The recent tragic and dramatic events in France and the influx of Syrian refugees have incited many of us to enter a hotly debated duality between the material vs immaterial, science vs religion, us vs them. Given the violence, bloodshed, hypocrisy and scandals in religious movements both past and present, many individuals have turned vehemently against organized religion. Others, wishing to defend religious freedom, fear the repression of religion, perhaps even a violent repression of religion, as has also occurred too frequently in human history.
Recently, I fell upon a professional, well-researched animation about ATP synthesis on Youtube that had received scathing commentaries because the narrator mentioned the words “intelligent design” (once) to describe this incredibly awesome mechanism central to life. To the criticizers, anything not reduced to 3D, solid and material causality is seen as a threat against science. Some go as far as calling themselves crusaders against anything they consider “unscientific”, i.e. not reduced to the simplest material explanation possible (and accepting that explanation, even if it is flawed). History also has examples of the repression of logic, science, and sometimes even literacy by religious movements. As the sides polarize, we enter a hotly debated duality of material vs immaterial, science vs religion, and it becomes more difficult to sit in the tension between the two opposites.
The Tension between Polar Opposites
Yet, that tension is inherent to all of life, and everything about living and certainly everything human. Polarizations, duality and conflict can be used as invitations to deeper understanding and greater wholeness. So how would we “dance” with this particular duality?
What do our words truly represent?
What are we really saying with the phrase: “I am a Protestant” or Catholic or Jew or Moslem, or Buddhist, etc.? Is that the same as saying I am 5 feet 8 inches tall? Show me the part that is Protestant, Catholic or Jewish. Which organ? Which limb? What does our belief system represent to us, that we must define ourselves by it? Saying “I practice Catholicism”, or Judaism, etc. is much more accurate. Just as saying “I was born in (a geographical area called) Canada or Quebec”, or “I hold a Canadian citizenship” is much more accurate than saying “I am Canadian”. We all know what violence has been wrought in the name of nationality, national pride and patriotism.
Perhaps the problem is not with religion per se, nor with liking where you were born or chose to live, perhaps the problem is with identification. This is a much deeper problem than one of semantics. The process of identification has deep rooted repercussions that involve our entire organism.
The Physiological Repercussions of Identification
Saying (and meaning) “I am” can trigger a stream of psychological and physiological processes that take over our thoughts and reactions. “I am _____”, when it involves identification, throws the switch of the fight or flight response. The amygdala and limbic system fly into high gear. In so doing, the neocortex is turned off, and with it, all logic goes right out the window.
The survival of the organism is associated with ALL identification. Whatever I think I am, my organism is ready to defend it with the same, or even greater, life or death reaction as it would with an immediate physical threat. This process applies to all identification, even an identification with one’s profession, spiritual seeking, or cause (rights, etc.), or anything else.
Watch what happens to people around the Olympics, or even at a football or hockey game. There is a big difference between those who identify with “their” team than those who do not. There is a stimulation of adrenaline and other hormones that comes with this, and it can become addictive.
The Desire to Merge and Love
Identification is the desire to merge. To immerse the self in a bigger self. Identification is a way for our little me, our insecure self to feel bigger, better. It is a way to appropriate certain strengths or desired characteristics through the extension of a lone “I” to a more powerful “we”, a bigger “I”. This is the unconscious motive behind identification. The human being needs, absolutely requires, a sense of community. But, community should not be identification. Community should be a container for a collaborative exchange of actions and complementary skills that can multiply possibilities for everyone. (Watch for next week’s email about community.)
The desire to merge (Love) at the basis of identification, must be balanced with discernment (Wisdom). Discerning whether there is an identification, and the personal motive for the identification. What do I get or imagine I get by calling myself such and such? What does the thing I identify with represent for me? What is that deeper level calling for my attention that expresses itself as “I am a ______”.
These are the questions to ask yourself when you find yourself saying “I am ______” this week. Identification is a transpersonal – universally human movement. We all do it to some extent, and we all gravitate to certain types of identification. We are not aware of our own hidden motives. In probing more deeply, we discover something more profound about our uniqueness, and simultaneously, become more open to the world and all of humanity.
This particular process involves a “whole” organism response: allowing yourself to experience the physiological changes in your body when you consider each “side” of the split separately. It also involves awareness of the emotional energy which fuels the division if it is not re-channeled into a wholeness generating response. To learn more, read ‘How to recognize your identification within a duality‘; an experiential exercise to help you consider a different response to conflict or division
An invitation to greater wholeness
Judyann McNamara – ND, DHom, CCH
Originally a physicist and biomedical researcher, Judyann has had a clinical practice for over 15 years, has held conferences since 1984 and has been a teacher of courses in physics, health sciences, homeopathy, holism and spirituality since 1975. To learn more about Judyann, visit her profile page in our Professional Directory or click here to read more posts by Judyann.