A disciplined mind is the rarest thing on earth. It is one in a million. You watch the rich and famous and powerful (including all heads of state for all nations) on TV and what you see very clearly is this: these people are fools at best; worse, they are crazy; and at their worst they are dangerously crazy and do real harm. Some of them kill millions. They destroy the Earth….They are corrupted by power. Red Hawk, Self Observation:The Awakening of Conscience—an Owner’s Manual
What if we could stop defining ourselves with causes, beliefs, and commitments that put us into two waring camps?
I think I’ve got that far at least. I don’t tell others who I think I am, so I don’t claim I’m a Christian, atheist, Democrat, Republican, American, liberal, conservative, NRA member, white, black, brown, or red.
I might say that I’m a warrior occasionally but talking like that tends only to confuse people who might be interested in getting to know me. I have my predilections like everybody else, but none of my interests, desires, and even commitments define who I am in a way that would make me predictable. Being predictable is an awful state, so I don’t want to say, “I am …..”
Any of the identities above are only our ego’s endless effort to separate ourselves from others, something I’m trying not to do anymore. I see that we are all basically the same—people who are going to die. For me, that common fate overwhelms any differences we might have. My goal is Ghandi’s goal (and the goal of all the other masters of awareness)—to take all humans into my embrace by the time I die.
Most people don’t agree with me, of course. Most people want to separate themselves from others by taking political, cultural, and religious stands.
All of these strongly held stances coalesce into two main tribes in most countries on earth: the right and the left. Inside these two tribes, believers pontificate on the ultimate correctness of their world views, feeling righteous and sure of themselves as defenders of their tribe. Nevertheless, many people, according to polls, are feeling a great deal of anxiety about the current state of human affairs and a foreboding and fear about the future.
There are lots of problems with the two-tribe explanation of reality. One of the problems is that the stronger you are committed to your tribe, the less happy you’re likely to be and the less likely that you will learn anything new that could expand your consciousness. You always feel hostile and bewildered about the perspectives of the other tribe.
Feeling separate, you become discouraged and pessimistic. You tend to think that we face an unsolvable human dilemma. It’s hard to see how we can ever unite around anything important. You feel an inevitable gloom about the future, so you pull back into a protective cynicism. You’re in danger of becoming a coward.
The two-tribe explanation of reality is a flawed explanation, an explanation we need to abandon.
A better explanation is that all humans fall along a continuum of awareness, one human species at different levels of consciousness. Some of us from our place on the continuum are emerging toward expanded consciousness. With this explanation we can see our potential as humans, a potential that is always expanding.
Red Hawk in his book, Self Observation, aptly calls the process of becoming more conscious “the Work.” The Work is the powerful and difficult job of observing oneself. The Work is our only way that we can begin to see our crazy self. Red Hawk reminds us that self observation is the only path to Know Thyself. He says, “Buddha calls it watching. Krishna calls it meditation. Mister Gurdjieff calls it self observation
The continuum of human awareness can be described this way:
Don’t know______________Don’t care__________ Do the Work
about the Work about the Work
Those who don’t know about the Work
Red Hawk says about people who don’t know about the work, “Unless and until I know myself, I am driven by habits which I do not see and over which I have no control. I am a machine, an automaton, a robot moving in circles constantly repeating myself.”
People at this level of consciousness don’t know anything about the Work. They carry out pretty much everything they were taught by parents, teachers, and society as they grew up. They can be harmless or dangerous, depending on what they were taught.
People who don’t know about the Work can do a lot of evil. I’ve quoted Carl Popper here more than once: all evil is due to lack of knowledge. People who don’t do the Work suffer from a profound lack of knowledge that guarantees a life of suffering. Christ forgave the people who put him on the cross, saying they don’t know what they do.
There are large numbers of people who don’t know anything about the Work in both the Left Tribe and the Right Tribe. They may be passionate advocates for one point of view or the other, but they have no self-awareness about how they got there. They are merely able to repeat what they’ve been told. Many more are not participating in any tribe, but just trying to survive the painful blind life of those who don’t do any introspection.
Those who know very well about the Work but don’t care and don’t do the Work
Red Hawk says that these people are “vehemently, even violently opposed to the aims of the Work.” These people resist self observation, he says, because self observation would expose their agendas, contradictions and beliefs for what they are.
He puts our Presidents and other leaders of our government in this category of human development.
Think about Trump and his outrageous lies, contradictions and comic narcissism. Think about Roy Moore and his supporters, who claim a love of Christ and still support a pedophile. Those leaders who don’t do the Work always end up in a moral eddy, going around and around but going nowhere.
Red Hawk puts most of our world leaders in this category of people who know about the Work, but oppose it. We can also find many rabid members of both the Left Tribe and the Right Tribe here. They may mouth moral truths as they manipulate their tribe, but they are only voicing cliches that they believe place them among the righteous. The Work is their enemy: we known that because they never talk honestly about their own flaws and failures, and they bristle at any suggestions that they have any work to do on themselves. Their hidden lives are only revealed when they are outed by people they abuse. They are predictable hypocrites, who never seem to learn anything significant about themselves.
Those who do the Work
The most conscious among us, Red Hawk says, practice a profound self observation to become more self-aware. He recognizes that we cannot take on a more terrifying task than observing ourselves. Those of us who do it must confront our own deep contradictions and inconsistencies. As we observe ourselves, we will often turn away from the Work because we can’t stand to recognize what we discover about ourselves.
Slowly, slowly, he says, we nevertheless gain conscious ground if we remain steadfast.
My own view is that the task of self observation becomes easier at a certain point. Our resistance to seeing ourselves shrinks and we are able to anticipate our next stage of learning. As the patterns of our ego’s sham life become more and more clear, we can laugh at ourselves. At a very mature point of self observation, the masters of awareness assure us, we find heaven within ourselves.
And you, fellow seekers, people who have been doing the Work, are no doubt experiencing life as heavenly much of the time, as I do.
The future of the human species
Our current way of understanding how we’re doing as humans—seeing only the bitter divisions of human tribes—limits our potential. It’s a bad explanation that discourages us. Those of us who are doing the Work don’t have to carry the awful weight of judgement and pessimism that are at the heart of modern tribal life.
Humans are evolving. I think that more and more people are doing the Work and shaping the future of the our species.
We who are doing the Work are guiding human emergence.
We are the pioneers on the frontiers of human emergence.
As we learn to sustain our poise, we have more and more influence. Doing the Work may challenge us out of our minds, but what better way to spend our short time in this beautiful world?