Violence, Nonviolence, and Peace: our past, present, and future.

My December 31, 2014, blog post, Shame, Blame, and Guilt is a segue to this one: Violence, Nonviolence, and Peace: our past, present, and future. That first triplet, which I call “the cruel offspring of judgment” is the primary cause of all violence. In it, I pointed out that all harm comes from the misapplication of knowledge. From that we can imagine a beneficial application of knowledge. What then might the future look like were we to find a way to describe a beneficial application of knowledge and then to use it? I call that second triplet “our way home”. I invite you to explore this with me.

We cannot change anything unless we accept it.
Carl Jung

As I look at reports of this world we live in, I find violence every day. It looks to me like it’s increasing, but the experts say that it is actually decreasing. The difference then, must be our ability to report on it. As ugly as this may appear, it is, to me, a very good thing. Our history of violent human behavior goes back at least 30,000 years.

(Time is said to be the distance between a cause and its effect. I am well aware that the biblical time of 6000 years since the Cause, in the Book of Genesis, is not sun time; it is mythological time. This was a time when no one had any timepieces to record anything longer than one hour. The seasons cycled on a 365 day pattern and life was seldom longer than 25 years. I cannot take the time of Genesis literally, which doesn’t make Genesis bad; rather, Genesis represents the best we could do around 2600 years ago when it was written. And it is clear to me, as much as I hope that it can be clear to you, that this whole shebang is a sacred processes that has been evolving since its beginning in terms of the way we measure time today—with clocks based on the decay of radioactive elements. This makes the beginning of time billions of years ago.)

We created clocks and many other tools to help us go from cause to effect. We have learned much over the years. It is fair to say that our species, the one known as the Modern Human is between 100,000 and 200,000 years old. Using the same archaeological timescale, we have figured out how to put that timescale onto our archaeological digs. Some several years ago, I was struck by looking at the picture of an old arm bone—an ulna—scarred by two slashes across it that had to have been made by a very sharp instrument—like an obsidian sword. That bone was estimated to be at least 30,000 years old.

You might say that’s when our violence began, and that may be accurate. However, I have to answer the question, “How did we ever begin to be violent?” My answer… one I have been putting together for the better part of my lifetime: “When we could be witness to, and take personally, the shocking effect of nature’s power on tender beings like ourselves… and the terror it evoked in us in our naïve and immature human experience.” We became afraid—terrified—of nature’s power. That, to me, is how we saw that we could be that harmful, evoke that terror, and control other human beings with our version of nature’s violence. We took it personally, did we not?

We evolved our divine gift of tool making into creating the first weapons that we could use to control other human beings… like the God of our understanding controlled us. The stories and legends grew about this power, and the whole concept of warfare grew out of the abuse of tools. Indeed, I see that the first weapon of mass destruction was the sword. Go back to the book of Genesis and count how many times marauding armies would vanquish the city and put all of its inhabitants “to the sword.” We forgot Nature, and assumed all pretenses to violence as a means of controlling other people, and because our relationship to our gods was, “as below so above,” our gods became judging, judgmental, vicious controllers.

Open an encyclopedia of any kind and look up “violence”. It is all about violent behaviors of one human being used to control another. However, if I go back to the beginnings of our solar system, I know today that it came into being because of the birth and destruction of stars. The first element in the universe is hydrogen, and intense heat and pressure in huge balls of hydrogen starting fusing this stuff into helium… and if you don’t think that was violent, please go to a modern picture of the sun boiling away as it turns its hydrogen into helium and oxygen and carbon and other progressively heavier elements ending with iron. How about the heavier elements than iron? They come from the explosion of huge stars in what we call supernovae. If you don’t think that “violent” is a good way of describing that tremendous power of creation, think again. That power is the power that creates storms of all sizes and energies. It is the power that creates earthquakes and tsunamis. Little wonder that we have the expression, “The gods (or God) must be angry at us.”

Having turned our gods into controlling, judgmental, destroying, violent supreme beings, it doesn’t surprise me at all to see that we followed that model. We follow it all the way into today.

Our tools have become ever more sophisticated, and so has our warfare. It takes very little effort to imagine what goes on in human minds that underlies all forms of genocide: hierarchies… orders of humans making one better than another… and we do not appreciate how easily we step into this kind of judgmental mode. It lies deep within the core of our brains in small collections of specialized cells that store memories and feelings.

Racism is a particularly abhorrent form of violence. Consider that today it infects a significant majority of the people in the politics of Washington, DC. I go so far as to put it at the cause of the terrifying divisiveness present in our national politics. Why? Because he is half black! How long do we have to go on with this tragedy before the nation collapses? Or can we start the healing now and keep the nation whole, free of hubris and prejudice? Of course we can, but those who perpetrate the violence are as much victims of it as those against whom they perpetrate the suffering… and perpetuate it. We have the practices and means to be able to sit people down in a circle without any hierarchy and take such pathological practices apart and build healing practices that make it possible for all of us human beings to come together in peace and create a new world. We can start by doing DNA sampling on all these who are so racist. I have heard it said that over half of them have dark–skinned African DNA because of the great numbers of African slaves we imported to do the hard work until Abraham Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

As racism plays a harsh role in our American society, so does sexism. Its practice takes a myriad of forms, and, like racism, the forms fall into four basic categories: psychological, verbal, emotional, and physical…. As an example of both sexism and racism, we do not have to go any farther than the current and persistent inequality of pay: In 2014, for every $1.00 that a white man made, a white woman made $0.75. If that woman was black, she made only $0.61! Please take a moment to consider that we have known that for many years. Also consider how deeply and hurtfully discriminating it is.

However, and to our very good fortune, it is increasingly apparent that we are entering into a period of equality in which we become ever more aware of these harmful practices. Indeed, we are coming to realize that the more we resist the change today, the more it is going to hurt when it finally takes hold of our consciousness and we make us all equal in our “human–ness”. Unfortunately, in the human condition, it usually takes “hitting a bottom” in order to effect a change. For me, that is totally unnecessary and extremely dangerous, especially today when we do know effective ways to make that change before total collapse.

In our struggle with ourselves, we continuously take ourselves too seriously. There is no light in us, no beauty, no joy, no creativity in our nation’s capital these days. Rather, it is filled with hubris—false pride—the disquiet of a threatened ego. Today it becomes clear that there are hundreds of human beings in government representing specialized interests that are nothing other than forms of this tragic form of pride.

In choosing to put the word, “nonviolence” in between “violence” and “peace” in the keyword, I’m saying that all references that we might make to “nonviolence” refer only to “violence”. (I encourage the reader to be aware of the differences between our right and left brains: the left, logical, linear brain understands negatives like “non–”; whereas the right, artistic, imaging brain is incapable of perceiving anything negative. Everything—good, bad, or indifferent—exists as a reality in the right brain. That side always rules the roost when we are most young, tender, open, and receptive. As long as we believe we are doing good by being “nonviolent,” we cover over our underlying terror of the other, holding violence in reserve. When we choose to be vulnerable and expose our stories, their interpretation, and their feelings to another individual or group, we have given ourselves permission to be fully present to the other and let go of all fear of the other. In short, we have created a field of love.

This field of love is not a field of passionate feeling, such as we might use when we say, “I love chocolate ice cream.” Rather, it is a field totally free of judgment, as in a phrase translated from the 13th century Persian poet, Rumi, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there (trans. Coleman Barks)”. It is also not about liking, as a friend of mine discovered when she began a complete recovery just minutes short of dying of ALS. In the face of rapidly advancing paralysis a few weeks earlier, she had proclaimed a deep self–hatred. She responded to this by expressing a (deeper), heart–felt determination to come to love herself completely before she died. With but very few minutes of life remaining, she maintained this loving presence for herself. The seemingly inevitable process of dying stopped… it would be some 36 hours of literally hanging onto her life with each breath before she began to be aware that her strength was coming back! The recovery process took two years to fully complete, starting with the sense that she was no longer part of her disease. There was no longer any connection to it; so there was no liking or hating it. I first met her a couple of years later and heard her story. I asked her then about that loving of self. Her considered reply was, “Love didn’t cure me of my disease, Ken, I don’t know what did, but I do know it would not have been possible had I not come to love myself.”

For me, this love is the extraordinary practice of compassion that turns suffering into peace. With compassion, one finds the power to forgive (literally: “to give away”) all those attachments to people, places, and things that sap our energies. With that forgiveness, suffering eases, and one can begin to move into a situation of cooperation and creativity with a whole new attitude that passes beyond our ability to comprehend… peace.

It helps to know that we program our brains early on in our lives, and these programs reside deep in specialized clusters of cells alongside the upper end of the spinal cord. These cell clusters are centers of emotion and memory that evoke the “fight or flight” survival response to stress. As these centers are conditioned states of brain function in response to our exposure to our physical, mental, and emotional environment, we know that we can undo the program of violence, go through the program of nonviolence, to ultimately reside in peace. The method is exquisitely simple, but it is not easy. The method is compassion. The product is forgiveness. And then we go to the stars to share our experience with younger races of sentient beings to help them with their evolution.

We human beings—”Modern Humans”—are intensely curious. That curiosity comprises the striving to understand our story, and to create a meaningful future. Our curiosity leads us to study that which surrounds and includes us: the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual universe. We have become so enamored of the study that we have forgotten the immeasurable universe of beauty, love, compassion, truth, which has always existed. The ancient Greeks had a word for the former, logos, and a word for the latter, mythos, both of which had equal value 2000 years ago. However, starting about 400 years ago we became so enamored of the logos (as in logic), that we began to suppress the mythos (as in myth). This has created a split mind situation that manifests in some as a psychiatric illness–schizophrenia.

When I look at the word, psychiatric, I find that its root contains the word, psyche, which, to the Greeks, was the soul—and the butterfly! My study of the two goes back several decades. I have a clear sense that we have been caterpillars—survival machines—for thousands of years directed by our secular ego. Today we are in the process of becoming butterflies—our metamorphosis—because, like the physical imaginal cells in the caterpillar that contain the blueprint for the butterfly, we have within us the spiritual cells of a wonderfully beautiful change of thought, belief, feeling, and action… the director of which is the soul. We are, indeed, spiritual beings immersed in the human condition… evolving out of the violence of our past through nonviolence to peace.

Here, I offer you who might wonder how we can make these changes, the answer lies in the growing appreciation that working together in a small group gets the good work done. Any H.O.P.E. Group is just such a small group, regardless of the condition that called it together. No special training is needed to convene a H.O.P.E. Group… the method is here: http://hopehealing.org/hope-groups/ and we stand in support of you in convening a “by invitation only” safely closed H.O.P.E. Group. Further study of this web site will show you how we can provide you with certified trainings and publications anywhere in the world through Skype! I know how rewarding this is… as of February 12, 2015 I had been doing it for 28 years and for over 5000 H.O.P.E. Group meetings. I am fully aware that it was all given to me; so I am to pass it on. I invite you to take a critical look at the H.O.P.E. process and let me know if there is anything that H.O.P.E. can do to help you get on with your life.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Elaine G. McGillicuddy March 15, 2015, 2:43 am

    Thank you for sharing your deep and extensive ponderings here, Ken. The way I have found to get on with my life is writing, but also by participating in peacemaking as I can, e.g. through programs offered by Pax Christi, Pace e Bene Nonviolence, and, most recently (if you saw my letter “A Different Letter” by writing in support of Veterans for Peace’s “Full Disclosure” project. Their web address is here: http://vietnamfulldisclosure.org/index.php/upcoming-events-for-developing-ideas/memorial-day-event/memorial-day-event-letters-in-support-of-vietnam-full-disclosure/

    We know too as scripture tells us – Perfect love casts out fear. I believe that fear is behind much of the violence. Here is an example of nonviolence in action – something that happened only a day or so ago. Joan Baez is the exemplar here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/08/12/765667/-Joan-Baez-diffuses-right-wing-protest-at-Idaho-concert?detail=email
    Peace and blessings to all,
    Elaine

    • Ken Hamilton March 15, 2015, 3:46 pm

      Dear Elaine, my friend,
      thank you very much for your contribution to this blog. I have spent time going over your comment, and have checked out the links that you have provided. I did get your “A Different Kind of Letter”. I read it then, and had just finished rereading it about an hour ago when Skype told me that a dear friend was there to engage in a conversation that we have owed each other for quite some time. We find that we still have the same focus on changing the way the world thinks; so it was very enjoyable to hear our mutual and yet different experiences.

      To get back to your comment, which I considered to be very valuable and appropriate to the whole discussion of war and peace, it is all about war — violence — being the absence of peace, but peace is not the absence of war — nonviolence — it is an entirely different state of being that is coherent with love. I am greatly appreciative of the way in which the the Vietnamese have dealt with the violation of their country by what can best be called American Imperialism. And I did so much appreciate Joan Baez’ powerful and peaceful way of dealing with the two veterans who were still embodying violence. It is a mindset, and I am fully aware that we can change the way we set our minds I am deeply grateful to you for that piece.

      I got a lengthy email response from Berry Manter that gives me a good sense of where we are taking the whole H.O.P.E. process. Hearing thus far from three close friends has been a very nurturing experience. Thank you Elaine.

  • Peggy Brick March 15, 2015, 10:36 am

    Thoughtful and HOPEful. Thank you, Ken.

  • shelly joseph March 15, 2015, 3:10 pm

    Thanks, Ken. Much to grok here.
    I was always at odds with That which I thought was God. First family we meet Cain Able fratricide, giving Caanon to Abraham, except it was occupied already.
    Anyway, somehow I met some awesome teachers, (yourself included), and am still learning that we can only be the light or be the peace when we face our own shadow. We have to acknowledge that we are as capable of evil as anyone we judge.
    I had the privilege of getting that live in my face from our old friend Caroline myss. I posed the question, how can I feel we are all one when there’s ax murderers out there. She stared me down, and said “Don’t you think you’re better than anyone. I could have you marching to the nazi step in ten minutes. You may have evolved beyond picking up an ax, but don’t think you haven’t killed people with your words”. Ouch, eh?

    • Ken Hamilton March 15, 2015, 5:44 pm

      Yes, Shelly, when we face the enemy and realize that they is us we can start to heal. I have the greatest respect for Carolyn and her many gifts, including her power of confrontation.

  • Debbie Caldwell March 15, 2015, 9:39 pm

    Ken, here are my favorite words, picked directly out of your very long piece here.
    ‘The right brain understands everything as real, therefore it can’t erase reality with a negative (‘non’).’ [paraphrase]
    “In choosing to put the word ‘nonviolence’ in between ‘violence’ and ‘peace’…, I’m saying that all references that we might make to violence refer only to violence.” [direct quote]
    ‘When we grow and choose to tell our stories in the comfort of a loving environment of Sacred Listening, we can hear ourselves, and expose our coverup of the fear (of violence).’ [p]
    ‘Compassion and forgiveness can dissolve the cell centers of emotion and memory that evoke the fight-or-flight survival response to stress.'[p]
    ‘A positive environment of beauty, love, compassion, and truth can be created in small H.O.P.E. groups. Helpful information is below.'[p]
    Nice words here, Ken. Perfectly wonderful words.
    Love from Debbie
    [p] means your words have been paraphrased a bit by me]

    • Ken Hamilton March 16, 2015, 12:37 pm

      Thank you, Debbie, for showing me what you got from the essay.

  • shelly joseph March 16, 2015, 2:53 am

    My favorite prayer is St Francis’ plea to be an instrument of peace. Aside from its sincere humility, I feel encouraged to keep trying to live up to each of his requests, since even he had to pray for help with his intentions.

    • Ken Hamilton March 16, 2015, 12:36 pm

      It is a good request, for certain. How about we don’t ask for God’s help, but assure God that I/We are helping S-He-It with my/our experience of God’s evolution. My “knowing” of this came to me when I was about 15… that I (and all other sentient beings) are nerve endings in the body of God providing God. Inspired by St. Francis’ lovely prayer of supplication, my prayer of service and surrender starts with, “Dearly Beloved, I am an instrument of your peace. I see by the graceful light of forgiveness…”

      • shelly joseph March 17, 2015, 11:21 pm

        I like that, Ken. Nerve endings in the body of God…..

  • David S Handwerker March 16, 2015, 12:10 pm

    Thank you Ken. Brings to mind some words by Heinrich Heine……”There are three things in life that are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.” Be well. Later with love David

    • Ken Hamilton March 16, 2015, 12:22 pm

      Nice to bring you and the Heine quote to mind, David. Best to you, good human.

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