Have you ever taken a moment to contemplate the difference between the words innocence and ignorance? Maybe take a few minutes now to meditate on this and feel the change in energy?
Jewish people will observe Yom Kippur soon.
Yom Kippur (Hebrew: יוֹם כִּפּוּר, IPA: [ˈjom kiˈpuʁ], or יום הכיפורים), also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. Its central themes areatonement and repentance. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue service (from Wikipedia)
The reason that I find myself writing about this subject today is because I have been getting into discussions with friends recently about the question: “Can you do wrong, even harm others, without having any awareness you are doing something wrong?” To find the answer to that we only need to go back to World War II, I guess. Much has been written about people claiming “they had no idea what was being done to the Jews” (I have even heard – read – people claim that concentration camps never happened).
A dear friend (Vicki Semo Scharfman) recently put it like this: “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem!” That is a great quote and it says a lot with few words! Another dear friend (Sony Baron) was telling (and teaching) me about Yom Kippur recently.
To me there is an even more ‘insidious issue’ lurking in the jungle’ here. Earlier this summer I wrote a blog titled FORGIVENESS. It sparked off some very interesting discussions on Facebook (I occasionally think it is a shame that what people write on FB does not make it into the comments section on either Facebook or Youtube, or wherever material is officially shared – this means that many people do not get to benefit from the follow up discussion. But that as an ‘aside’!)
I think that we all like to think that on a great cosmic level, things balance out somehow. Evils are righted, forgiveness is obtained, negative energy is transmuted and so forth. But to forgive, or transmute something, the person responsible needs to realise they did something wrong in the first place.
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt terribly hurt by something someone did, yet they seem blissfully unaware of this and not remotely awake to any shift in energy between you? I guess that this is part of the human condition! I can’t interview all people alive today but I guess a large number would recognise what I am talking about.
So how does forgiveness (or repentence, atonement) relate to things we are not aware we have done – or failed to do?
The word innocence refers to a pure and almost childish quality. It implies a “not knowing” but also a “maybe growing into knowing” by getting older or more mature. Children are often called innocent.
The word ignorance implies a “lack of knowing” but in a sense of “should have known. Should have made the effort. Should drop their blinkers” and take some responsibility…
And so I have found myself wondering what happens on a spiritual level when we are ignorant, or when a childish innocence turns into a more regrettable adult ignorance.
Ignorance can incense! It can arouse extreme anger and indignation!
From doing ancestral healing work I know that whatever the ancestors haven’t resolved is passed on to future generations. Energetically speaking there is a debt, a challenge, something that seeks to come alight, something that “floats up for healing” (depending on how judgmental you want to be!)
I also know that as my life progresses, I sometimes find myself thinking of people I knew (or even met briefly) years ago. Because something has just happened to me and and in retrograde I wish to send them understanding and empathy: NOW I know why you said this, or acted that way twenty years ago…
(An example of this is a man I was thinking of earlier today. I do not know his name or where he is today. Over 20 years ago he told me that he had spent his whole live caring for children and stepchildren and felt he had lost out big time on ‘freedom and space for his own interests’. The day I met him he had just heard that his son was expecting his first baby and expecting ‘granddad’ to provide childcare to he and his wife could continue to work. This man said he loved children dearly but he had had enough of the day-to-day care and grind, after DECADES of it…. He actually burst into tears as he said it. At that time I did NOT have children and it seemed a little….. exaggerated? Aren’t kids great? Is this what we want to hear when we tell Granddad the happy tidings?! However, today, writing as someone who has done a lot single parenting over 15 years, I understand EXACTLY what this man was saying. And today the solution seems pretty obvious: tell your son you are thrilled become a granddad and of course you will be there for them in emergencies, but you cannot provide the day-to-day childcare because you have some dreams to live yourself…. Tough love….)
So today, outside time, I sent a message to this man (a T Mail – a telepathic message!) “I understand completely now. I hope you did indeed take time and space for yourself!” Does it make a difference? \Is he even alive today? I can’t say for sure. But I hope that some loving encouragement somehow reached him outside space and time.
So how can we avoid ignorance? Can we avoid ignorance?
For me it all goes back to “shadow work” (as it is called in both shamanism and psychology). Don’t just monitor your own thoughts and actions – but also monitor what drives you mad in other people. Those things are likely to be pointers to things, aspects, you hide from yourself. Reclaim them and own them!
If you are really and truly very brave: ask others how you drive them mad! And don’t punish them for the priceless information they produce!
(If you are married you probably get the “goods” free of charge, without even trying…. )
As I said at the beginning: Yom Kippur is soon, the Day of Atonement. If others forgive us – are we free of the need to atone and repent? I would say not. I think that in hurting others, we hurt ourselves at the same time. And even if we receive forgiveness for every thoughtless or unkind (or even malicious) deed – we are not automatically in harmony with ourselves. Not deep down. I am not Jewish but I think having a Day of Atonement is a good practice. Having a designated, and dedicated!, day, also means that many people are doing this tough internal work all at the same time. And that creates a large cloud of energy shifting, of doors opening and healing possibilities occurring. Personally, inter-personally and generationally (back to the ancestral healing work I mentioned earlier).
And what about innocence then: innocence implied a ‘lack of guilt’. Found “not guilty”. The word is often used too in the context of crimes or war zones: innocent people lost their lives.
“Innocent until proven guilty by a Court of Law”…. but ” there is no smoke without fire” are everyday idioms that touch upon this issue.
As a young teenager cycling home from school I was once attacked by two girls who truly believed I had racially abused them the week before (I had not but I discovered I had a lookalike in the area). They put a knife on my wrist and said they cut my wrist unless I apologised. At that point a man happened to be passing on the cycling path and he intervened – allowing me to escape from the situation.
Was I innocent? Yes, I had definitely not shouted racial abuse at these girls the week before.
Was I ignorant? Yes, because at age I lived in a predominantly white city in The Netherlands where my understanding of racism was lacking and far from what (I hope!) it is today.
And though I pray my own teenage sons will never be held at knife point (I shudder to think of it!) I admit that these teenage girls too have stayed on my mind over the years. They will be middle aged women today, like me. What they did was undoubtedly wrong, but today I realise that being black in a predominantly white city and culture must have been extremely challenging for these teenage girls. I think they truly believed they had captured their tormentor. So today I would like to send them a T mail saying that I understand much better now why they acted the way they did. Today I do shadow work. I root around in the fertile soil that “everything I don’t like about myself” (rich soil indeed and there is plenty of it!) This is not the same as saying teenagers can pull knives on the people that annoy them!!
So my suggestion is that most people could benefit from a Day of Atonement. If all of us do it together – maybe we can shift some of our ‘cultural shadow’ (i.e. the things that all of us together choose to stay ignorant about)? And it would be very interesting to observe such shifts “with our eyes closed” – in the invisible world, the other world, the spirit world.
I am dedicating this blog to my dear friends Sony Baron and Vicki Semo Scharfman – who both got me thinking about this issue very seriously. Thank you ladies!
The title of the painting above is THE WEIGHING OF THE HEART CEREMONY (but my understanding is that it is the Jackal God Anubis weighing the heart, not Osiris!)
From wikipedia http://www.egyptian-scarabs.co.uk/weighing_of_the_heart.htm:
Weighing of the Heart
|Scarab Beetles in Ancient EgyptThe Heart Scarab
The Weighing of the Heart Ceremony
The ancient Egyptians believed that, when they died, they would be judged on their behaviour during their lifetime before they could be granted a place in the Afterlife. This judgement ceremony was called “Weighing of the Heart” and was recorded in Chapter 125 of the funerar text known as the “Book of the Dead“.
The ceremony was believed to have taken place before Osiris, the chief god of the dead and Afterlife, and a tribunal of 43 dieties. Standing before the tribunal the deceased was asked to name each of the divine judges and swear that he or she had not committed any offences, ranging from raising the voice to stealing. This was the “negative confession“. If found innocent, the deceased was declared “true of voice” and allowed to proceed into the Afterlife.
The proceedings were recorded by Thoth, the scribe of the gods, and the deity of wisdom. Thoth was often dipicted as a human with an ibis head, writing on a scroll of papyrus. His other animal form, the baboon, was often depicted sitting on the pivot of the scales of justice.
The symbolic ritual that accompanied this ritual was the weighing of the heart of the deceased on a pair of enormous scales. It was weighed against the principle of truth and justice ( known as maat ) represented by a feather, the symbol of the goddess of truth, order and justice, Maat. If the heart balanced against the feather then the deceased would be granted a place in the Fields of Hetep and Iaru. If it was heavy with the weight of wrongdoings, the balance would sink and the heart would be grabbed and devoured by a terrifying beast that sat ready and waiting by the scales. This beast was Ammit, “the gobbler“, a composite animal with the head of a crocodile, the front legs and body of lion or leopard, and the back legs of a hippopotamus.
The ancient Egyptians considered the heart to be the centre of thought, memory and emotion. It was thus associated with interlect and personality and was considered the most important organ in the body. It was deemed to be essential for rebirth into the Afterlife. Unlike the other internal organs, it was never removed and embalmed separately, because its presence in the body was crucial.
If the deceased was found to have done wrong and the heart weighed down the scales, he or she was not though to enter a place of tourment like hell, but to cease to exist at all. This idea would have terrified the ancient Egyptians. However, for those who could afford to include Chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead in their tombs, it was almost guaranteed that they would pass successfully into the Afterlife. This is because the Egyptians believed in the magical qualities of the actual writings and illustrations in funerary texts. By depicting the heart balancing in the scales against the feather of Maat they ensured that would be the favourable outcome. The entire ceremony was, after all, symbolic.
Following the Weighing of the Heart, the organ was returned to its owner. To make quite sure that this did happen, Chapters 26-29 of the Book of the Dead were spells to ensure that the heart was returned and this it could never be removed again.