By Celia Coates
This week in America, when we are more openly and ferociously divided than we have been in many decades, the idea that “we are all connected” can seem ridiculous. Still, it is an idea that goes back 3000 years or more to the earliest Vedic teachings in India and can be found again and again in many spiritual traditions around the world.
Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
And, in a mailing from the Native American Rights Fund, there was this quote from Little Crow,
“We are many, many peoples and yet we are one. What we do today with our thinking, what we do tomorrow with our thoughts, what we do with our actions and our interactions with people determines the course of the universe itself. You are not powerless. You are not without power.”
So how do we sort out our thinking, our thoughts about division and connectedness? For myself I turned first to the knowledge that there is more than one level of reality, knowledge that is often written about in WINN. Then, a short article in the magazine New Scientist caught my attention and gave me a way to write about the complex layers of being human. The title of that article is “Very hangry (yes, that’s correct) caterpillars could help reveal genetic basis of aggression” and it said, *
“Very hungry monarch caterpillars get hangry, resulting in them headbutting and lunging at other caterpillars in an attempt to secure food. ‘The less food that is present, the higher their level of aggression,’ says Elizabeth Brown of Florida Atlantic University.”
“Larger monarch caterpillars – those in the final stages before starting to transform into butterflies – often showed the highest levels of aggression.”
“Many animals become aggressive when competing for food. The researchers hope to learn more about the genetic basis for aggression by studying the caterpillars. ‘There’s a lot we could learn about more complex animals from this ecologically relevant insect model’….” says Alex Keene who is also at Florida Atlantic University.
Humans are among those more complex animals. We usually ignore our animal aspect and shortchange ourselves by doing so. Spiritual traditions teach that our non-material spirits are contained (embodied) in material form in our bodies, bodies that support and challenge us during our lifetimes. Our animal selves can become aggressive, like the caterpillars, when resources are scarce or seem to be scarce. In our materialistic and competitive society there is a constant struggle to gain what we think is necessary for survival. We are not “all connected” at our caterpillar level.
I’d like to tell a little story about the animal self. I had an American friend, a man whose work took him to the capital of Korea – Seoul. He told a story of being in an elevator with a small group of Korean people who were unaware that he was fluent in their language. They were talking about how bad Americans smelled, and my friend was amused because that was what some Americans said about Koreans. Since we have bodies, of course we are alert to signals from our five physical senses. Our diets can affect the body chemistry that is sensed by others. That’s not the problem – the problem is that we make judgements based on our senses, often unconsciously. Like animals, we use our perceptions to decide who is like us and “safe” (our in-group) and who is not. We need to become aware of this process and use the power of our human minds to challenge unconscious, reflexive prejudice. As we become global, not tribal people, we need to educate ourselves about who our “neighbor” is so we can follow the golden rule of loving them in the same way we love ourselves. So, the first step in realizing that “we are all connected” is to gain conscious power over the physical self. (This does not mean that we give up our ability to distinguish the decidedly deranged and dangerous people around us so we can act wisely to restrain them.)
I enjoy the second part of the story about those headbutting, hungry caterpillars- they become butterflies. I may be stretching the comparison too far, but the butterfly is one symbol for the soul. The monarch butterflies lift off and make the most extraordinary flight together – thousands of miles from the north to a mountain outside Mexico City where they gather year after year in the same forest. Although sadly now they arrive in diminishing numbers. Humans also have the capacity to transform and connect with our less earthbound form – our existence at the soul level. We can raise our consciousness so that we are not trapped in the material world and fighting each other for physical survival.
Larry Dossey describes this state of higher consciousness and realization in his book, One Mind:
“I show that our mind is not confined to our brain or body, as we have been taught, but extends infinitely outside them. Our minds have no boundaries or limits, so they merge with all other minds to form what I call One Mind. This greater mind appears to be boundless in time, so it is immortal and eternal.”
“…our individual minds are not just individual but connected to the One Mind. It is about our relationships – how our minds are connected with one another and with all of life on earth, and why this is crucial for our survival.” **
When we attain One Mind, we can see the “other” as just another divine being, like us. It is in the non-earthbound level of being that we can recognize that we are all connected.
Returning to what Little Crow said, we are not powerless. We can gain an understanding of our complex human nature and relate differently to each other. The gesture and word “Namaste” that are used so often as a greeting these days mean, “The divine in me bows to the divine in you.” I hope that is the understanding of “we are all connected” that we will live by now and in the future.
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* The story of the caterpillars is from the November 19, 2020 issue of NEW SCIENTIST Magazine.
** These quotes come from an interview with Larry Dossey, “One Mind: How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters,” published in the Winter 2014 issue of the Society for Scientific Exploration (SSE) newsletter THE EXPLORER.
You can find short videos of monarch caterpillars fighting on YouTube.