Creative Arts with Patrick Moore


A Little Princess and Is the Sun Conscious?
October 28, 2016, 8:45 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Literature again meets Science meets Religion, with Eriksonian Stage-Psychology

This morning I listened to a podcast that asked the question, Is the Sun Conscious? The two scholars who spoke seemed to say, yes, it is very probable the sun is conscious, or it could be. Here is the link for the podcast but don’t listen to it yet… http://www.sheldrake.org/audios/science-set-free-podcast

I would start differently. Because we are likely to answer the question to immediately to ourselves, before we even read it. Instead I suggest you just imagine it as a thought-experiment. Like, I don’t believe the sun is conscious but what if I were reading a sci-fi story of the future, or fantasy story from the past, of a race of people (say Egyptians) who considered the sun conscious?

I think it is important to start off with this skepticism, and I will tell you why. I think those who listen to Rupert Sheldrake podcasts are probably already convinced. He is preaching to the choir. That is fine to do. My life goals are different. I would like to non-preach to the non-choir. I would like for there to no longer be choir members and choir non-members, but one group of humans who consider many things, with an appropriate balance of appropriate skepticism and appropriate willingness to consider new things.

What I would like to talk about in today’s paper is not whether the sun is conscious or not, but what it would mean to individuals, to shift from a belief of no, to a belief of maybe.

I read a lot of psychology classsics as I have blogged about in the past: Kohlberg, Maslow, Perls, Burns, Ellis, and their antecedants Epictetus, etc. One that bears on today’s question is Erik Erikson’s Identity Youth and Crisis. For a person to go from a no to a maybe, would trigger an identity crisis. Most people cannot tolerate an identity crisis and so they stop short. New models that threaten the identity cannot be considered. The individual personality has several extremely potent methods of dealing with information that threatens how one identifies oneself. The information seems to vanish.

We have seen this in literature and history. Or, we should see more of this in literature. Let me paint a story the way it should be written. Take A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett. I love the movie. My daughter and I watched it numerous times together and I always got a tear in my eye at the reuniting scene.

sarah-patrick-a-little-prin

But it is not realistic to how Erikson accurately describes youth identity. The story goes like this: During WWI, a girl and her father are separated because the father must go to fight in the war. She is told he died in the war, which makes her an orphan. The comfy living is gone, and she must work for Miss Minchen, who shames the girl and makes her do endless chores. In the movie the girl maintains an identity, I am a princess. All girls are princesses, because my father said so. But in reality her personality would develop around the reality of her situation: I am a low class servant, I am shameful and bitter. Life dealt me a cruel blow when it took my father from me. Life continues to cruelly assault me daily because this is a world in which life is cruel. I am a low class shameful bitter person. Years after the war, there is the discovery of a man who has lost his memory, and it turns out to be her father. They are reunited and everything is wonderful. She is restored to her status of princess. But in reality, a child whose personality has formed around the identity of shameful bitter low class, would not be flexible enough to adjust itself to the new discovery. Even though the new situation is preferable, personalities just don’t do that. They resist even truth, even reality. The girl would resist believing this was her father, and even if she were reunited with him, she would continue to behave as if life were cruel and she were shameful and low class. Because personality is formed early. Now, some will argue with me. Yes, if the girl’s personality were fully formed and resilient before the father went off to war, she might be able to continue her identity as princess even through all the tortures of Miss Minchen. It all depends on when personality formation begins and ends. Experts are pushing it earlier and earlier. Some are now saying personality structure is completely formed by age 3.

How does A Little Princess relate to Is the Sun Conscious? We humans perhaps once (experts on Egyptology tell us in the podcast) considered themselves children of the sun. It is likely that 20,000 years ago, 10,000 years ago, the sun was considered Our Father. At some point we were taken from this father, and then we were told this father had died, and then we were told this father never existed, it was just a superstition. Those of us alive today would not even dream that the sun could be our father. Our personalities were formed under different circumstances. Our identities are invested in a much different “reality.” To listen to a podcast today, and hear the sun may be our long lost father, is inconceivable. Of course it is farfetched, at least to modern thinkers. But besides being farfetched, it is literally inconceivable because our personalities forbid our conceiving it. Why do our personalities forbid our conceiving it? Not because it wouldn’t be good for us, it could be fantastically good for us to think this way. We are forbidden from conceiving this because it would mean the identity we have built for ourselves, is built upon faulty assumptions. Were we to conceive that the sun could be conscious, and that it is like a Father to humanity, to individual humans, this concept would question the foundation upon which we have built our identity. To even conceive this possibility means our identity could be built upon sand. Our personalities find it intolerable to ask: if who I always thought I was is not true, then who am I? It is too painful. Our personality replies: Creating the first identity was painful enough! You want me to recreate a new one, now that I am fairly secure? NO WAY!  

According to Erik Erikson’s theories of youth identity formation, for us to have a reconsideration, a complete review of the question, who am I, or even, WHAT am I? would lead to an identity crisis. Most of us are unwilling to face an identity crisis. Our personality simply puts on the brakes. No way. Dealbreaker. I am not going there. That’s the end of the story. We will go to our deaths grasping at an identity that is not accurate. Those of us who have dealt with, or are dealing with aging parents know this is true: they will hold fast to an outdated identity, one that does not even serve them in today’s world, one that limits their sense of freedom and fulfillment in life, until their final breath. Because they are unwilling to go through another identity formation, to pass across an identity crisis.

Passing across an identity crisis doesn’t have to be walking on coals. If there is someone to help you, who has done it already (perhaps multiple times), then it can be like a vigorous hike. Or a series of vigorous hikes over uncharted territories.. But the personality fears the unknown so dramatically that it will put in all kinds of resistance and diversions rather than go there.

Think of it from the personality’s perspective: facing a reformulation of identity, is like death. The personality thinks it is going to die. It isn’t going to die, in fact it is going to be improved, greatly improved, since it will be able to perceive far more of reality rather than filtering so much out. The potential for fulfillment will be multiplied a hundredfold. Relationships all improve. Intelligence improves. There is no downside except the struggles during the rites of passage. But the personality does not know this. None of my friends have done this. Our society has not done this. The whole culture and society is formed around defending the old identity, and only this one guy Rupert Sheldrake, and other outliers are suggesting this new identity. It seems like a bad wager, and most people pass before they even give it a second look.

My advice: don’t commit to the new identity, be skeptical, but do give it a second look. Treat it as a thought-experiment. What if the sun were conscious? What would that mean for me personally? How difficult would it be for me to adjust my personality, my lifestyle, my relationships, if I were to even agree the sun COULD be conscious?

I do not advocate identity crises. It is more likely to end in a reversion to the old way, when it is too sharp, too painful. I advocate gradual transition. Don’t listen to Sheldrake’s podcast. Just consider that there are other ways to identify oneself than the ways I identified myself when I was 3 or 6 or 9. And see if in a year or two, you actually want to listen to Sheldrake’s podcast. At some point it will feel like a drink of cool water after a long hike. Even if you don’t buy Sheldrake wholeheartedly, it is still refreshing (for those rebuilding their identities) to get as many different perspectives as possible.

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