In The Heart of the Soul, American spiritual teacher Gary Zukav writes that, “The longest journey that you will make in your life is from your head to your heart.” It’s a popular axiom in mindfulness and self-development circles. After all, the heart has only positive qualities: love, courage, connection. What’s not to like?
Yet the journey doesn’t stop there.
Studying schizophrenia in the 1960s, British psychologist R.D. Laing wrote: “When our personal worlds are rediscovered… we discover first a shambles… genitals dissociated from heart; heart severed from head; heads dissociated from genitals.”
In The Politics of Experience, Laing describes a devastated emotional landscape with little difference between the insane and the supposedly sane: “What we call ‘normal’ is a product of repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection and other forms of destructive action on experience… our collusive madness is what we call sanity.”
Writing at the height of the Cold War, Laing further observed: “Long before a thermonuclear war can come about, we have had to lay waste our own sanity… The perfectly adjusted bomber pilot may be a greater threat to species survival than the hospitalized schizophrenic.” The same analogy can be applied to our willingness to devastate the planet we depend on for our existence.
We are like Lego figures—detachable heads, torsos and legs, made of plastic, unfeeling and imperishable. We live in a Lego world where plastic faces with fixed smiles grin inanely at each other and everyone pretends that, like Lego figures, they have no genitals.
Why do so few attempt to unite head, heart and genitals?
Shame. Look at the qualities we commonly associate with the genitals. For men, we think of conquest, penetration and ejaculation. For women lust, promiscuity and immorality are frequent touchstones. The genitals are a place of darkness, of forbidden and dangerous instincts.
Shame stops us bridging the positive qualities of the mind and heart with our negative perceptions of the genitals.
The more we are ashamed of ourselves, the more we fragment our internal landscape to repress the experience of that shame—hence the “shambles” Laing describes.
Yet we cannot be whole/holistic/healed human beings without integrating the entirety of ourselves into a single, cohesive entity. We must transform from plastic Lego beings in denial of our sexuality into flesh-and-blood humans who have accepted, healed and integrated our genitals with our hearts and heads.
That is a perilous journey. Not only must we willingly engage with the sexual aspect of ourselves—in a society that desperately prefers to marginalise the sexual—but we must also travel back in time to undo the ancestral traumas, which are deeply sexual, at the root of human separation and misery. These traumas shattered us into our component parts—parts that have never consciously been reunited.
The threat of thermonuclear war may be receding, but the threat of extinction through environmental catastrophe weighs heavily upon us. Uniting the head, heart and genitals is essential to creating an emotionally cohesive world that can solve its problems cooperatively rather than destroy itself competitively.
I’ll give the last word to R.D. Laing: “If the human race survives, future men will, I suspect, look back on our enlightened epoch as a veritable age of Darkness.” The darkness isn’t between our legs. It’s in our attitude to what’s down there.