By John Lash
Original article found at http://www.metahistory.org/RiteActionintro.php
Some radical and politically incorrect ideas are presented here about the options available when kindness and non-violent action do not work. It will evaluate the ethical question of ahimsa, harmlessness, and the tactic of non-violent resistance proposed by Gandhi, Thoreau, the Dalai Lama and others.
Above: Ulmata Bhairab with Tantric weapons. From Shamanism and Tantra in the Himalayas by Ratsch, Muller-Ebeling, and Shahi, Inner Traditions, Rochester VT, 2002
WITH CONSIDERABLE RETICENCE, I am opening a new section of metahistory.org dedicated to a radical form of activism consistent with the aim and credo of this site. The aim of metahistory.org is to propose a future myth of co-evolution based on the Sophianic vision of the Mysteries. Implicit in this aim is the need to go beyond the dominant pathology of our species, so that such a symbiotic and empathic path of experience becomes possible in personal, social, and global terms. As it now stands, the human condition cannot support or even allow a Gaian myth of co-evolution. The vision can be stated, the directive myth is there for all to see, but the real-time achievement of this vision will be gravely impeded as long as behaviors of division, deceit, and domination overrule compassion, cooperation, and the love for truth.
The Factor of Rage
So what is to be done? Many people believe that changing the human condition one person at a time is the way to redirect the course of the human species. To some minds, individual transformation will generate a quantum effect. The date December 21, 2012 is a focus for positive speculation along these lines. There are those who say that love alone is enough to make the difference and turn the world around. Others believe that exposing the three Ds in the social sphere will eventually produce a resistance force capable of defeating them. I will not cite the numerous variations of this theme, which are certainly familiar to readers of this site.
I, for one, wonder if individual transformation and commitment to love, whatever its ultimate social and global effect, can really have any kind of preventive or deterrent effect on those who perpetrate deceit and domination. Is there evidence that this is so? Personally, I don’t see it. But then I may be blind to it. Suppose, however, that individual transformation is valid but still leaves us facing the problem of how to face and overcome EVIL: that which defies innate human goodness, works against the symbiotic unity of life, and impedes our species’ capacity to survive and thrive. By EVIL I mean, not a cosmic principle apart from or above us, but a self-destructive resistance rooted in human potential, which distorts that potential—a deviance of our potential that works against our capacity to live and love, both collectively and individually.
This kind of evil manifests largely in the social sphere, in racial and religious divisions, in the deceit propagated by miseducation, religion and authoritarian agendas, and in the general domination of the mind by the family, culture, media, and other ruling hierarchies of social order.
What if it takes special measures to solve the problem of social evil? Can it really be overcome by taking action upon it directly? What kind of action can be taken? Throughout history, violent revolution has been the response when social evils become intolerable. Consider the French and Russian revolutions. Through that kind of violence, the evils are directly confronted, yes, only to be replaced by other social evils… Consider the Maoist revolution in China. To anyone who has studied the inner dynamics of history, this inversion seems inevitable. How can Rite Action propose anything different?
Rite Action proposes a direct way to counteract and defeat the 3-D game of perpetration: division, deceit, domination. I question the claim that people who intentionally divide, deceive, and dominate others can be overcome by loving them, radiating love to them, surrounding oneself with a field of love, and so forth. While such methods may immunize us, and produce a positive field that emanates to the world at large, they fall short of direct confrontation with evil-doing, i.e., human auto-destructive tendencies operating in the social sphere. Also, I would warn that to some extent, at least, such glowing claims are pretexts for remaining locked in victim-perpetrator collusion.
Having said that, I must emphasize that I am not proposing hatred as an alternative way to overcome perpetration—because love (in my humble view) is not up to the task. The power behind Rite Action is not hatred but rage. Pure selfless rage. Black rage. Transpersonal rage. Lest anyone be frightened off by this extremely charged term, rage, take a moment to consider this notion: rage might have a transcendent aspect. It might even be regarded as a factor of human generosity, not merely a negative, destructive, or reactive trait. Nature is full of rage. Gaia can be a rageful goddess: consider the lion-headed Sekmet in Egyptian mythology, to cite one of countless examples. The power of rage is innate to human nature and prevalent in the animal kingdoms, as well as among birds, serpents, and insects. I propose that rage be regarded as a kind of resource—even a moral resource—and not something to be condemned or repressed.
Rite Action proposes the recognition of pure, transersonal rage as a resource for facing and overcoming the forces that defy the innate goodness of humankind and work against the symbiotic unity of life.
The Six Realms
In the Buddhist model of the Six Realms, rage is the attribute of the Asuras or Titans. The other five realms are those of the Gods, Humans, Animals, Ghosts, and Demons. Are there specific courses of action for facing and overcoming perpetration appropriate to each Realm? This may well be the case. It might be a worthwhile subject to explore, for whoever may dare, but my contribution here will focus exclusively on the primary resources of the Titan realm: rage and generosity.
Tibetan “Wheel of Life” showing the twelve links, the Six Realms, and the Three Poisons. Tracing from a temple fresco of Sankar Gompa. From Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism, LamaGovinda, Rider & Co, London, 1969
Traditional Buddhism specifies that the Six Realms are zones of incarnation totally determined by karma, i.e., blind, compulsive actions. The twelve links (nidanas) shown pictorially around the perimeter of the Wheel are moments of cause-and-effect in the endless cycles of reincarnation. They produce rebirth into the Six Realms where actions are endlessly driven by the three poisons (dug sum) depicted by the snake, cock, and pig at the center of the Wheel. The poisons are variously defined as ignorance (pig), hatred (snake), and desire (cock), and other variations, not always convincing… In my rendition: the poisons are division (pig), deceit (snake), and domination (cock).
Caught in the mechanisms of the Wheel, sentient beings are locked blindly into samsara, the endless cycle of karmic repetition.
In the Buddhist view, any action taken in the attitude of the inhabitants of the Six Realms would only generate more karma and deepen human enmeshment in samsara. I am aware of this argument, but I challenge the notion of karma as a supposition not supported by the evidence of experience. Karma requires a complex record-keeping process and a cosmic method to compensate for actions performed. In many respects, it resembles a punishment-and-reward system similar to those found in the Abrahamic religions. Most problematic of all, proving that karma works depends largely on belief in reincarnation, for reincarnation insures that actions performed in one life have their consequences in a succeeding life.
I, for one, reject karma, though I do accept the reality of reincarnation based on my own memories and a great deal of testimonial evidence. In short, I am convinced that reincarnation of a sort does occur, because I experience it directly, but I do not see in reincarnation the evidence of a karmic cause-and-effect process. My own “past-life memories” show no evidence of such a process, although they do show enduring motifs and compelling repetitive actions—patterns of fate, one could say.
So, what if there is no karmic cause and effect, no moral compensation, no reward system operative in human morality or the cosmos at large? Such is the view we require to approach Rite Action. Rather than deny totally that karma exists, I propose suspending that assumption for a while. It may be that karma is a kind of moralistic fairy-tale told by passive old men to keep children from misbehaving… If so, it is high time to challenge this paternal ploy. The evidence of experience shows that perpetrators usually go unpunished in society, and many good and decent people who do not practice 3-D perpetration are harmed, their lives destroyed. I see no compensation for such events happening in this life, and I doubt that it occurs in another lifetime, either.
These reflections raise the issue of accountability. Karma is said to be a kind of process of accountability in which those who act kindly get what they deserve for doing so, and those who act unkindly get what they deserve, the reflection or reverse effect of their action. So the story goes…
But Rite Action begins with the stark declaration that there is no accountability, no assurance that perpetrators will either be exposed or compensated. Impunity is real. We see it all the time, demonstrated in case after case, so why do we insist that accountability is possible and must be pursued? People will do the worst things on earth and get away with it. This is the reality of the human condition. Impunity is writ large in the record of history, except for a few contradictory footnotes. Exercises in accountability such as the Nuremberg trials or the impeachment of an American president for lying about a blow-job are purely theatrical rituals of appeasement. Finger-pointing and blaming are cathartic rituals that serve 3-D perpetrators quite well, because they can conduct business as usual while good and decent people are distracted by the illusion that nailing a few token perps makes a difference in the overall scheme of things.
What if knowing that evil is being done makes no real difference in its being done? Fingering perpetrators could be a vain indulgence and a waste of time. Consider the instances in which exposing deceit and domination leads to overcoming the perpetrators and defeating their works. Such instances do exist, of course, but they are few and far between. The record of accountability is one of poor efficacy and ever-diminishing returns.
Rite Action implies acceptance of the brutal fact that there is no accountability in human affairs except that which is offered voluntarily. You can count on perpetrators not to make themselves accountable. Those who choose not to be accountable will not be, and will not be made to be, period. Accountability does exist, but it cannot be either forced or imposed. Rite Action is the course to consider if we acknowledge that the arduous process of bringing perpetrators to accountability is largely a waste of time, or may be a game of grandstanding and appeasement. Humans tend to cry out for justice, often believing that it is God-given, an aspect of the cosmic plan. But what if there is no justice in the cosmic plan? No guarantee that truth and justice will finally prevail?
What is the appropriate moral response in a world of non-accountability? To be more precise, a world where accountability is exclusively voluntary and can neither be extracted from, nor imposed upon, those who do not take it upon themselves? How, in such a world, do accountable people act toward the Monaco ones?