words by Sandra Tonkinson
The number of human cells in the body varies depending on the source but the general consensus is that we have about 10x more bacterial than human cells. Ten times. On top of that some human genes are bacterial in origin. How much bacteria is that? Enough to fill a half-gallon jug.1
Bacteria perform a wide range of essential processes in the human body, including the production of vitamins. Our gut flora is now understood to be much more important to our well-being than previously thought. It is now suspected that some of what has been termed a brain disease may indeed be a gut disease. Since 2007, when the Human Microbiome Project was announced to explore the micro-organisms that co-exist with the human body, scientific research has been yielding very interesting findings.
If you transfer the microbiota from one animal to another, you can transfer the behaviour.
Mark Lyte 2
Mark Lyte started researching the microbe and brain connection 30 years ago and was a pioneer in the field of Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). He has found that bacteria can induce stress as well as respond to stress. He has also found that behaviour is altered in the presence or absence of certain bacterium, including more anxiety with pathology-causing ones. Other research is turning up links between the presence of bacteria and depressive moods. In one study, scientists found that “psychological stress causes almost immediate changes to the gut bacterial population” and that the stressor increased circulating levels of IL-6, which is associated with depression.3
With millions of unique bacteria compared to 23,000 human genes, it begs the question of who are we really, and what does human mean. When we identify ourselves as melancholy or risk-takers, is it who we are or is it our bacteria talking?
There’s a part of every living thing that wants to become itself, the tadpole into the frog, the chrysalis into the butterfly, a damaged human being into a whole one. That is spirituality.
So we go back to the nature vs nurture paradigm. Can a person be a risk taker because of his upbringing? Can a person be shy when public speaking because of some past events? Yes. Who we are has been also shown to be influenced by what our grandparents experienced, through epigenetic changes. How we got to this very moment as the Self we identity with is not linear nor simple. There is also a difference between who we believe we are on the conscious level and who we really believe we are in the deeper folds of the subconscious.
It is also important to distinguish Essence, or spirit, from “soul.” The fundamental ground of our Being is Essence or Spirit, but it takes a dynamic form we call “the soul.” Our personality is a particular aspect of our soul. Our soul is “made of” Essence or Spirit. If Spirit were water, soul would be a particular lake or river, and personality would be waves on its surface – or frozen chunks of ice in the river.
Don Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram
For most people, the Self is the personality but the personality is only a framework through which to move beyond ego, fear, and shame, according to the Enneagram. As we work on ourselves, recognizing our Basic Fears and our patterns of behaviour, the personality becomes more transparent and we move closer to the Essence of who we are, rather than defaulting to some automatic programming of behaviour. And who are we?
Are we the sum of our experiences in this time? In all our lives? There are different theories about past lives – that we lived them as different people in different lifetimes, that we are living all of them at once, that there is a collective of possibilities, and “past lives” are like marbles that each of us can retrieve and return from the pool as experiences that benefit our development.
We are also not isolated creations; we carry the memories and therefore all that implies from our ancestral lineage. We can take on the “brokenness” of what happened generations before our time. Or, through fusional relationships, we can unhinge from our own identity and live through, even if temporarily, those who imprint strongly on us.
And what about parallel universes? Multiverses that exist and affect ours and other universes? The theory is that quantum particles, which exist in two states, do not collapse the possibility of one over the other but actually do exist in both states simultaneously, in different universes. This is no longer purely science fiction as research through mathematical modeling has shown that this could be true.
In the well-known “many worlds interpretation” each universe branches into a bunch of new universes each time a quantum measurement is made. All possibilities are therefore realized – in some universes the dinosaur-killing asteroid missed earth. In others, Australia was colonized by the Portuguese.
Professor Howard Wiseman
As we diverge from the current materialistic basis of our existence, we discover more to be revealed, much of which the majority of people would believe is too esoteric, even if some is backed by science. Yes, this computer screen is not solid and space is not empty. The world is once again returning from the extreme of reductionist thinking to hopefully a more holistic one. Some of this knowledge is as mind-blowing as learning that the sun does not revolve around the earth when that came to light. What may previously have been esoteric, such as the chakras, acupuncture points, the aura or the different energy bodies, has now become more mainstream. The paradigm of “what can’t be seen or measured does not exist” is fast shifting. Subjective experiential knowledge, which leads to direct knowledge, can come back into play.
Dr Robert J Gilbert of The Vesica Institute for Holistic Studies has said that “we live in an ‘ocean’ of spiritual beings” and because most people do not have developed spiritual perception and discernment, they are not aware of their presence. Most people are affected without any knowledge as these non-physical beings connect and move through energy fields. Not all contact is as beneficial as we believe or in the ways we believe they are. It is difficult to distinguish between thoughts and feelings and even actions that are what Dr Gilbert termed as “self-generated” versus externally-induced.
We not only attract specific types of people through resonance with our thoughts and feelings, but also different types of spiritual beings. Dr Gilbert speaks of three types of higher spiritual beings as according to Rosicrucian teaching – Michaelic or Christic Beings who are balanced between Spirit and Matter and two types of unbalanced beings – Luciferic Beings (“Light Bearer”) and Ahrimanic Beings, which are beings of unbalanced spirituality and unbalanced materialism, respectively.
Being more advanced and more powerful than human beings does not mean that these higher beings desire or are able to guide humanity’s development in a balanced way. Their teachings are true and untrue. But what is true and what is not?
Many seekers can easily inflate their spiritual ego and perhaps believe in spiritual bypass – advancing without learning and doing the work. Some anaesthetize themselves with ungrounded spiritual practices as a form of escapism from life’s difficulties. There are those who believe they are spiritually superior because of psychic gifts but are spiritually less developed because they lack compassion or believe they are “there.” There are those who use “black magic” to manipulate others to benefit themselves. Many people are also seduced by those who claim to be spiritual teachers whom they unfairly place on pedestals and to whom they defer their authority and sovereignty.
The two extremes – disconnecting from the Earth and seeing materiality as the only reality – are dangerous distortions and can further magnetize people into the extremes, making the true understanding of higher worlds more elusive. In the bigger picture, all beings are necessary for the evolution of consciousness. It is through the understanding of their existence and teachings and a person’s sincere and diligent practice that she/he may learn to let go of energetic patterns that keep them in resonance with unbalanced beings. As we heal and integrate these wounded aspects of ourselves, we can open up our organs of spiritual perception and begin to see the water we are swimming in as spiritual beings.
The knowledge of non-human beings is not new. Even today, many regions and countries still honour and acknowledge their presence. In Iceland, the hidden people – elves and dwarves – are called huldufólk, and like in Ireland, permission is first gained to work on the land known to be occupied by these elemental beings. Shamans travel to the Lower and Upper Worlds and work with Spirit Guides and animal totems. There are also silicon-based beings, found within the mineral kingdom. Science has shown that not all lifeforms are carbon-based.
Many people communicate with non-human beings, through channeling or other means. Human filters can cause distortions in the messages received. Someone’s emotional state, perspective, etc can affect their clarity, but it is not only the human filter that can cause concern. Entities can attach and affect people without their knowledge. What are these entities? It depends on who you speak with. Some people would lump all non-physical beings as entities. Some believe entities can be “tied” to a practitioner to do their bidding through (black) magic. Some would say they are beings with ill intent or perhaps an unknown or hidden agenda. Some would include extraterrestrial beings, while others believe ETs operate through implants or that they need no device nor require any energy grids to travel onto our earth plane. Thought forms can also be considered an entity.
In the sense that an entity can have an unknown influence, higher spiritual beings can also be counted as entities.
The questions of identity and purpose are primal and have been discussed, debated, researched, waxed poetic, and also alas used as weapons for violence and bigotry. The takeaway is that we are not as solid as we believe we are, both physically and in our understanding of Self, and reality is not only material but extends far beyond what our five sensory organs can perceive. Perhaps this is enough for more and more of us to take pause, in the moment we are angry, in the moment we are enthusiastically convincing another of our point of view, in the moment we feel others are the culprit for all the ills in our lives, and pierce through the veil. See through our projections.
What we have decided is the truth may need to be re-looked at. Because as Byron Katie asks, “can you be absolutely sure that this is true?” Dialogue is important and knowing that there is more to the picture helps. We do not have it all figured it out and it is okay to be not okay. Or maybe we have it all wrong. And it is all perfect. As Dr Ibrahim Karim, founder of Biogeometry, has said, “Judgment cracks the steps to our evolution.” That includes judging ourselves. Discovering who we are on this side of the veil is part of the journey. The journey matters. The fun is in the investigation. Be your own best PI, and don’t be surprised by what you may unearth.
1 Humans Carry More Bacterial Cells that Human Ones by Melinda Wenner on Scientific America
2 Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood? by Peter Andrey Smith for NY Times
3 Mood, Gut Bacteria, and the Immune System by Robert J Hedaya MD for Psychology Today
Cover photo for this article was taken at the Pérez Art Museum Miami. Untitled by Marlo Paschuel. Part of the collection of PAMM, this chromogenic print is the leaning sculpture; of a headshot of the 1970s actress Hayley Mills. “The upper half of her face is ripped away, eliciting a visceral effect while recalling the cliché of the melodramatically torn portrait. The work resonates with important concepts in feminist theory revolving around the issue of the male gaze. In this body of thought, the imbalance of power in society between men and women is evidenced by the predominance of images in which the viewer’s perspective is assumed to be that of a heterosexual male. By removing the figure’s eyes, Pascual denies the return gaze, which in certain feminist discourse serves to validate and enable the male observer’s dominance over the female subject that he is scrutinizing.”