Like the website that hosts it, this blog is only concerned with using art and brief texts to uncover the bias and other limitations of thought conditioned by memory and tradition, thus also revealing how this largely unacknowledged tribal egotism that affects all human beings creates and sustains the systemic disorder and violence of the world in which we all live.

Without a radical awakening to the immense distance between our mental and social reality and the truth, we are condemned to continue living in the same cruel division, conflict, and sorrow to which we ourselves sustain with our personal memories, thoughts, and desires.

Mental Conditioning by Experience and the Future of Humanity - IV

The Thin Veil of Personal Existence                                          Recent graphite drawing on Stonehenge paper by    Kim Schrag

The Thin Veil of Personal Existence                                        Recent graphite drawing on Stonehenge paper by Kim Schrag


The last essay ended with the assertion that only a mutation in consciousness could free the species from the suffering stemming from its chronic cultural division and its intra-psychic, interpersonal, and intercultural conflict. The reason for this is that nations, religions, and other cultural groups and institutions are constitutionally averse to the solution that a holistic perception of fundamental human problems suggests because it disregards the ideological base on which their claim to separate existence stands.
As particular individuals, we are likewise reluctant to examine the entire issue of divisive mental conditioning to the ultimate consequences. In our case,  it is because the prerequisite for our identity-based existence and relative sense of security and wellbeing lies in loyalty to the social groups to which we belong and the personal ideologies on which we depend to be who we think we are. However, it is the brain that the skull of each human organism cradles that is the foundational deposit and vehicle of all forms of cultural tradition, not the social entities that are merely their box of resonance. Thus, despite our habitual mental turpitude and ironclad dependency on the social structures and cultural traditions that dispense much of our sense of self, only the individual mind can effectively consider the plight of the species as a whole and, consequently, the inescapable necessity of an unconditioned brain/mind.

In other words, social and cultural forms and their particular historical transitions from the past to the future are only expressions or externalizations of the constellations of images and ideas that exist and operate in every person alive. They do not know, run, and project themselves. They appear to do so only because of their appropriation of the knowledge, will, and behavior of the people who flesh them out and utilize much of their time and energy to carry them from the past to the future, and from generation to generation.

The primacy of the personal mind in this respect thus determines that only individuals are capable —to the extent of our independence from cultural influences and mental habits— of rigorously exploring our particular accumulation of biased images and ideas and dangerous behavioral tendencies. And, to be sure, full awareness, in oneself, of the ongoing existence of divisive and oppressive socio-cultural forms and selfish personal behavior is the only factor with the power to dissolve conditioning and terminate the fantasy of existential separation in a particular brain/mind.

It is because this immense responsibility of considering and bringing about this veritable mutation of the human brain/mind, that I feel that the best form this last essay can take is that of a personal letter. Evidently, I do not intend to utilize this more intimate form of communication to romanticize or otherwise trivialize the crucial matter at hand. In the thematic context set in this set of essays, a letter is just a proper way to speak about the love of humanity and life that pulsates in my heart and, I suspect, in yours as well. Even though I most probably do not know you in person, it seems only true to affection, and therefore to reason, that we attend, together, and with all the strength of the life we share, to the possibility (and the peculiar difficulties) of going beyond the pleasures and pains of separation.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

 Dear friend,
                        I am grateful for your interest and patience in reading the three unruly essays that preceded this note. The fact that you are still with me justifies the assumption that we have a similar sense of the general mental system stealthily, but forcibly running human affairs and still contributing to the millenary sorrow of our species. Even if it is only in very general terms, we are both well aware of how the capacity to learn from experience that enabled the survival and expansion of our species, unwittingly become the tumultuous stream of cultural fragmentation, mental disorder, and contentious relationship in which we are still struggling and drowning today.

 If we agree that this much is correct, it is not a stretch to go further and, considering current circumstances, assume as well that we are both aware of the tremendous danger that the persistence of this primitive and misguided mindset poses to the survival of our species. How could we continue to turn a blind eye to the insane claims and appetites that are presently increasing the cultural and economic distance between different groups and individuals and taking the delicate ecological balance of our home planet to the brink? How could we not employ our whole being to break with the general complacency that protects the possession and the blind willingness to use conventional and thermonuclear weapons of unimaginable destructive potential, and for the stupidest reasons and causes?

There is a good chance that we are no longer talking to each other from the timid or openly fearful and hostile bunkers that allegiance to fixed cultural beliefs and personal opinions create, so I do not need to refrain myself from speaking about the urgent necessity of a mental mutation. We both know that there is no other way to end the cultural and psychological distance separating and often enough antagonizing different groups and individuals. Traditional secular and religious ideologies and methods active at every level and in every place are responsible for the conflictive fragmentation of the species and are, therefore, incapable of ever bringing about its integration. The experts and leaders representing these social entities and their particular interests no longer have any authority over us. They are as short-sighted, confused, fearful, and ambitious as those who are still naively seeking personal meaning and guidance from them.

We stand then, not isolated, but alone in the sense of not belonging to any group or ideological consensus because we see that the collective alienation and the ever-present discord of contradictory tribal, interpersonal, and personal realities cannot sustain life for much longer, at least not in any widely tolerable circumstances.
Full surrender to the imperative unification of the species is not for us an option among others, but the essence of mental health, and most assuredly a life-or-death decision of unimaginable consequence. The brass license with which egoic vanity seeks status and power is the complete opposite of the independence that is necessary to discard the cultural barriers and mental blinders that have forever prevented a genuine and profound encounter between human beings. Without individuals meeting beyond the reduced overlapping space allowed by their conditioned minds, the hostile distance between the traditional “us” and “them,” and "you" and "I," will only continue to grow in size and toxicity. What is worse, the merging of our species with its ground in life will remain impossible.

As you well know, despite the considerable danger in which the species finds itself, this radical option is still far from prevalent. After even a little peek at the long-standing and harrowing reality of humankind, the most tempting thing to do is run back to what is most familiar, and remain an obedient serf to the mental circuits and behavioral patterns established by the tyranny of cultural and biographical experience. One may, however, willingly choose to receive the shock of passively seeing the immense problem of human division and suffering. And I say "passively" because the act of seeing to which I refer leads to an exhaustive mental cleansing that, for self-evident reasons, thought cannot ever discern.

Let me try a different way of conveying the readily apparent and the more subtle difficulties involved in handing oneself over to the imperative of human integration; and please forgive me if I am not entirely adept at the task. I am heartened, however, by the hope that there will be other opportunities to converse about these issues. Also by the fact that, in the end, this is not a matter of personal transformation, of going from one form of being and thinking to another, but of dispensing altogether with the rigid molds imposed by self-centered knowledge and thought. What could I, or anyone else, say with any authority about being free of particular psychological and social form?!

One thing I can say, though is that it is essential to reject whatever boast any one particular manifestation of the conditioned fragmentation of humanity may broadcast about being the political, economic, or religious nucleus around which the species will eventually find the integration it so desperately needs. The unity of the species will never come through the creation and implementation of relatively small and gradual tribal and sectarian projects, for that is precisely the manner in which the mind conditioned and isolated by experience —that is our problems in the first place— protects and sustains itself.

Consequently, the revolution in consciousness that is the only solution to the general problem of suffering demands that we approach it negatively. By this, I mean that a full and accurate perception of the problem of being human becomes available only in the deactivation of the predetermined actions that buttress the ongoing presence of cultural and psychological isolation. For as long as we turn a blind or myopic eye to the fundamental problem of human existence, its solution remains entirely out of reach.

Without this impersonal, and therefore direct and thorough insight into the human condition, our encounters will continue to be mediated, in either exclusive alliance or sworn enmity, by the banality of what any given participant knows, thinks, and desires. And I should clarify that I do not speak of the human condition as a concept, but just as it manifests at every moment in and through the particular body/mind entity you and I, and everyone else refers to as “me.”

To some, all this may sound very strange, at least at first, but the truth is that the emergence of an equanimous mind capable of intelligent, caring relationship demands the negation of everything that, in enabling any form of separate being and becoming, turns us into instruments of self-projective division and bitter conflict. We may loathe even to consider this, but the painful absence of real intelligence and all-encompassing love is brought about by the overbearing presence of a memory-based self endlessly demanding from itself and others some predigested form of attention and favor. Every manifestation of the conditioned human brain/mind carries the same generic infection of fear and arrogant ambition that turns life into an experience that is, for most, more sour than sweet, and never inclusive to the point of transcendence. And so it behooves us all to find a way out of ourselves.

Fortunately, the distance commonly stretching between us cannot possibly withstand the impact of realizing, together, that we are nothing if not practically identical manifestations and sustaining agents of a human mind predetermined, and alternately pleased and abused by slightly different mental versions of the same experience. One can see oneself with the utmost clarity only in the mirror presented by “the other,” the looking glass that when fully expanded faithfully reflects the hopelessly segmented and blighted world that emerges daily from every one of our divisive thoughts and dysfunctional, or outright cruel actions.

Anyone who cares enough to look honestly and widely at herself and the world can see that self-centered knowledge/belief encapsulates and desensitizes the collective and the particular mind, making us indifferent to disorder and suffering, especially when they are afflicting others. And, conversely, when separation is no longer reducing and obscuring the mind, the space that opens is further illumined by another extraordinary realization. The harebrained dedication exacted by a false claim to existential uniqueness (inspired and enforced by external and internalized authority), practically blinds us to our mysterious, seamless kinship with the whole of existence.

I am quite sure that you too can somehow sense the lively and indivisible infinity that lies beyond the dense cloud of self-centered thought. There clearly is something other than the universe of separate entities that the secular and the religious intellect creates by cutting-up and otherwise distorting the order and integrity of WHAT IS with its contradictory definitions, categories, and self-serving fantasies. The truth is, nothing exists in separation; the embrace of life is all-encompassing. For the mind no longer trapped in the isolation and to-and-fro mechanics of identity-based knowledge and thought, the mystery of undivided existence is evident in the newness of everyday life, and therefore not a threat to be avoided, or a distant, perhaps post-mortem fantasy full of imperatives and the dread that comes with them.

There is nothing more intimately present and more precious than our participation in existence. I am sure you suffer seeing, as I do, the effort that goes into disregarding it, only because it does not grant a more respectable social position or some other extravagant reward. What madness is invested in the multitudinous and quotidian rejection of a gift of incredible generosity only because it happens to come to everyone in equal measure. Talk about excess in our appetite for distinction! And what blessing there is in seeing that life does not make the odious comparisons on which the egocentric intellect thrives. In our ecstatic but generic participation in existence, there is nothing more beautiful and profound than the awareness through which an utterly undecipherable sense of its ineffable wholeness becomes apparent. Through human eyes, life blessedly looks at itself.

I trust you are not concerned at all with what may be the best method available to access this pure awareness. You must surely realize that any means found or created to free the mind from its self-inflicted torments, would only be another fanciful creation of the same phenomenon of conditioned separation looking to prolong itself, and therefore the negation of the clear mind that concerns us.

The impotence of thought is the first, and principal object of awareness, and it is seized at the moment in which there is no more speculation about what may lie beyond the possible collapse of the mental barriers (past, present, and future) separating us from one another. All that is left then is a quality of moment-by-moment attention that cannot be distracted from its erosive lock on the ballast of self-isolating memory and desire. 
The first step towards the truth lies in seeing and dissolving the illusory and the false. There is no second step.

Excuse the length of this note. To finish it, I would like to ask if seeing all this together is not our first encounter with a truth immediate, impersonal, and powerful enough to undo the foolish, sedimentary conceit of existential separation that may still be active in either one or both of us?

With the depth of this intimacy very much at heart, I will not say goodbye, but offer instead an ever-fresh hello from no one to no one, and so from life to life.   

With affection, Fernando








Photo Essay - 1

Mental Conditioning by Experience and the Future of Humanity - III