What humanity came up with and held onto during its first three million years was a social organization that worked well for people. It didn’t work well for products, for motorboats and can openers and operettas. It didn’t work well for the greedy, the ruthless, and the power hungry. That’s what we have, a social organization that works beautifully for products—which just keep getting better and better every year—but very poorly for people, except for the greedy, the ruthless, and the power hungry. Our ancestors lived in societies that every anthropologist agrees were nonhierarchical and markedly egalitarian. They weren’t structured so that a few at the top lived lives of luxury, a few more lived in the middle in poverty, just struggling to survive. They weren’t riddled with crime, depression, madness, suicide, and addiction. And when we came along with invitations to join our glorious civilization they fought to the death to hold on to the life they had.
— Daniel Quinn, from If They Give You Lined Paper, Write Sideways
You know the parable of the frog: If you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out right away to escape the danger. But if you put a frog in a pot that is filled with water that is cool and pleasant, and gradually heat it until it starts boiling, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late.
This is a pretty good illustration of how our culture, through slow but steady changes away from ancient communities that worked for humans for millions of years, now finds itself in acute distress—on the verge of snuffing out human life.
Undertaking the cleansing lifestyle is a little like reversing this process. As the accumulated waste with its accumulated toxins and bi-products leave the body, the proverbial boiling water gets turned down. What a relief to escape the jaws of death! However, the cooled water is a gateway to another stage: although the water temperature is no longer a threat, you look around and realize that you’re still in a pot!
The roots of our suffering are in this pot—in the civilization in which we find ourselves. The towering, cylindrical walls rise up around us and separate us from our home in the natural world. The pot isolates us from the interconnectedness of the greater living world, which our pre-technocratic ancestors simply took for granted. The best I can determine is that this isolation is the cause of all modern psychopathology. As long as we are cut off from our interdependent relationship with the living world, we are like a plant cut from its roots—roots that would otherwise generate and regenerate us. Cut off, we become madmen, consumed with ourselves, our fears and shortcomings, our need to possess and protect ourselves against this world in which we’re stuck.
If you have escaped the boiling water by successfully cleansing your cells and tissues, you’re sensitized now to the myriad other injustices to the human organism that most people just accept as normal life. People, like frogs, don’t belong in pots. They are a part of the whole natural world. This is the reality beyond the immediate peril of the murderous water temperature. Frogs and people belong in nature doing what frogs and people do best—leaping across stones and streams, creating life-generating communities, and bathing in sunlight at the break of day.
At this stage, seekers may look for respite in spiritual or philosophical systems, while isolating themselves further, suffering in silence and antisocial behavior because the world doesn’t make sense to them. Or they may just ignore the internal unrest and tell themselves that this better place they have reached is the best one can expect from life—that it’s the end of the road, a dead end they should accept. Only when it dawns on them that they are in a place they don’t belong will they initiate the next cycle of growth and liberation.
The next step toward more gratifying life experience is to leap out of the pot, regardless of the water temperature. The more we respond to things that disturb us, instead of writing them off as normal, the more we discover that we can make liberating changes.
The wonderful thing about life and growth is that there is no endpoint. It’s nice to stop boiling, but even tepid water can’t make the pot our home. It’s a tomb. Frog or man, being buried alive in a pot is far worse than suffering a short, painful death.
The beauty is that with every cycle of growth another one awaits, as illustrated in the upward spiral of the double helix—the very promise of human life, past, present and future! Life-generating challenges satisfy and vitalize the mind, body, and soul. (Hell is stagnation and decay, the opposite of alchemy.)
If we think of heaven as an adventure of greater vistas, greater knowledge and creativity, and the opening of gateway after gateway, we can begin to create heaven on earth.
Time to jump the pot, turn it upside down, and play drums froggy-style!