Anyone who reads me know that a couple years ago, I lived in a bison pasture with some semi-wild bison. They've also heard about the bull I called “Number 8” because of the tag he wore. I observed him over time and learned so much about masculinity by doing so that I wrote an essay called, “Number 8 and What It Means to Be a Man.” He remains an inspiration to me. Recently harvested by the rancher, I keep his ear tag on my home altar. His heart will be at the bottom of our Sun Dance tree this July.
Without rehashing too much, I saw that Number 8 was powerful in a beautifully understated way. Although he was physically dominant, he was more concerned with facilitating others’ instinctual capabilities than in heavy-hoofed governance. His job was not to intimidate (although he indeed intimidated me from time to time). Instead, his primary function appeared to be to maintain a situation where, for instance, the head-mother cow of the herd could do her job within the parameters of her instinct. It was to allow the calves to do what calves do – namely eat, play, and poop. It was to preserve the bloodline of the herd through appropriate testing of potential suitors during mating season. And it was to keep trespassing humans in line as they walked through the pasture.
After all, you never know what they’re going to do.
Humans and non-humans define and use power similarly in many ways, and far differently in others. I've observed that in general, real power exists without anything standing in contrast to it. It stands on its own; innate, elemental, or in the case of the bison, instinctual. It has no need of weakness around it to make it look powerful. It just is. Instead, it considers weakness anywhere as unfortunate at least, and potentially dangerous to the Whole at worst.
Because it isn’t dependent upon anything outside itself and because it's unconcerned with the actions of others for its own sake, it's self-contained. Real power is a tide that raises all ships that float upon her waters. It’s healthy, an inspiration, a virtue, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. In this way, true power might be generally classified as feminine in nature. Not that the masculine can’t embody it, certainly not, but as it’s open and giving and doesn’t care who else has it (because of it’s elementary nature), it may appear more feminine than masculine. This may be a hard pill to swallow, but consider it.
False power is the opposite. Not only does it depend upon what others around it are doing, it wants everyone to understand how powerful it is. It flaunts power because its egoic. It depends on fear because without that, those over whom it lords may become empowered and knock the Powerful One off his perch.
The fear upon which this power depends may come from either conscious or unconscious individuals. The fear of the Conscious stems from their compassion for those over whom the powerful rules. Seeing their own fear as egoic – which nearly all fear is – they generally give it away, process it. They do what they can to change the effects of both irresponsible power and attendant fear from less-helpful, to more so. Then they let the rest go. They're not necessarily pacifists - more on that later - but they react differently and play by another set of rules. When it comes to an unconscious world, they can look terribly ineffective. In fact, many die at the hands of other humans, although they're almost universally respected and admired. This is Ghandi. This is Jesus.
The fear that may be generated among the Unconscious by one who wields false power has a much different effect. Since they're unconscious and buy into the illusion, the fear that arises is of self-preservation. It’s fully egoic, with all that entails. This is the fear that gives rise to suicide bombers and to the state-sponsored bombing of civilians. This is the fear that builds armaments and fences and that destroys the capability of non-human life to simply survive. This fear divides into “us” and “them.” The only relief the fearful Unconscious obtain is temporary; it comes from either subjecting others or by knocking off the one above them. This is the continual round of war that we’re experiencing. The end of this road is no less than the end of humanity as we know it.
False power can never have enough because on some level it understands that the King of the Hill is a target. No matter how powerful it gets, it’s always in danger now or in the future. Because it feels this way, almost any act can be justified as self-preservation. The murdering of family members. The suppression of freedom through monitoring. The cutting off of food or water supplies to whole populations. These are all completely acceptable to an entity that equates power with self-preservation. It lives in fear; fear of power in others. Ultimately it feeds upon itself to its own destruction. Unlike the bison herd and Number 8, it wants mediocrity. It needs weakness. Ayn Rand spoke to this in her masterpiece, “Atlas Shrugged.”
Because it needs power to survive, the Unconscious Powerful will either hoard power or the implements of it. A great example of this are the governments of the world, particularly the United States. For instance, the US continues to increase armaments substantially, while nuclear waste “temporarily” stored in a tunnel in Washington for decades collapses upon itself, endangering the deadly contents and the surrounding human and non-human populace.
But hey, look at these cool bombers! And what about the other side of the aisle? And what’s on TV? Hey, how about a doughnut? Wow, look at the economy! Distraction is a substantial tool of the Modern Wielder of Illusory Power because it insulates leadership from being a significant concern of those it seeks to suppress. We can only think about so much.
There’s no doubt that we live in a world where false or egoic power dominates. In the Q'ero way of seeing, this is a “snake level,” eye-for-an-eye, “survival of the fittest,” type of power. It has nothing to do with unity – it thrives on division. It’s all about war, no matter the narrative. What a mess.
So, how do we deal with unconscious power in a conscious way?
First off, as is the case with the observation of anything egoic, we accept the reality of the situation. “This is what’s going on,” we say. We don’t deny it. Instead, we feel into it. At this step, we don’t try to paint it in any kind of light– positive or negative – because this is also judgmental ego. At this point we don’t fight it. For now, we just see it. This is hard to grasp and harder to do, but it’s critical to the process of stepping into our own power.
Secondly, we watch what arises within us as we accept the reality. Is it fear? Anger? A sense of righteous indignation? Whatever it is, we then return to step number 1; we see that. We track the genesis of the emotion into whatever personal wounds and insecurities it may be hiding. If the emotion stems from compassion – a concern for the well-being of others, for instance – we prune away the fear/anger component that may want to sneak in and extend our compassion to the Ruler. We complete Steps 1 and 2 as long as necessary, and return to them throughout the process.
Third, we assess, readdress and stand in our own power. This is where an Unconscious Ruler can bring about the birth of consciousness in its subjects like manure fertilizes a flower bed. We look outside the fear and the paradigm within which the Unconscious Ruler governs to the larger reality – because there’s always a larger reality when we feel suppressed (Victor Frankl, "Man's Search for Meaning"). We use the spiritual tools we have to ground ourselves. We realize that, no matter what else happens, we are governed primarily by the Universe, by the Law of Karma, by Love. We know that Life wins, and we choose Life.
A word about Anger as a motivator for action. Anger is okay for people who are conscious all the time; it’s too sticky an emotion for the rest of us to allow within us for long. It’s the second chakra in contrast to the sixth, a fun-house mirror in contrast to one we might find in a bathroom. When anger arises in me I can always, 100% of the time, track it to some basic, illusion-based fear of egoic survival. That said, I do believe it’s possible to be conscious and angry. But that’s a slippery slope with a lot of judgement, fear and desire for my own version of unconscious power. So, I choose to stay away from it and, from what I see, so should everyone else. The vast majority of the time, anger is for amateurs.
Once we are empowered and fearless, we're ready for step four. This is the step where we take action. Unfortunately, most political protests we see are filled with people who have skipped the first three steps. The issue with this is that we end up with the same problem either way. If they are successful, we have new egoic rulers. Fantastic. If they’re not successful, we have the same ruler and angrier, more fearful people. This is where fascism lives. Note that fascism historically arises from both the Right (ISIS, the Inquisition) and the Left (many revolutions throughout the globe, the occupiers of Evergreen College last year). Conscious activism is not easy, but it’s the only way to have a conscious outcome. It’s a slower process; think naturopathic remedies rather than a western medicine pill. But the result is the only healthful way to go.
Let me conclude by saying that we are indeed in a situation where people have assumed control over us. They're exceedingly powerful because we’ve bought into the Stories of State and Religion to an unhealthy degree. Doing so, we’ve given away our personal power and assigned responsibility for our peace and spirituality to others. Those who use power in ways that are disagreeable to the soul – and all of us are embodied souls – have taken our cowed inaction as permission to increase their own power.
If you dispute this, consider that most people the world over want peace. Governments and gun runners are the main profiteers from war. Everyone else suffers. We’ve been conditioned to consider ourselves as belonging to one nation rather than the Universe, to One Nation Over God, as it were. Hence, many of us have gone along with this to the detriment of our Unconscious Rulers, as well as ourselves.
The time has come to see this trend and reverse it. The time has fully come to look within and distance ourselves from the old story lines – the ones that put us at odds with someone born in another country simply because the government tells us that those people are "scary," feeding into fear, the great tool of those who wield unconscious authority. And the time has come to stand in our own soulful truth, connected to the Great I Am who is the karmic Ruler of All Rulers, and to see our Connection to All Life.
This is true power.