Saturday, 27 July 2013

Life Force

Throughout my life I have, along with most other people I suspect, built subpersonalities or what might be termed 'mind/brain sub-routines' which I use in my dealings with the outside world.  The nature of each subpersonality depends upon my chosen combination of character strengths and weaknesses, and what I decide is the appropriate function of the subpersonality.  These routine behaviour patterns are learned from repeated usage, and may eventually be used in situations where they are no longer appropriate.  Furthermore, I may unthinkingly use my own subpersonalities against myself in a form of inner civil war.

Now keeping an open mind, or choosing to look at situations without preconceptions, is the antithesis of operating under the influence of a subpersonality.  Clearly, the former action would seem to be better than the latter for all sorts of reasons.  The most important reason, perhaps, being that my Self remains awake, alert and fully conscious.  Why then did I choose to develop habit-forming ways of operating? And why did I fall into the associated trap of cocooning myself in shells of prejudice?  Why would I choose to do all that?  The most obvious reason, or so it seems to me, is that subpersonalities are processes with which I appear to be able to effect some control on the world around me.  If I can control, I acquire that something called safety.  This process begins in the crib of course, where the baby learns that by appropriate utterances it can generate immediate and beneficial responses from its parents.  What power a baby wields;  it is almost Godlike. However, when the baby's apparently divine status is removed, fear enters the domain of the growing ego.  That fear is extremely powerful because the infant faces the twin threats of loss and annihilation, states that the ego decides are totally unacceptable. Yet in the end, for all the struggles in which we engage to maintain control and assumed safety, those sought after states are illusions.  

Many years ago I had a quite serious car crash on a busy, dual-carriageway road.  I was driving to work in the morning rush hour.  There was a particular moment that seemed to last for something approaching eternity, when I was totally powerless.  I was in the well of the car, held in place by my seat belt;  I could smell the dust and the petrol.  I felt no pain from the burns caused by the seat belt cutting into my neck and groins.  The silence was wonderful;  the end was near, and I did not care. There was absolutely nothing I could do to change anything.  Learning curves about illusions do not come any steeper........Then another car hit me!  That was no illusion!  During that seemingly long period of powerlessness, it may only have been seconds, the realisation that having no control over the events in my life did not bring instant annihilation, brought a profound sense of relief and, oddly enough, a sense of happiness beyond my normal emotions.

All my subpersonalities, and hence how I habitually use my character traits, combine to create my ego. Just as those habitual forms of behaviour create an illusion of power, so then is my ego, and its supposed reality, also an illusion.  By somehow ignoring the reality that control of my ability to live, and also not-live, is not in my hands, I fall into denial.  Perhaps I need to clarify this point. There is a force or energy within me that keeps my body operating.  It is my Life Force.  Over that force I can exert no control whatsoever.  Throughout the period that my life force continues its purpose within me, my physical body will develop to a certain point and then deteriorate and become unfit for purpose.  That is inevitable.  (I suspect deterioration begins at birth or even earlier, but is outweighed by the process of development.  Thus what we see as physical development and decay is the net effect of these opposing forces. On the other hand, psycho-spiritual growth appears not to be necessarily hampered by destructive forces.)

I am unable to change significantly the conditions required for continued living.  My body is a biological machine suited, as far as is possible, to its environment which sustains but also destroys it.  My body has adapted to existing conditions of gravity, yet it is gravity which causes ageing.  I need oxygen to breathe, yet that gas also produces oxidants that in the end may bring about my downfall.  I cannot win.  One day my body will simply stop and I will be powerless to make it continue.  Similarly I cannot order my body to stop at this moment.  Fortunately, it will ignore me. All suicide can do is to make the body unfit for purpose.  It doesn't destroy the Life Force, because energy can neither be created nor destroyed. When the body can no longer sustain life, the life energy is converted into some other form, or perhaps returns to its source.  I can of course take care of myself to a degree;  I can up to a point maintain my body in a state that is fit for purpose, but that is not control.

Sometimes, because I never could stop asking questions, I wonder if it is possible that the ego is a virtual reflection of the life force, just as it appears to be a virtual reflection of the Higher or True state of the Self.  Are the Life Force and the True state of Being-ness one and the same?  Perhaps the Life Force is what people call God.  I don't know;  in fact there is so much I do not know.  I do know, however, that if I concentrate all my energies onto my ego or virtual self, I will become increasingly identified with it, and thus increasingly out of touch with spiritual reality.  I need to continue to detach from that situation. I need to see that I cannot have, but I can Be.  I must put away childish things, that is the need to have, as St. Paul, John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart and others have all said, and become adult with the desire to Be.


  1. Tom, my immediate reaction while reading this post is a need to argue, to refute this kind of self-peeling - I say peeling because the image comes to mind of dissecting an onion, peeling away layer after layer until the thing that was 'onion' is no longer there. Then I realise that my need to argue comes from familiarity: I recognise the process because it's one that I do time and time again but a voice within me says "Stop: just look at the onion. Don't dissect it. Keep looking as if you've never seen it before, until it speaks to you".
    So I'm really talking to myself rather than responding to your post and that's not a good way to respond. I hope you don't mind my admitting this.

    I wanted to ask questions too - what happened after the car crash? How did you recover? Did it change something in you?

  2. Natalie; Perhaps a time will come when I will say why I think it is important to dissect as well as view as a whole. But not now.

    As far as the car crash is concerned, after the fire brigade cut open the car, I actually walked to the nearby ambulance. That was the last time I walked anywhere for about three days. I was unable to lie down, without causing extreme chest pain and breathing difficulties. Nevertheless, the hospital staff insisted I lie down on a stretcher.

    I was driven home from the hospital in a police car, and somehow crawled up the stairs to my top (third) floor flat. The policeman, bless him, said, "I say, sir, you look awfully bad." But at least he got me home. I think the hospital were more interested in making sure I could pay their fees than anything else.

    About three days after the accident, I had a violent sneeze. The effect of that, on top of the other muscle damage, was to put me in bed for about a week. Altogether, I was out of work for about two weeks, so that wasn't bad.

    Yes, it did change something in me, but quite what I am unable to say. I did realise that after all I was mortal, but also that there was another way of being - deep down inside me. I don't think I could have described it like that at the time, but something was on the move. Within a year, I had broken off my relationship with my living-in alcoholic "girlfriend". I had begun to realise how vulnerable I was, and that I couldn't do whatever my life needed, alone. Lord, my pride was to take a real battering.

    I hope that answers your query.

  3. Tom, i find your response to Natalie as thought provoking as your post.

    i am still waiting to experience those few seconds of feeling blessedly free of wanting control--they did not come for me in the 2 car crashes i've experienced. (one my fault and minor. the other one much more of a problem that took longer to recover from).

    On one occasion, i have been blessed to experience a moment of the divine after consciously surrendering control. But all the other moments of sweet clarity or "revealing" have seemed to come "out of the blue". i am amazed when it happens. And, holding on to fear a bit too tightly for it to happen often enough, i suppose.

  4. It does indeed, thank you Tom.
    And of course I want to read the sequel to your first sentence, whenever you feel like elaborating on it. I really appreciate these thought-provoking conversations and trust that you welcome doubts as well as agreement.

  5. Zephyr; I must say that having a car accident (my poor VW Golf was a complete write-off) would not be my preferred way of learning about powwerlessness and loss of control.

    As you will have gathered, no doubt, over the weeks I have been writing that I became involved with a 12 Step programme for "friends and family members" of an alcoholic. As a result I too experienced that wonderful feeling of "letting go" of control. And it does always seem to come by surprise, out of the blue.

    As to your final comment, I'm not too sure. Maybe holding onto fear is the way to experience what you may least want to experience.

  6. Natalie; I too find our conversations enjoyable, and something which I look forward to with great anticipation.

    I am not always going to 'get it right'. There is much I do not know. I doubt so much and so often, but I hope they are always honest doubts and not simply a turning away from painful truth. How then can I not accept others' doubts?

    I have no problem with non-agreements, or alternative opinions, if they are honestly held. It is when I come up against closed and/or bloody mindedness, particularly if expressed with disrespect for other views, that I experience impatience.

    So fire my dear friend, there are exciting new paths ahead to be trod.

  7. D'accord mon ami.

    If there is such a thing as 'getting it right' in the realm we are exploring then honest open mindedness is surely the golden rule. And it seems to me that you get an A+ on your report card.

  8. On the night before brewing day, you've got me thinking deep thoughts, dear Tom. About bodies unfit for purpose. Before reading your post, a thought came to mind, what will I do when I no longer have the strength to brew?
    You write, "When the body can no longer sustain life, the life energy is converted into some other form, or perhaps returns to its source." My thoughts turn to my mother, who was ill for a few decades. What was it that kept her breaking body from shutting down completely? I ask myself, what gave her the strength to keep moving despite the pain? To keep living years longer than the doctors told her she would. I know I'll never find the answer. But asking questions is so important. I sometimes wonder if the Will plays a part in all this. Human Will.

  9. Rouchswalwe; I too saw a parent live for decades longer than he 'was supposed to'. I also knew he had a strong Will. But is there a false connection being made here? Can the Will, of itself really prolong or shorten life? Or is it that the energy of the Will acts as a catalyst, taking no part in the process but allowing that process to get started, or to continue?

    As you say, asking questions is so important, particularly if they're the right questions. and somewhere deep down inside us lie the answers, I'm sure.

  10. Apart from an instant connection with what I have always referred to as my façades, your subpersonalities, I remember great frustration with that life force that insisted life must continue on spite of my intention to just stop. No, not a suicide attempt but rather a wish that this body would give up the way I had already given up on all those façades as being the real me.
    We share mechanisms no doubt, while dealing with the path those parts of self have taken us in our own unique way.
    Such is life.
    Having abandoned most of those subpersonalities as inappropriate has been liberating for me. Some might see that as loss of self it seems. Fascinating stuff.

  11. Halle; A telling comment. I suppose life deals with whatever is to hand, in the best way it knows. The good part has been your ability to ditch the unwanted subpersonalities, and the subsequent liberation. I for one do not see that as a loss of the self, but a massive gain in reality. Good to hear from you.

  12. Absolutely Tom. The mammalian brain has been shown to function by creating small packages of action or intentions that consiousness can call upon. Reaching into the cupboard to get a plate for instance. Perhaps as you suggest we create these people in our mind to allow us to function efficiently and survive.

  13. Oh Tom, you kind of took a post from me. Your last posts reminded me of three events of my life that I still need to explain to myself. I also totaled a car on a three-lane highway. I had just merged it and was still on the very left fast lane when I felt losing control on ice. As my thoughts went to the cars going by on the two lanes to my right I gave up the struggle of getting my car under control and took my hands off the steering wheel and left my body. When I came back I looked at my passenger and asked him to please do the driving from here on. He suggested I look to see why we can no longer drive. The front of my car was smashed against a steel fence and on my side a truck had stopped almost touching the door. Ambulance-hospital release same day. My passenger witnessed everything that happened around us and was off work for two weeks. I only had a sore leg and went back to work the next day. Unfortunately two persons from other cars had to spend Christmas at the hospital.
    Who or what made me leave my body and gave me the gift of being able to ask that and be grateful?

  14. Ellena; I'm sure your final questions are rhetorical, because I couldn't even begin to answer them. Thank you for sharing your experience. I can only read and wonder, in wonder.

  15. "Can the Will, of itself really prolong or shorten life? Or is it that the energy of the Will acts as a catalyst, taking no part in the process but allowing that process to get started, or to continue?"

    Ah, my dear Tom. That indeed is worthy of pondering.

    Thank you!

  16. I'm not sure what this Life Force is either, so God seems a good enough term for that which can lift us out of ourselves in moments of extreme stress. Once, when I was 17, I lay down on top of a grassy hill, exhausted from misery and running as hard and fast as I could. The sun was setting by then and as it lowered to the edge of the horizon I kept it in full view and felt my being expand with joy. A few moments seemed to pass this way until I chanced to look down and saw my body lying there far below. I needn't tell you I zipped back inside in a flash, but I've never forgotten the experience.

  17. Susan; As with Ellena's experience, I can only wonder at yours. Yet in reading what you say, something subtle has moved inside me. It will not yet stand any attempt at an in-depth comment, but somehow my perspective is being nudged slightly. Something new is building.

  18. I agree that babyies wield great power which they subsequently lose. Wordsworth's "trailing clouds of glory..." comes to mind. ".. Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
    The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
    Hath had eleswhere its setting,
    and cometh from afar:
    Not in entire forgetfulness,
    And not in utter nakedness,
    But trailing clouds of glory do we come..."
    Baby's scare me sometimes. They seem look at you from the safety of their parents arms with a chilling comprehension.

  19. That final observation of yours is so to the point. On occasions they also smile with such a knowing smile, and we are completely suckered by it. Little do we know......

  20. I got out of this dilemma when I was able to say "I am an animal", and accept the superiority of body-wisdom over mind-wisdom. But it took 30 years of chronic fatigue syndrome to get that realization - that body-wisdom was doing everything it could not to be ignored, including driving my physically active life to a standstill.

    It was worth those thirty years (which happened to coincide with thirty years in a meditation cult) to reach a simple appreciation of life. Not that I have any recipe to offer, or know anything about anything.

    But the Tom revealed in your blog, I feel sure, is a Tom who will crack the koans life sets him and attain freedom.

  21. Vincent; I'm sorry, I omitted to say in response to your comment on, "To Be As an Atom", that in common with others I see the ego as being of the intellect, emotions and body senses.

    Here you speak of body-wisdom over mind-wisdom, the latter I assume to be what I would term intellectual wisdom. I certainly agree that body-wisdom will not be ignored. I will not develop my thoughts on this matter here, but as I said previously (on the following post :)) I do hope to say more about how I see the ego in future posts.

    Thank you for your confidence and support.