I’m toying with the idea that what we call humanity is in fact a number of different species that share the same type of body. In many ways I find it makes more sense to think like this. We do not all share a common humanity. What we think of as human - the ability to reflect on and to know ourselves, to understand others disinterestedly and to empathise/sympathise – is by no means a universal or even necessarily latent characteristic of people.
With some people, you feel they do have this ability, but it is latent, or got messed up somewhere along the way, and you want to help them get there. With others, you can feel no, they are happy in their own way being e.g. materialistic, that is what they believe in, the world makes sense to them in those terms, they are not particularly messed up, they just are what they are. They are a different species, and it wouldn’t be fair to judge them negatively for being what they are. It’s like dwarves and elves and orcs. Personally, I find this can help me understand some people better if I'm not having to assume they are in some fundamental sense like me. No, we really are different species, like me and horses. And there's nothing wrong with being a horse.
In Buddhism you find the concept of the 6 realms of existence, which are inhabited by different types of being. These realms both exist objectively on other planes to our own, as well as describing the psychological realm to which different species of people belong. What characterises the truly human being is the ability to experience and understand all of the realms and not to be over-identified with any of them.
So you get gods, people say with loads of trines in their charts, who are talented and beautiful, life goes easily for them, but there is little discomfort, at least not enough to get them to reflect on themselves, to see that happiness and ease is not a given. So that when things do go wrong for these people, they really do suffer, because they are not used to it.
And you get jealous gods, those who want to seize from outside of themselves what they think will make them happy, and are ruthlessly competitive and self-centred in the process.The worlds of business and politics are full of this species. A Mars-Neptune square might describe this type – driven and competitive (Mars), but deluded (Neptune) into thinking that happiness lies purely outside of themselves. The USA, the most successfully competitive country of all, has a Mars-Neptune square, as well as a Sun-Saturn square, which has a similar kind of message.
Then there is the animal realm, characterised by the satisfaction of natural desires such as food, sex and sleep. Satisfying these desires can be very pleasurable, and there is nothing wrong with that, and some species of people are happy to live like this.
The hungry ghost realm is the passive reflex of the jealous god realm. Like the jealous gods, these people feel empty inside, but they are Pisces about it: they try to satisfy themselves by sucking energy and attention from other people, or from drugs and alcohol. It is a sad realm.
Then there is the equally sad realm of the hell beings, the opposite of the god realm. Instead of the unalloyed bliss of the gods, they experience unalloyed suffering and madness and despair. It is like a chart full of squares and oppositions and no easy aspects.
What all these realms have in common is that the beings in them are completely identified with their psychological states and they do not see that existence contains other possibilities. Human consciousness is present when, though you may have a tendency towards a particular realm, you see it is not the be-all-and-end-all, that you can change realms. I don’t think you can predict this from a chart, because self-awareness is an act of volition that is always possible (albeit very hard if the suffering or pleasure is very intense). The chart does not tell us the choices people are going to make. But perhaps we could say that a chart with a good balance of hard and soft aspects gives us a breadth of experience that lays a good foundation for reflective awareness.
So these 6 realms are one particular system, quite a good one in many ways. But it is a system and therefore needs to be treated lightly and provisionally, or it will get in the way of direct experience.
I’ve written quite a lot in the past about Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, but I’m going to drag them out again to illustrate the distinction between human and non-human, to put it rather bluntly. ‘Non-human’ carries a weight of judgement that I don’t intend, it’s just descriptive.
Gordon Brown is well-known for his jealous god tendency, his lust for power that dogged Blair’s premiership, and that has no awareness in it, no consideration on his part as to whether he is suitable for the job (which in many ways he isn’t). But Gordon Brown is not just this. He also has a genuine passion for helping those in need. So he is a human being, at least sometimes, but one with a big power thing to sort out.
Tony Blair seems to me to be more seamless, I feel he belongs to a different species to me. He believes completely in who and what he is, which I think is one sign of an absence of self-awareness. Though he may agonise about whether or not God wants him to do certain things, I don’t think this reflects a genuine awareness of his real motives. I feel much more inclined than with Brown to put his desire to change the world down to personal ambition. If I were to use the Buddhist classification, I’d probably stick him in the jealous god realm.
It’s amazing, given the number of different species that occupy the human body, that we manage to muddle along collectively to the extent that we do. An alien invasion, that would unify us!
In the Buddhist 6 Realms system, the destiny of all consciousness is eventually to become human and then Enlightened. That is where I part company. Enlightenment to me easily becomes an abstraction that takes you away from the integrity and even perfection of your current experience. And as for the destiny of consciousness – that’s a big one! Consciousness is so vast and mysterious and multiform that it seems presumptuous to me to say that it is all going in a similar, albeit uniquely individual, direction. And this also presumes that it is going anywhere, or needs to go anywhere, in the first place!