Author Jane Roberts was born in Albany, New York, in 1929 and raised in nearby Saratoga Springs. A writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, she was conducting research for a book on extrasensory perception in 1963 when she began to channel messages from a male entity who called himself “Seth.” According to Roberts, she would enter a trance state, and Seth would assume control of her body and speak through her while her husband, Robert F. Butts, transcribed. Often playful and good-humored, Seth described himself as a teacher from an adjacent plane of existence whose task was to educate humans on a variety of metaphysical topics.
For twenty-one years Roberts and Butts held regular trance sessions — typically three a week — in which Seth dictated a total of ten volumes. Roberts claimed not to have written a word of them, serving only as medium. Seth advises his readers, “You would be much better off . . . if you asked yourself who you are, rather than who I am.” Roberts died in 1984 at the age of fifty-five, due to complications from rheumatoid arthritis. The Yale University Library maintains an archive of her work, including recordings, manuscripts, and notes on the Seth material. The following is excerpted from The Nature of Personal Reality, © 1974 by Jane Roberts. Reprinted by permission of Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc. P.O. Box 6657, San Rafael, CA 94903. All rights reserved.
In your society, and to some extent in others, the natural communication of aggression has broken down. You confuse violence with aggression and do not understand aggression’s creative activity or its purpose as a method of communication to prevent violence.
You deliberately make great effort, in fact, to restrain the communicative elements of aggression while ignoring its many positive values, until its natural power becomes dammed up, finally exploding into violence. Violence is a distortion of aggression.
Birth is an aggressive action — the thrust outward with great impetus of a self from within a body into a new environment. Any creative idea is aggressive. Violence is not aggressive. It is instead a passive surrender to emotion which is not understood or evaluated, only feared, and at the same time sought.
Violence is basically an overwhelming surrender, and in all violence there is a great degree of suicidal emotion, the antithesis of creativity. Both [sides] . . . in a war, for instance, are caught up in the same kind of passion, but the passion is not aggressive. It is its opposite — the desire for destruction.
Know that yearning is made up of feelings of despair caused by a sense of powerlessness, not of power. Aggressiveness leads to action, to creativity, and to life. It does not lead to destruction, violence, or annihilation.
Let us take a very simple example involving a kind and good man in a fairly ordinary environment within your society. He has been taught that it is manly to be aggressive, but he believes that this means fighting. As an adult, he frowns upon fighting. He cannot hit his boss, though he may want to. At the same time his church may tell him to turn the other cheek when he is upset, and to be kind, gentle, and understanding.
His society teaches him that such qualities are feminine. He spends his life trying to hide what he thinks of as aggressive — violent — behavior, and trying to be understanding and kind instead. The stereotype is of course unrealistic, having to do with distorted concepts concerning the male and the female, but here we will merely consider the aspects of aggressiveness. Because he is trying to be so understanding, our man inhibits the expression of many of the normal irritations that would serve as a natural system of communication between, say, his superior and himself at work, or perhaps with the members of his family at home.
Simultaneously all of these inhibited reactions seek release, for the manifestation of aggressive feelings sets up natural balances within the body itself, as well as serving as a communication system with others. When his system has had enough, our friend may then indeed react with violent behavior. He might suddenly find himself in a fight — initiating one — and the smallest incident may serve as a trigger. He could seriously hurt himself or someone else.
As a rule the animals have better sense. Your mind and body, therefore, are quite equipped to handle aggression. Violence occurs only when the natural expression of aggression has been short-circuited. The sense of power felt during such episodes is the result of repressed energy suddenly released, but the individual is always at the mercy of that energy then — submerged within it, and passively carried by it.
The fear of your own emotions can do far more damage than their expression, because the apprehension builds up a charge that intensifies the energy behind them. . . .
Because you have conscious minds, you have great leeway in the manner in which you can express aggression, but the animal’s heritage is still retained in its own way. A frown is a natural method of communication, saying, “You have upset me,” or, “I am upset.” If you tell yourself to smile when you feel like scowling, then you are tampering with your natural expression and denying to another a legitimate communication that tells how you feel.
When a man or a woman always smiles at you, the smile can be like a mask. You do not know whether or not you are communicating with such a person. The sound of the voice, again, follows its own patterns, and natural aggression should and will color it at times.
There are many biological signs shown by the body, all meant as communications to others on a creative basis — as warnings to whatever degree. Each is automatic in its own way, and yet ritualistic, a dance of muscle in motion with its own meaning, and biologically understood. These are all constructive. They are meant to elicit reactions from others and to arrive at new points of understanding, a balance of rights. When your conscious thoughts interfere with such processes, you are in deep trouble.
The animal’s behavior pattern is more limited than your own, in a way freer and more automatically expressed, but narrower in that the events an animal encounters are not as extensive as your own. You cannot appreciate your spirituality unless you appreciate your creaturehood. It is not a matter of rising above your nature, but of evolving from the full understanding of it. There is a difference.
You will not attain spirituality or even a happy life by denying the wisdom and experience of the flesh. You can learn more from watching the animals than you can from a guru or a minister — or from reading my book. But first you must divest yourselves of the idea that your creaturehood is suspect. Your humanness did not emerge by refusing your animal heritage, but upon an extension of what it is.
When you try to be spiritual by cutting off your creaturehood you become less than joyful, fulfilled, satisfied natural creatures, and fall far short of understanding true spirituality. Many who say they believe in the power of thought are so afraid of it that they inhibit it in themselves, avoiding any that appear negative or harmful. The slightest “aggressive” expression is blocked. Thoughts can kill, these people think — as if the individual against whom such an impulse was directed had no protective life-giving energies of his or her own and no natural defense.
Here, often, and for various reasons, you find a hidden and distorted sense of power that says, “I am so powerful that I could kill you with my thought, and yet I refuse to do so.” No one, and no one thought, is that powerful. If thoughts alone could kill, you would not have the overpopulation problem! . . .
Sometimes you think of suicide as ignominious and passive, but of war as aggressive and powerful. Both are equally the result of passivity and distorted aggression, and of natural pathways of communication not used or understood. You think of flowers in terms of gentleness, beauty, and “goodness,” and yet every time a new bud opens there is a great thrust of joyful aggression that is hardly passive, and a daring and courage that reaches actively outward. Without aggression your body would be denied its growth, the cells within it caught in inertia. Aggressiveness is at the base of the magnificent bursting of creativity.