Slavery: A Closer Look

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A white cop on top subdues a black man on the ground with a knee on his neck. This archetypal image is a perfect graphic for the theme of slavery whether you realize it or not. This is the image appearing before hundreds of millions of Americans and people around the world at this time, and subconsciously this image is triggering whatever subliminal aspects of the theme of slavery that you may be carrying within you, no matter what your gender, age, or race. Why? Because it is archetypal – meaning that the image triggers certain feelings no matter what language you speak and no matter what part of the world you are from. In other words this image is universal and not specific to any one culture.

What is slavery?

From Google definitions: Slavery refers to a condition in which individuals are owned by others, who control where they live and what they must do for work. 

Slavery has previously existed throughout history, in many times and most places. The ancient Greeks, the Romans, Egyptians, Anglo Saxons, Africans, Americans and Native Americans, Incas and Aztecs all have had slaves. The first documented use of slaves was in Mesopotamia in 6800 BC and probably had a history as long as humans have been around. Slavery began with the practice of capturing enemy soldiers or civilians and forcing them to work for the winning regime. In more modern times it often has to do with kidnapping people.

Slavery includes a great many situations and conditions that include serfdom, sex trafficking, forced child labor, recruitment of child soldiers, domestic servitude, forced marriage, bonded labor, and forced adult labor through intimidation and violence. Other types of slavery may include such horrors as kidnapping for the purpose of organ removal or drug cartels forcing people to break laws by carrying and ferrying drugs.

It would be safe to say that not one person alive is free from any triggers with regard to slavery. Freedom is such an important human right that almost anyone would respond extremely negatively at the prospect or even the mere thought of becoming a slave in the terms we are speaking about here. Certainly, there are references to slavery that don’t fit this picture such as songs with wording like, “I am a slave to your love” suggesting a more romantic connection. Almost everyone alive has experienced in other lifetimes some form of servitude akin to slavery and many with extremely adverse reactions to those buried memories. This is why some people react so negatively to visiting certain countries or places where they may have experienced such things. My wife Lena hated visiting India from the moment she set foot off the airplane. It tuned out she had been burned alive there by being forced to join her dead husband’s corpse on the bier in a past life.

Who has not worn a slave’s collar at some time in some place? Who has never been forced or controlled by others restricting their freedom and movement? No one! Even in this life, everyone has experienced a teacher, a coach, a subculture, a religion, a parent, a sibling, or a class bully that has attempted to control their behavior and tried to dominate them with emotional, psychological, and/or physical intimidation. Unfortunately, this behavior seems to be built into the human psyche. Less popular is the fact that we have all been on the Slave Owners side as well and had all the convictions that went with that.

Now it is one thing to consider being the slave of someone else but it is harder to see clearly the symptoms of being a slave to your own inner dynamics. Slavery does not always fit the classic picture of a master on a horse with a whip. Who has not experienced being a slave of their own Inner Slave Owner? The Inner Slave Owner is your ego and it functions through a wide variety of operations that act as co-Inner Slave Owner agents. Some examples might be your imprinting, your conditioning, your family and personal icons, your hard held belief systems, your identity, your addictions, your fear patterns, your prejudices, your adherence to suspicion and mistrust, your comfort zone, your reactionary triggers, your phobias, your likes and dislikes that limit your creative choices, your rigidity, your desire for control, your automatic dismissals, your requirements and demands for attention, your insecurities, your shame and guilt, your automatic responses and behavior patterns, and……well you get the idea. What this means is that you have many, many slave owners within, all bundled under a master of ceremonies we can refer to as the ego or the false personality.

Every time we respond out of one of these aspects of the ego we tighten the noose, reinforcing the patterns of control. Notice how efficient this operation is. The ego, the master Inner Slave Owner, gets you to do the policing on yourself. This is actually how effective slave owners operate. They can control a whole group of slaves all by themselves using the forces of intimidation, psychological mind control, coercion, repetition, threats, shaming, guilt, and very brief rewards like “Good boy” and “Good girl.”

Should you determine to look more closely at all these methods, tactics, and strategies you will find that they all basically come down to one word, “Fear.” You can only be afraid if you no longer feel connected to anyone or anything. The minute you are divided within, you will begin to be divided externally as well. You will feel separate and disconnected. Love will diminish as the place it occupied becomes taken over by fear and suspicion and remember that fear begets more of itself similar to a self-fulfilling prophecy. So what we can begin to see here is that all forms of slavery externally are based on the slavery imposed by ego.

Fortunately, to turn this around you do not have to tackle each separate issue because in the end, they are all related. What you do need to do is to be able to identify all these activities as parasitical and toxic to your life. They must be seen as not you, and watched carefully but neutrally with no attempt to change them, fight them, resist them and so on. They merely need to be identified and then relegated to the dust bin of, “not you.” This is actually a fairly simple process of disidentification but the conditioning is so old and strong and so many people participate in it that it is quite challenging to overthrow it on your own. Studies in Social Psychology have shown to people’s dismay, how strong social control can be. If you are shown several lines of different lengths drawn on a piece of paper it is easy to see and report that they are different. But as more and more confederates are in the room with you reporting that the lines are all the same length the harder it gets to stay your course that they are different. With enough people you too will report that they are all the same when they are not.

So, to turn things around from the mass hypnosis that says your ego is right, you are a slave, you are going to need support. This support can come from wisdom teachings and teachers who help you to repudiate the party line of slavery; writings by great saints that also support your unpopular position, other people who are simultaneously attempting to break free themselves, silence and quiet meditation and contemplation of the truth, and unfailing discipline.

Let’s take a look at one more aspect of slavery that is worth noting. Slavery is a product of dualism, a way of thinking where we divide up reality into this and that, us and them, high and low, better and worse, dominant and submissive, free and imprisoned, privileged and not privileged.  One aspect of dualism is the division of reality into masculine and feminine, males and females. In this world today it is easy to see that there are more examples of female slavery than male slavery. Males in general have more freedom to move around and run the world than females do. They get paid more and can exercise more socially acceptable tools of power than females. There are way more female sex slaves than male ones. Certainly, there have been instances of females with a bevy of male slaves but there are many more examples of male slave owners. Some women are manipulative enough to make slaves of their husbands or partners but there is way more domestic abuse perpetrated by males than females.

Why is this? Besides the obvious observation that men are generally more powerful physically there are other factors at play. Here we should pay more attention to the masculine archetype and the feminine archetype than genders. We all know some men have more feminine energy and some women have more masculine energy so here we are looking at the energy, not the gender.

While the masculine archetype in the positive pole is generous, magnanimous, responsible, protective, directive, guiding and so on, the negative pole is dictatorial, tyrannical, controlling, subjugating, attacking, externally abusive etc. The positive pole of the feminine includes such qualities as nurturing, focus on the collective social good, support, kindness, and so on. The negative pole of the feminine includes manipulation, undermining, lying, greed, total destruction, and other unpleasantness.

The masculine archetype has taken over the running of the world for several thousands of years. It is exemplified in such organizations and processes as the military, law enforcement, the judicial system, politics, the corporate world, banking, entertainment and communications, and much of the world of sports. What percentage of influence and control do these collective areas encompass. My answer would be probably 90% and a good deal of it in the negative pole. Not surprisingly warriors tend to dominate these very same arenas because they are classified under the action axis. Whether male or female they have way more masculine energy being narrow focused, highly productive, and organized by nature. In a word they run this world of ours and probably always will. This is natural and not necessarily a bad thing. What is not so good is that so many of them are operating out of the negative pole while they do their running of the world and this results in the slavery of the masses. It almost always fosters rebellion when it gets too extreme.

Should they operate out of the positive pole this world would work a whole lot better. This requires two things. First, since warriors are good at following instructions they need a new set of instructions. These new instructions should come from the positive pole of the feminine, receptivity, a focus on the collective social good, nurturing, beauty, support, and kindness. Secondly, they need role models among the masculine who exemplify the positive poles of the masculine: generous, responsible, protective, having good boundaries, being directive, fearless and so on. At one time Native Americans had this all figured out. If you look at the heart of our constitution it was lifted almost entirely from the Algonquin Nation. The parts our forefathers rejected are the very areas of our greatest problems today. They rejected the notion that the only ones allowed to vote for the leader (usually male) should be women. Hmmm. Women were also the only ones who could remove the leader from power. Hmmmmmmm. Obviously, this is a longer discussion but maybe a few seeds have been planted here.


José Stevens

José Luis Stevens, PhD is the president and co-founder (with wife Lena) of Power Path Seminars, an international school and consulting firm dedicated to the study and application of shamanism and indigenous wisdom to business and everyday life. José completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol (Wixarika) Maracame (Huichol shaman) in the Sierras of Central Mexico. In addition, he is studying with Shipibo shamans in the Peruvian Amazon and with Paqos (shamans) in the Andes in Peru. In 1983 he completed his doctoral dissertation at the California Institute of Integral Studies focusing on the interface between shamanism and western psychological counseling. Since then, he has studied cross-cultural shamanism around the world to distill the core elements of shamanic healing and practice. He is the author of twenty books and numerous articles including Encounters With Power, Awaken The Inner Shaman, The Power Path, Secrets of Shamanism, Transforming Your Dragons and How To Pray The Shaman’s Way.

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You may make copies of this writing and distribute it in any media you wish, so long as you do not charge for it or alter it in any way. You must credit the author and include this entire copyright notice. While the text may be shared, no audio files, including lectures, music and/or sound meditations, may be posted on any site for any reason without written permission from the Power Path.

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