• The state prevailing during the absence of war
  • Harmonious relations; freedom from disputes
  • The absence of mental stress or anxiety
  • The general security of public places

I would like to start our discussion by talking about the many misconceptions of the word peace. Peace is not an absence of war. Peace is not waving two fingers in the air making the peace sign. Peace is not sitting around smoking marijuana wearing hemp clothing and talking about the cosmos. Peace is not a universal state of mind. Peace is not becoming a monk and meditating all day. Peace is not god, and you cannot fight for peace – peace is a lot closer to home than that, and it is a lot more physical, than anything so-called spiritual.

One thing’s for sure, and that is you cannot force people to be at peace. If you win a battle and overcome your enemy, then the country is not at peace, only in a temporary state of “not war.” Why? Because peace is brought about by the transcendence of internal agitation and turmoil through the loving of all things and that is something that can only be achieved individually. If I am at peace, the world is at peace.
I think it’s fair to say that most of us are not at peace in our lives. The general stress and strain of modern life; paying bills, dealing with relationships, holding down a job, and worrying about the future, is enough to leave us feeling internally stressed and heading for the nearest thing to make life more peaceful. Yes you got it, your old friend the ice cold beer, the rich red wine, the zesty gin and tonic, or maybe just a plain old cigarette. Take a sip, take a puff… Ahh, that’s better… Peace!

Many books have been written on finding peace in your daily lives. Some people even travel to “spiritual” countries like india and tibet in search of inner peace. Some people join monasteries. Some people write songs about praying for peace, and last but not least, governments try to keep the peace. It’s funny, in a world so full of violence, there seem to be a lot of people trying to find peace, or at least force it on to other people.
In other topics, we have asked the question whether Man is a naturally violent species, and we have said that although he has the tendency to express his desires violently if he doesn’t get what he wants, there is nothing to suggest it is inherent in our nature. We need food and shelter to survive individually, and a mate to procreate with if we are to keep the species going, that is all; we need nothing more. As we begin our exploration of this topic together, we must also remember that peace is a man-made word, it has nothing to do with our biological heritage.

Let me start by asking you a question. Is a lion at peace? Are a herd of elephants at peace? What about the birds, are they at peace? What about a tree? These might seem like stupid questions to you, but it is of the utmost importance we find out what we mean by “peace.”

A mouse goes about his business, scurrying from place to place eating and drinking causing no visible harm to anyone else, meanwhile an owl sits on a branch quietly. Both of them could be said in human terms to be at peace. Suddenly the owl flaps his wings, leaves the branch silently, and glides towards the forest floor. Meanwhile, the mouse is still scurrying around quietly, in the darkness of night. The owl’s talons extend, and he catches the mouse, lifting it high into the air. Its talons have pierced its lifeless body and the owl returns to its branch to quietly rip off the mouse’s head before devouring the whole body – bones, guts, and all.

At what point did the owl stop being at peace? What do you think? Was it when it had the intention to kill a mouse, or was it when its talons actually caught the mouse? What I want to know is, was the owl ever at peace? We can see it was violent for a split second, where it caused the death of another animal, but hey, the owl was hungry and owls eat mice, the end! Can you follow this? What I am asking is whether “peace” (the word) exists in the animal world, or is it merely a man-made concept?

I think it highly unlikely that “peace” can exist, because when we apply it to the animal world, it means nothing. Animals are violent when (a) they are hungry, and are designated meat eaters, and (b) when other members of the species encroach on their territory (which affects the amount of food available for the group) and (c) when their dominance over the group is threatened which affects their ability to mate with all the females.

Animals do things to protect the survival of themselves, their group and their species, that is all. They are neither at peace, nor not at peace, do you understand? The word does not apply.
Let me explain.

I neither eat animals nor any products that have come from animals, which I do through choice. I eat nuts, fruit and vegetables etc. and I consider myself to be a “peaceful” man, in that I wouldn’t hurt anyone deliberately; but just imagine for a moment that there was a shortage of food, and there weren’t enough vegetables to go round the group. What would I do, being a “peaceful” man? Would I sit there meditating whilst letting the rest of the group gorge themselves on the available food because I vowed never to hurt another?

Imagine I’d asked them kindly to share the food with me, to show some compassion for a starving man, but they just laughed and carried on eating. What would I do? Would I once again just sit down and wait for my death? I doubt it very much.

We homo sapiens are part of the animal world, as it is part of us, and we are programmed to ensure we survive, and to survive we must eat. It is that simple. So I get up and ask once again for some food. Once again I am refused, so I pick up a rock and strike the man with it, and I keep hitting him, until he gives up his share of the food. I want to survive, so I will do “whatever it takes” to survive. I think we all have to remember that we all have the potential to become violent when our biological needs are not being met.

Imagine now that I am a non-meat eater and I am in a place where there are no vegetables, fruit, or nuts. It is winter and snow covers the ground. What do I eat? Do I go hungry and starve to death because I took a vow never to harm another animal, or do I try to kill anything that will provide fuel for me to stay alive, just as the owl did? What do you think? Are my ethics worth more than life itself?
I know what I would do. I am an animal like the owl, and when I need to eat, I find something to eat, whether it be animal or vegetable.

Some people may be horrified that I have said this. “You are going against everything you have said!” I hear them cry. But how do you think Man became such a successful species? He is adaptable to all environments.

I am currently writing in the north of sweden in the middle of winter. Heavy snow has covered the ground, and nothing is growing at the moment. I am fortunate that thanks to modern growing, storage and distribution methods, I can have all the vegetables, fruit and nuts I want, as long as I have enough money.

But try to think back several hundred years or several thousand years to when Man first came to colonise this part of the world. How did he survive up here successfully? By eating whatever was available. And in the winter, that was animals, like reindeer and elk. They ate the meat and protected themselves against the freezing temperatures with their skins. That is life giving life.

If one of the groups had decided to become vegetarians, or vegans, how do you think they would have survived the winter? Once again there was no peace nor violence going on, just survival. Are you starting to see ?

In the natural world, outside of our thinking, there is only survival of the species. It’s not personal; there is no malice aforethought; they are not greedy; nor filled with desire, or craving power. These are man-made – of the mind. These are not things which trouble the animal kingdom. To them, peace is nothing. It is a concept invented by Man to describe the human world. A world we think is very different to the animal world; and in some ways is so far removed from it that it is no wonder people questioned how we could have ever evolved from apes, deciding that there had to be a better explanation, involving someone called “god.”

My mind is at war
My mind is at peace
My mind is at war
My mind is at peace

Instantly, division. Two states, both polar opposites. War. Peace. It can’t be anything else, can it? It has to be one or the other, you are either at war or at peace. But being in one state assumes that the other state exists, just not at this moment. As we saw in the animal world it seemed silly to try to describe the owl as “being at peace,” as it is not something that could apply to it. As far as we could see, the owl was in two different states. Eating and not eating.

That does not apply to our modern society. There is far too much greed, desire, politics, power, control and domination going on. In short, there is too much thinking going on!

Peace is sometimes described as freedom from disputes, but those disputes are always going on in our minds. And it is into our minds we shall go now.

I realised some time ago that having a super large brain comes with several disadvantages, the first being that you have to learn to understand it, and the second, learning how to control it!

If we look at the amount of time the universe has been in existence, it is approximately fifteen to twenty billion years, but in universe time, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the brain of homo sapiens has only been around for around fifty thousand years in its present size.

Homo habilis (extinct species of upright east african hominid having some advanced human like characteristics) existed only two million years ago, and his brain was about a third of the size of ours. Sorry if my statistics are wrong, but then I never was very good at statistics, but you get the picture. Universe around for long time, human brain as we know it, not around very long.

So it shouldn’t be of much surprise to us that it isn’t functioning correctly. We are still on brain software version 1.0, and as all we computer users know, version 1.0 is not very stable! We don’t know where we are half the time; we don’t know what we want, who we are, we don’t know where we are going, what we want to do with our life; there are so many choices, we don’t know when to be happy, when to be sad; we don’t know how to act around other people etc. etc. I think it is fair to say that in biological development terms, the human brain, as we know it, is still in its infancy.

All of this confusion must lead to a certain amount of internal agitation and conflict in the mind. This is neither good nor bad, it’s just part of what makes us human, but it doesn’t mean we can’t jump ahead of biology and transcend this conflict, which after all, is creating the external conflict in the world.

Quiet on the inside, quiet on the outside.

When I am in conflict with myself, when I desire riches, or power, when I aim to control, or destroy, I am in conflict. Do you understand? When I see that all is connected, and the pursuit of happiness through the acquisition of land and castles, and jewels is a dangerous illusion; when I am satisfied with the food I eat and the shelter I call my home; when I see that I am my enemy and he is me, that his land is my land, and mine is his, that no woman is a possession, nor has the right to be possessed, then I shall start to come out of the darkness which is conflict, and into the light which is intelligence. Can you see?

Peace and war are still states of conflict. Both must exist if one exists.

When I see that we have no rights on this earth; that rights are a man-made concept just like peace, and are only empty words; when all men and women stop striving and competing; something magical happens. The mind goes quiet. Who cares what happens to the outside world. The inside is the outside.

Remember the owl and the mouse.
There is no peace. No war. Just relationship.
The mouse is to the owl, as the owl is to the mouse.

Everything is just as it should be. Now, let’s get back to the business of living!

by alan macmillan orr

‘the natural mind – waking up’



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