Shakespeare compared the world with a stage, and the men with players. Sri Ramakrishna would quote his Guru, Totapuri or Nyangta, that crores of Universes take birth in the mind and crores perish. If the mind is everything, then the world itself is just a minor character in the ultimate stage of the mind. The players, then, must be the numerous sense-images, impressions, signs, symbols and words that pass through the mind like a continuous flow to construct our sense of reality.
Life is the name of the play, but, who is the stage director? What motivates the drama? Most important, who is the script writer?
The more our civilization advances, the more we realize that notwithstanding technological progress, we are just repeating the past in an endless cyclic process. Otherwise, we cannot explain the primitive mindset working in all spheres of human activity.
Evolution has given us a new brain, - the cerebral cortex with a developed frontal lobe, which distinguishes us from other living beings and also from our primitive ancestors. But, have we really mustered the ability to harness the full potential of the new brain? What is keeping us numb? What is keeping us powerless? Otherwise, so far our nature is concerned, why are we still like our primitive ancestors?
As Paul MacLean, the brain researcher at the U.S. National Institute of Health who gave the “limbic system” its name, would have us believe, evolution left us with not one brain in our skulls, but three. They are the cortex, the limbic system (mammal brain) and the reptile brain. The most ancient part of the human brain is known by scientists as the R complex or "reptilian brain”. It is the most obvious remnant of our reptilian genetic history. To quote from Kalen Hammann’s internet article ‘Getting Our Brains Working Right’, ‘ if the reptilian brain is dominating, with other brains largely off line, we start acting a lot like reptiles: rigid, territorial, hierarchical, with very little willingness or ability to adapt to truly new situations. We insist on sticking with the way we’ve always done things, whether those ways work or not. We’re “on automatic.” From religious perspective, being entirely “on automatic’ is slavery to nature and therefore bondage.
To quote from David Icke’s internet article “The Reptilian Brain“, at least five human behaviors originate in the reptilian brain. These have been denoted as isopraxic, preservative, re-enactment, tropistic, and deceptive. Without defining them, I shall simply say that in human activities they find expression in:
- Obsessive-compulsive behavior
- Personal day-to-day rituals and superstitious acts
- Slavish conformance to old ways of doing things
- Ceremonial re-enactments
- Obeisance to precedent, as in legal, religious, cultural, and other matters
- Responding to partial representations (coloration, "strangeness," etc.), whether alive or inanimate
- and all manner of deception
The new scientific myth about the reptilian brain echoes the Puranic vision of Lord Shiva as the ultimate Purusha whose greatness lies because of his potential to tame serpents round his neck and absorb serpent venom. Perhaps, it is not an accident that ‘Kundalini Shakti’ is conceived as coiled serpent in ‘Muladhara’, and which must reach the ‘Sahashradhar’ for realization of God-potential in human frame. The Christian myth of Satan as tempter of Adam and Eve in the shape of a serpent is another case in point where ancient wisdom regards ‘reptile’ as spoiler of innocence and causer of evil. It is the reptile brain working beneath, that is keeping us enslaved to repetitive actions and rituals and games and past-times. It is the greatest threat to creativity, to a new free life, to the realization of our own true beings as ‘Amritasya Putra.’ The reptilian brain is indeed the centre of the ‘sara ripus’, of desire, anger and fear, but with an edge over other reptiles or mammals that it can use the left-cortex logic and language, and the right-cortex imagination and dream, to further its reptilian causes. The interesting thing is that reptilian behavior conforms to the characteristics of both the ‘ruler’ and the ‘ruled’ in society.
So, the script writer and the director of the drama on the stage of the mind, is within us. It is a part of our nature having twofold manifestation. One, our dark unconscious mind, whether individual or the ‘collective unconscious’, whether our natural impulses or instincts, about which nothing much can be consciously known. And second, the conscious intelligence, which nevertheless serves the unconscious.
Why has nature chained us thus? Attributing human attributes to nature, we may guess, to fulfil its own purpose of continuation. Nature has spun a web like the spider. This is allegorically represented in the Upanishads. In Mundaka Upanishad, the seers say, 'As the spider sends forth and draws in its thread, as plants grow on the earth, as from every man hairs spring forth on the head and the body, thus does everything arise here from the Indestructible.'
Next come human agents as products of nature with the singular motive to survive. The interesting thing, here too, is that, both the ‘ruler’ and ‘ruled’ want to survive, but in different dimensions of existence, in accordance to their perception of reality. The human agents of the traditional ruler class, be it in the domain of politics, culture or business, create network. They too are spiders, but ironically caught in their own web, though have enough delusion to consider themselves free as long as they have ‘gold and woman’, as Ramakrishna said, and which, the present writer, remembering that Sri Ramakrishna’s advice to discard ‘gold and woman’ was most often addressed to his male disciples, proposes to interpret and translate as ‘possession, pleasure and power’ – the three ‘Ps’. The human agents in the form of ‘ruled’ are willingly or unwillingly caught in the net, so that they can live ‘happily.’ Basically there is no difference between the ‘ruler’ and ‘ruled’, the ‘parent’ and the ‘child.’ Both want ‘possession, pleasure and power’ for their own perceptive survival.
So, ‘possession, pleasure and power’ are the trio key motivators of all those, keen on ruling, controlling, manipulating and parenting, and all those keen on living ‘happily ever after’ depending on some form of ‘parent.’ This trio, again, is the vibrating heart of the ‘script writer’ in us, wanting us to dance to its tune like puppets.
But, what exactly is the ‘script’? As Frederick Perls puts it, "We live on two levels-the public level which is out doing, which is observable, verifiable; and the private stage, the thinking stage, the rehearsing stage, on which we prepare for the future roles we want to play"
There is a striking resemblance between psychological script and a theatrical script. Each has a prescribed cast of characters, dialogue, acts and scenes, themes and plots, which move toward a climax and end with a final curtain. A psychological script is a drama an individual compulsively acts out, through one's awareness of it may be vague. Like dramas, a person's script may resemble a soap opera, a wild adventure, a tragedy, a saga, a farce, a romance, a joyful comedy, or a dull play. Whatever might be, it is often archetypal.
As Shakespeare said, ‘all the world is a stage’, the drama of life starts at birth. The original script begins from I-awareness or the birth of ego, with an awareness of “I / other” polar-distinction. This has been allegorically described in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad in the episode of Brahma’s birth. That natural script is the primary one. Its life sap is the desire of ‘possession, pleasure and power’. Next comes the societal one. Script instructions are programmed into the Child ego state through transactions between parent figures and their children. As children grow they learn to play archetype parts - heroes, heroines, villains, victims, and rescuers and unknowingly-seek others to play complementary roles. But whatever may be the script grown-ups play within the context of the society, both as ‘ruler’ and ‘ruled’, is always determined by a ‘central emotional position.’ This ‘central emotional position’ is the director of the script.
So, when is the director born? L.S.Kubie in his " the neurotic process as the focus of physiological and psychoanalytic research “ says, " early in life ,sometimes within the earliest months and sometimes later, a central emotional position is frequently established..........it becomes the affective position to which that individual will tend to return automatically for the rest of his days . This in turn may constitute either the major safeguard or the major vulnerability of his life. "
Regarding the neurological source of scripts or narratives, Kay Young (UCSB, English) J Jeffrey L. Saver, MD (UCLA, Neurology ) says in their “The Neurology of Narrative “ Recent advances in cognitive neuroscience suggest that the creation of narrative in the human central nervous system is mediated by a regionally distributed neural network. Fundamental components of this network include 1) the amygdalo-hippocampal system, responsible for initial encoding of episodic and autobiographic memories, 2) the left peri-Sylvian region where language is formulate, and 3) the frontal cortices and their subcortical connections, where individuals and entities are organized into real and fictional temporal narrative frames.’
Both ‘ruler’ and ‘ruled’ are slaves and puppets to the script. It seems, script is the real and true great leveller. But, we human beings, whose lives are a life-long search for ‘ideal parents’, whom we can follow with relaxed closed-eyes, whom we are ready to ‘waiting for Godot’, whom we are ready to worship as our liberator or ‘Avatar’ as rationalization of our ‘Tamash’, can hardly escape the web we spin as ‘rulers’, and find ourselves entangled into as ‘ruled’.
We are both ruler and ruled in turns, and both as ruler and ruled, we follow ‘scripts’, made by us, or, to use Dr. Colavito’s term, ‘bio-culturally’ inculcated by us. All meta-narratives, incredulity towards what, is described by Jean François Lyotard in his ’The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge’ as symptomatic of ’postmodernism’, are indeed, translations of individual-scripts into larger scales, that exist in the ‘collective unconscious.’ These translated giants of narratives or ‘scripts’ are the ‘Meta-narratives’ that rule the life of a nation or culture.
But despite all cerebral ‘incredulity’ can we really free ourselves from the hold of the individual scripts or meta-narratives? Can we shift the paradigm with our own effort? The answer of the majority is generally obvious, and so is the question, ‘why can’t we?’ or ‘why so few can?’ Ironically, our frustration only strengthens the script, which has its origin in powerlessness or ‘not O.K.’. The more the powerlessness or ‘not O.K’, the greater the desire for ‘possession, pleasure and power’. The ‘ruler’ or ‘parents’ want to keep the ‘ruled’ or ‘child’ in perpetual powerlessness or ‘not O.K’ to sustain themselves, yet, ironically again, are themselves so, because their desire for absolute ‘possession, pleasure and power’ will never be fulfilled. ‘Possession, pleasure and power’ is the ‘Golden Dear’ that can never be caught, but it is strong enough to make even Ramchandra run after it. This final ‘catastrophe’ is already written in the script, though the ‘ruler’ or ‘parents’ would like to believe otherwise.
Inculcating in the ‘ruled’ a life-long adherence to ‘script’ or more precisely to the script that ‘I am not o.k.’, is the secret to the ‘rulers’’ success, and living in delusion and illusion that they can really perpetually enjoy the objects of their desire of ‘possession, pleasure and power’ is the ‘rulers’’ own script, perpetuating their desire to rule. Both the ruler and the ruled are thus, part of a ‘paradigm’. Both are ‘child’ at heart living in ‘ignorant bliss.’
Denise Breton and Christopher Largent, in their ‘Notes on The Paradigm conspiracy’ say on the basis of Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 brain stormer “paradigms” ,’ We see a pervasive mindset of control and domination permeating our cultural institutions, a mindset driven by the fear of anarchy…… According to the power-over model—what we refer to as the control paradigm—if somebody doesn’t control us, our social systems will fall into chaos……. We are not walking the full truth of who we are because we're "sleepwalking", unconscious of our immense abilities. Instead, we've come to believe that those abilities don't exist for us. Even people educated at the best schools in this system experience education as indoctrination. The advantage for power-over institutions is obvious. People no longer indulge in big-picture thought. Control paradigm systems want the human brain to be an obedient machine, not a mind.’
Their hypothesis is that the world is managed through addiction-based dynamics. Needless to mention, this addiction they refer to is actually of ‘possession, pleasure and power’. What they suggest as remedy is ‘Philosophy - Reawakening our critical faculties Prayer or mediation - Letting our minds roam the big picture…… Once we're awake, we're awake, and we have choices: trance or no trance. Of course, waking up from the control-paradigm trance is not what society encourages.’
They sound akin to T.A.Harris, famous for transactional analysis, who calls for a transcendence from the common central emotional position of ‘I’m not o.k. - You are O.K’ to ‘I am o.k. - You are O.K.’ T.A.Harris in his famous book ‘I am o.k. - You are O.K’ says, " The fourth position I am o.k. - you are o.k., can incorporate not-yet-experienced possibilities which exist in the abstractions of philosophy and religion ..... (this) position is based on thought, faith and the wager of action ."
Neuroscience confirms that the centrality of any script whatsoever does not hold, because its neural basis has no centrality. Stephen S. Hall, in his internet article ‘Journey to the Center of My Mind’ says, (http://www.fmri.org/journey.html)- ‘there is no center of activity, only way stations in a circuit, winking at each other in milliseconds, churning in some mysterious neural communion.’
So, whatever script there is at work in the mind, be it of the ‘ruler’ or ‘ruled’ can certainly be changed. The ‘rulers’definitely won’t change it. Can the ‘ruled’ change it then? The hope given by the Western thinkers is welcome. Their thoughts may be the precursor of a paradigm shift, silently taking place in Western life and living. They may sound new to Western ears, But, are their thoughts anything new to us?
Sage Astavakra in response to king Janaka’s queries pronounced, ‘If one thinks of oneself as free, one is free, and if one thinks of oneself as bound, one is bound.’ Here this saying ‘Thinking makes it so’ is true. Or, we may say, “As you ‘script’, so you reap.”
We find the echo of the same words in Sri Ramakrishna, “One, who says, I cannot be free, verily cannot be free. One with ego of freeness becomes free, one with ego of bondage remains so. One, who exerts will to say, I am free, verily achieves freedom. One who utters, day in and day out, I am bound, becomes so.
Sri Ramakrishna being ‘Uttam Baidya’, warns us that ‘it is useless effort to try to change one’s essential script (he uses the word ‘bhab’) forcefully.’ He actually warns against any possible self-deception and delusion. He calls this ‘vaber ghare churi.’ That, one can fall a prey to another set of narrative or script in forceful effort to escape from one set, doesn’t escape his vigilance. He tells it plain ‘thousands of self-analysis won’t the ego kill!’ What he teaches is that replacing a negative set of script with a positive one is just a first step to freedom. It is a strategy at best. Such replacement is necessary and possible, but one should not be too complacent with the primary achievement. The final climax of completely vanquishing the I-ness is beyond any script or non-script of conscious will.
Sri Ramakrishna says that one who lives a societal life is bound to earn ‘dirt’ because one cannot remain entirely free from the lure of ‘possession, pleasure and power’. To him, freedom or bondage, both are in the mind. Despite the challenge of ‘possession, pleasure and power’, he doesn’t call for renunciation of societal life. He calls for freedom of the mind from the trap of ‘possession, pleasure and power’.
Sri Ramakrishna doesn’t want to re-write a script for others, as other Gurus would fain to do. He wants his disciples or followers (he used to say time and again that he would not want to become any Guru or authority), if they want to be identified with such words, to take up responsibilities on their own shoulders to free themselves. Ages before, Sri Krishna roared, ‘Do not become a coward, O Arjun, because it does not befit you. Shake off this trivial weakness of your heart and get up for the battle, O Arjun. (2.03)’
Sri Ramakrishna wants the same spirit in all men. When he calls for a change of the negative script (I am bound), he is actually calling for greater courageous responsibility towards one’s own self, “call yourself free, and you shall be free.”
Our responsibility in present times is thus two-fold. We have to free ourselves from two sets of control-paradigms. One is man-made, and the other is nature-made. The first battle (the preparatory Birat-yuddha ) against reptilian control managers is basically a psycho-intellectual battle, which is to be won by cultivating the practice of positive thought. It is a journey from amygdale-hippocampus-parietal lobe domination of the reptilian-limbic system, and dis-balanced cortex domination, to a balanced development of all brains towards evolution of frontal lobe, and for this, ‘the will to change’ is greatly necessary to aid nature’s evolutionary script, rather than passive waiting. The second and climactic battle is to be fought in the battle-field of the self’s ‘Kurukshetra’, against the Duryodhana-Duhshashana desire for ‘possession, pleasure and power’.
Sri Ramakrishna teaches us that the two battles are complementary. And most important, they can be won.