Need a Way Back to Sanity?
Transcending today’s lunacy.
Published: June 7, 2012
by Steve Taylor
How to live together peacefully.
Imagine if you were an alien who had been sent to the Earth to live with human beings, to observe their behavior and write a study about them - a bit like an anthropologist who goes to the forest to study a remote tribe. What would the alien anthropologist make of the human race? What conclusions would it come to?
It would probably be puzzled by the fact that most human beings are filled with a restlessness which makes us feel uneasy when we’re not occupied, and makes it impossible for us just to “be.” It would be puzzled that we spend so much time oppressed by anxieties, worries and other negative emotions, and by our drive to accumulate more and more wealth, status and success, even though these don’t bring any contentment. And looking back over human history, the alien anthropologist would be amazed at the endless catalog of warfare and conflict, together with the incredible inequality and oppression of most human societies.
The alien would probably conclude that there is something wrong with human beings, even that we suffer from a kind of psychological disorder. In my book Back to Sanity, I suggest that this really is the case. In the book, I call this disorder “humania,” and explain how it leads to the madness of materialism, status-seeking and distraction, as well as to other insane types of behavior such as dogmatic religion, warfare and environmental destruction.
However, the main aim of my book is to show how humania can be healed. From time to time, we all have experiences of what I call “harmony of being,” when restlessness and discontent fade away, and we’re filled with a sense of ease and well-being. We become free of pressure to keep busy and the need for stimulation, resting at ease within ourselves. These moments usually occur when we’re quiet and relaxed and there’s stillness around us – for example, walking through the countryside, working quietly with our hands, listening to or playing music, or after meditation, yoga or sex. The chattering of our minds fades away and we feel a natural flow of connection between ourselves and our surroundings or other people. In these moments, we become truly sane.
But it’s also possible for us to become permanently sane. In fact, this is the basic aim of all spiritual traditions, and all spiritual practices: to transcend discord and attain a state of inner harmony. In Back to Sanity, I propose an eight-stage path of self-development which will enable us to do this, including “Transcending negative thought patterns,” “Healing the mind through quietness and stillness” as well as traditional practices such as service and meditation.
Once we transcend humania, life ceases to be painful and dissatisfying, and becomes a glorious adventure, full of joy and wonder. And if a large enough number of human beings could transcend the condition, the world would be a different place. Ultimately, we can only transcend conflict in the world by healing it in our own being. We can only create peace in the world by creating peace in ourselves.
Steve Taylor is an author and teacher whose main interests are spirituality and psychology.