Wall Street derivatives trader who buys and sells currencies is parasitic.
Creative energy can also be called mental energy. Those people whose ideas focus on how to take advantage of other human beings are parasitic. Those people whose ideas focus on how to enhance the well-being or upliftment of other human beings are contributory.
Those who engender fear and use that fear to control other people are parasitic. Those who project love and use that love to nurture and empower others are contributory. Parasitic people feed on fear. Contributory people are nurtured by love.
Many people are attracted by power. The Oxford English Dictionary defines power in several ways. I limit my comments to the first two:
1) the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way
2) the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events
Almost everyone wants to have the kind of personal power in definition number one. This kind of power is often called freedom. Self-actualized people desire to empower others to be free. Psychopaths lust after power; in particular, the second kind of power. They want to have direct control over the behavior of others. In other words, they want to curtail or eliminate the freedom of other people.
A culture in which all members seek to empower each other is an ideal that would not only liberate all people, but would also serve to ensure that humanity will survive and thrive long enough to explore the many wonders of both inner and outer space.
However, we live in a culture in which a few psychopaths seek to exercise control of all humanity, seek to control all of the world’s resources, seek to feed their own insatiable lust and seek to eliminate all those who desire the empowerment and upliftment of their fellow humans. This is a dead end path that is leading inexorably to the enslavement of humankind and the destruction of our beautiful world.
A true psychopath absolutely refuses to accept responsibility for his or her actions, while the person who is moving toward self-realization understands that accepting responsibility is a necessary step. Most of us have played the blame game… It was the outside circumstances or the behavior of other people that caused me to behave in a certain way.
Many people choose disempowerment by believing that the world is the way it is and there is nothing that can be done about it.
However, it is up to each of us to decide what kind of future we shall create by our individual daily choices that determine where we stand in the sliding scale between psychopath and self-actualized person. I know that the responsibility for how the future unfolds rests on my shoulders. I hope that you will come to the same conclusion.
I encourage you to honestly examine yourself using each of the characteristics mentioned above; and then, having looked into the mirror, decide how it is that you will go about being in the days ahead. It is not only your own soul that lies in the balance, it is the soul of humanity, the future of our whole species and the future of all life on Planet Earth, that depends on the choices you make.
Revere, Relish. Contribute.
Some interesting quote from examples of both types…
“Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” ~ Henry Kissinger
“I don’t want a nation of thinkers; I want a nation of workers.” ~ J. D. Rockefeller
“Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws.” ~ Mayer Amschel Rothschild
“Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world.” ~ Henry Kissinger
“Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?” ~ Joseph Stalin
“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ~ Albert Einstein
“The most satisfying thing in life is to have been able to give a large part of one’s self to others.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
“I can do no other than be reverent before everything that is called life. I can do no other than to have compassion for all that is called life. That is the beginning and the foundation of all ethics.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
“I think I have told you, but if I have not, you must have understood, that a man who has a vision is not able to use the power of it until after he has performed the vision on earth for the people to see.” ~ Black Elk