Human Nature

Twelve years ago, coming home from the movies one night I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life – I ran over a woman riding a motor scooter. In the dark street, I simply didn’t see her.

I had caught her on the shoulder and she was pinned beneath my car, helpless. By the time the ambulance arrived, she had passed out and I thought she was dead. After she’d been extricated by the ambulance crew and taken away, the police held me hostage until they heard from the hospital whether she was alive or dead. I trembled uncontrollably for several hours, knowing now what it was like to have taken someone’s life, and my own life was changed forever by that knowing.

Thank goodness she lived, but for the year it took for lawyers and insurance agents to negotiate our case, I was allowed no information: neither to know her name nor what hospital she was in nor the status of her injuries. I could not even send her a Get Well card because legally we were now enemies, and the issue now was about how much money she could get from me! I argued for compassion and common sense, but nobody would budge on the ‘rules’ until the ‘case was settled.’

It was hell.

I had made a serious error and now was in helpless terror with no way of resolving my error. Interesting that terror and error are almost the same word, don’t you think?

If an error is not used for learning, I found out, it becomes impotent terror.

Unable to reach out to her was an insult to both of us, but that was the law, a law that assumes we cannot trust one another and therefore must be protected from each other. I still want to scream at the inhumanity of it all. We two women had an accident and badly needed to help each other through a hard time, but the system would not allow it.

All these years later, as our society goes seriously off the rails, I’m asking how we ever collectively got to such a pass? Is it just human nature to behave with small-minded fear of one another, or have we been provoked to respond that way, and if so, when in our history did that attitude get set?

I’ve been wondering, lately, about our culture’s competitive, God-fearing mindset and where it came from? Why have we allowed ourselves to be controlled into believing we were all out to get one another?

So I keep looking for the ancient sources of early belief systems – like the Abrahamic tradition, for example, before it became three distinct ‘religions’ – and asking what came before in the deserts of Judaea?

There I find the Gnostics, a small early-Christian sect that worshipped the Mysteries through the sacred earth herself - Gaia-Sophia. When they had to flee for their lives, routed by other more warlike sects, they apparently hid their scriptures for safe-keeping in a cave in the Nag Hammadi hills. There the texts lay unknown for over 2000 years until quite recently, when they were discovered in crumbling jars by two shepherds wandering the hillside with their sheep.

Alas, many pages were used as kindling before the finds were recognized as important – or worth money!

After almost fifty years of frantic fights between Biblical scholars in the ‘civilized’ world about who owned these codices and who had a right to see them, they were finally apportioned out and carefully reproduced and translated, fragment by fragment, making their way gradually into texts the rest of us could read and ponder over.

The essence of Gnostic teaching is that the Mysteries are available to all human beings through direct intuition, as we all have the Divine endowment of knowing, ourselves, ‘what the Gods know.’ The earth itself and everything upon it is sacred, and Divine intelligence is inherent in all beings. It says we must have full confidence in this inborn inheritance and therefore must use ourselves well for the good of all.

What a breath of fresh air!

This is a far cry from teachings that begin with wrathful, jealous Gods who have the power to judge and punish, demand obedience with violence and define sin as just about everything that comes naturally. As sinners, we then require redemption and salvation from Above, especially from the ultimate sin - being born of a woman!

Eve’s sin.

Of course institutions based upon such a negative view of the human soul will then be adversarial. How could they be otherwise? Why would we trust anyone as sinful as ourselves?

It’s time to take stock, now. We can see where that has led, century by century, and it is more than time to change - before the Earth Herself forces the issue for us!

So, back to my story.

After a year of waiting for my ‘case’ to be settled, I was permitted to write a letter to her through her lawyer, introducing myself as the person who ran over her and expressing my wish to make peaceful contact. Her positive response, through him, came immediately.

What an extraordinary afternoon we spent together! She arrived with flowers in her arms, and we sat in my garden exchanging stories and holding hands: we talked about what happened that night to each of us; her injuries and hospital stays; what this hard year had been like for both of us, and the fact that even on that fateful night, she did not blame me.

Bless her.

We got giddy, and made crazy jokes with lines like,

“We can’t keep bumping into each other like this…” or “I like you a lot - I’m SO glad I didn’t kill you!” We laughed and we cried, and hugged each other, unable to let go. And agreed that the system that had kept us apart for a whole year had to be changed.

As far as I know, it has not.

I learned a lot in that year, and so much is relevant these days as we experience the inevitable train wreck of this presidency. I wonder about our passive consent, over the years, to legal and religious systems that tell us that we are not to trust each other; that our natural instincts are dangerous; that the idea of intuitive intelligence based upon the laws of nature is woo-woo.

If so, it’s time to stop assuming that we must consent to ideas we do not believe in, and to actively ask some pretty obvious questions:

Do we humans make mistakes?

Of course we do.

Can we learn from our mistakes?

We can and had better do so.

Are we capable of knowing and loving ourselves and each other so well that we all benefit?

You’d better believe it!

Why have we forgotten the obvious truth of this for such a long time?

Good question…