A History of Bliss Tolerance (2008)
A Maybe So Story
(With A Tip Of The Cap To Rudyard Kipling)
by Ramón Sender Barayón (1979)
I often have wondered just what happened in very early times that drastically lowered
our bliss tolerance – of which perhaps the Garden of Eden expulsion myth exists as a
distant memory. It certainly goes as far back as the huge Toba volcano eruption in
Sumatra 73,000 years ago that triggered a cold millennium that merged into the
beginning of our last ice age (peaking at the Last Glacial Maximum, 25,000-15,000
years before the present). Some experts postulate that these two events pushed
humans to the brink of near-extinction. Quoting from George Weber’s Toba Volcano:
"The hardest hit area then inhabited by Homo sapiens was the Middle East, including probably the Arabian peninsula. It is an open question whether any groups of Homo sapiens could and did survive there. During the long, warm and humid OIS3 (pre- Toba) period, Homo sapiens had spread into the path of Toba’s ‘kill zone.’ If there were modern humans in India at the critical moment, they would have had no chance of survival at all. In the Middle East, ash falls and volcanic winter must have come very suddenly and with devastating impact. There was no time to adapt and develop new survival strategies or probably to just move out of harm’s way. It is likely that Homo sapiens groups living in Asia were wiped out (along with their genetic diversity). The further south a group was when overtaken by the darkening sky, the larger its chance of survival. We have seen that the bottleneck could have reduced mankind to as few as 40 females plus their menfolk and children. This would then have represented the entire human population living on planet earth. Surviving stragglers further to the north would not have lived long. Even if there were 10,000 survivors, the severity of the Toba bottleneck was very hard on Homo sapiens. The most likely place for human survivors is along the eastern coast of Africa, possibly on the southern side of the equator. Of all the areas known to have had human or human-like inhabitants at the time of Toba, this was the least affected."
Arguments against the mass extinction by Michael Petraglia at the University of Cambridge have been raised, (see “Super-eruption: no problem by Katherine Sanderson in Nature Magazine”although a paper titled “Big Cat Genomics” by Stephen J. O’Brien and Warren E. Johnson (Annu. Rev. Genomics Hum. Genet. 2005. 6:407–29) states: “Tiger genetic diversity dates back to only 72,000–108,000 years ago, when a founder effect established an ancestry for all modern tigers. The dates correspond roughly with the catastrophic eruption of the Toba volcano in Sumatra about 72,500 years ago.”
Whatever happened when, I have no doubt that our ancestors at some point underwent a catastrophic event that put them into a desperate survival mode. Toba’s eruption blasted an estimated dense rock equivalent of 800 million cubic meters (4/5ths of ‘mega-colossal’ on the Volcanic Explosivity Index). To put this in perspective, Tambura, the largest historically recorded eruption with a dense rock equivalent of 20 million cubic meters, created ‘the year without a summer’ in 1816. In Toba’s case, a 200-year period of wind-blown dust followed a six-year volcanic winter. The largest temperature drop of the late Pleistocene coincides with the Toba eruption, and lasted 1,000-2,000 years. (Stanley H. Ambrose, Journal of Human Evolution 45 (2003) 231–237). Quoting from this source:
"African populations increased from a very small size, approximately 70,000 years ago (Jorde et al., 1998). It is this population bottleneck that is attributed to the climatic impact of Toba (Ambrose, 1998a, 2003; Ambrose and Rampino, 2000). . . we proposed that the Late Pleistocene population bottleneck was likely to have been the result of three climatic events spanning 11,500 years, or 550 generations. These events comprise the six-year volcanic winter at 71 ka, the 1000-year instant ice age it apparently initiated, and the early last glacial maximum, oxygen isotope stage 4, from 68 to 59.5 ka (Ambrose, 1998a). In other words, the postulated bottleneck that began 71 ka may have endured for 9% of the time since the origin of modern humans."
Ambrose speculates that the widespread appearance of microlithic blades reflects a long-distance information exchange system that first appeared in Africa at the beginning of the last ice age: With this enhanced system of macro-regional strategic social cooperation and information sharing, early last glacial modern humans survived volcanic winter, the instant ice age and the early glacial maximum, albeit at very low population densities, which are evinced by the remarkable scarcity of archaeological sites of this period throughout Africa. . .
Capacities for modern human behavior were undoubtedly present during the last interglacial, but the stable environments of this period did not foster widespread adoption of the strategic cooperative skills necessary for survival in the last glacial era. Modern humans may have eventually developed such strategies during the last ice age, but they were crucial for survival when volcanic winter arrived. We are the descendants of the few small groups of tropical Africans who united in the face of adversity.
The last warm and humid interglacial period (130,000-74,000 years ago) must have included an “Interglacial Maximum” when food was abundant and the climate balmy. I think we can safely theorize that our ancestors, during what might be called “the Edenic Maximum” lived lives of happy leisure. Wild fruits, berries, nuts plus small game could be harvested easily, and a loosely organized social structure reigned. In this era, everyone could access altered states of consciousness by munching various edibles or via an innate connection, both individually and in groups. I also postulate that during this ‘paradise era,’ just the mere perception of high levels of sunlight could trigger an intense bliss state considered more or less normal in those days. ‘Vertical energy,’ i.e. light, entered the pineal gland via the lower optic tract, and was sent to the heart, where it transformed into horizontal love-energy. Group fight/flight freak-outs may have happened frequently, similar to those that occur in chimpanzee groups. Everyone scattered in all directions, but these events did not lead to serious consequences or threaten lives. Individuals could return gradually to the campsite or even wander off and join another troop. Basically, these amygdala-triggered instant reflexes were just scary fun, albeit good training for when it really proved necessary to run like hell.
Later, during the wintry glacial epoch, group freak-outs no longer could be tolerated, and the light-to-bliss neural network dimmed. Why? Because outside the warmth and protection of the troop, individuals would die. Almost all group members were involved in gathering all-too-scarce food, equally scarce firewood, and hunting larger game for the skins and furs they required for warmth. The glacial troop-turned-tribe could not afford the luxury of the original laid-back, paradise lifestyle. However it did not totally relinquish access to higher visionary states. Certain herbs and mushrooms were discovered that dissolved the intense survival focus and recaptured the original light-to-bliss pineal transformation that, as an atavistic encumbrance, had begun to disappear. The serious out-of-the-body job was now placed in the hands of someone whose light-to-bliss connection remained wide-open, the tribal shaman. The leaders (best hunters, loudest voices) needed to have their wits about them at all times, but relied on the auguries and prophetic utterances of their seers who peered into the spirit realms for whatever signs and portents they could bring back.
One positive aspect of this near-extinction consisted of a large increase in cooperative behavior that led to the casual troop becoming a structured tribe. With ‘Adam and Eve’ ejected from the Garden by the exigencies of a harsh climate, the first signs of our modern ‘clothed,’ tool-making, organized society can be seen. As Genesis mentions, man now must earn his food by the sweat of his brow. No more lolling about, stoned out of your gourd via your light-to-bliss pineal connection that, according to some, “is the part of us that allows the feeling of oneness with the universe, and sets the stage for our most intimate relationship, that of our inner being with the environment. Animals come by this naturally, living in nature” (Our Relationship with Light & Color by Dr. Annette M., Patterson).
Over future generations, the levels of naturally occurring bliss plummeted in individuals, as well as their ability to tolerate it, even for short periods. People began to assume that ‘normal’ life necessarily must include large amounts of pain and suffering – and a brain inundated with non-stop thoughts that lag a half-second behind the true Present. (The spiritual teacher J. Krishnamurti devoted his life to correcting the error he called ‘thought’ that had crept into human existence.)
The Sufi teacher Gurdjieff, in his very instructive and hilarious book "All and Everything, Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson", describes how ‘something’ went terribly wrong with our species on planet Earth many millennia ago. To fix this problem, an ‘organ’ that he calls ‘the Kundabuffer’ was placed in mankind for a period of time. Later, when it was ‘removed,’ its maleficent effects lingered. I think Gurdjieff’s made-up word “Kundabuffer” speaks for itself (the book is full of homemade expressions that alternately exasperate and amuse), implying that the Kundalini serpent-fire energy (or the innate light-to-love transformation I mentioned) had to be ‘buffered’ so that humans could survive. I interpret this allegory as explaining how, as already mentioned, the tribe could not tolerate bliss- outs within their daily life in a hostile ice-age environment, and thus something changed, and they began to favor the left brain’s thought-filled planner.
Even to this day, I’ll bet that rigid hierarchical social structures (leader, priest, hunter, worker) are not found in climates that duplicate paradise conditions, such as amongst the tribes of the upper Amazon. This implies that civilization, as we know it (frowning Apollonian as opposed to the ecstatic Dionysian), came about as a response to mankind’s climatic discomfort and food scarcity. Big surprise? The ongoing ‘maleficent effect’ of the Kunderbuffer speaks to me of egotistic vanity, false pride, and the ‘me-first’ competitive mindset. Even the word ‘mine’ could have only evolved from scarcity, when suddenly there wasn’t enough of something desirable to go around. Ultimately, a stratified priesthood emerged to intercede between a forgotten, asssumed-invisible deity and the masses, the traditional shaman cast aside as a mentally disturbed individual.
If a Great Plan exists behind all the millions of years and billions of lives spent in basic agony, what could it possibly be? I have pondered this question often, and the only possible answer I could find comes from an experience I had at age 19 during my first job as a lowly lab assistant for some biochemists at the NYU Medical School (1955). They were studying how living creatures synthesize the amino acids they required for life. First they designed a 'knock-out' bacterium dependent on a given environment for its amino acid requirements. Then they removed the bacteria colony from its supportive nutrients and put it in a Petri dish lacking the needed aminos.
The little bugs would panic and try desperately to create their own amino acids. In the process, they created precursors to these compounds, which the biochemists studied for clues as to how amino acids originated.
Sometimes I wonder if we are the same: i.e., beings who originally were designed to thrive in the all-blissful realms, but then thrust into the non-blissful to see if we could learn how to ‘regain the bliss’ on our own, outside our heavenly origins. But why would an all-loving, nurturing Divine Creator subject Her creations to such anguish? I think it’s because the Divine yearns to mirror Herself even in the darkest dimensions, and must rely on our fevered attempts to recreate the blissful realms on the material plane for this to occur. Of course She always could directly intervene, and with a wave of her hand make it so, but I suppose it would not serve the same purpose, although She does offer a kindly number of entry-points amongst growing things for those willing to imbibe them.
It’s as if She plays the game of throwing herself as far as possible into the inconscient and then waiting to see in what way and how long it takes the inconscient to awaken to its own true identity – as She Who Manifests First And Cleans Up Last – and presses the Reset Button. However, I do not view Her as cruel, but more that we are Kunderbuffer-damaged. And I remain convinced that Mother designed not only plant substances but various embodied methods that improve our bliss tolerance and do not require retiring into the forests and staring at our navels for years on end. Some of these I have described elsewhere (www.raysender.com/obeata.html) and for this reason continue to study how our perception of light is utilized by the body for various purposes, including our emotional health. More and more evidence is accumulating via research into the Seasonal Affective Disorder that light is an active neurobiological agent or, as I like to say, “Even photons are conscious! Hi, tiny photon! Hi!” More about this another time... Beams and Blessings,