Red Apple

The Genesis of Human Suffering

When I was young, in the 1960s, the establishment told us that divorce was a good thing and that children were resilient. That has not proved to be the case, in fact the opposite has proved true.

In the early 1900s, my family, on my father’s side, were Sephardic Jews living in Ceylon who had, like many of their race, converted to Catholicism. When my grandfather was wounded whilst fighting in France during the First World War, he fell in love with an English nurse. After the birth of my father, my grandfather and his English wife moved back to Ceylon. After several years, my grandmother inevitably, and somewhat unfortunately for everyone concerned, discovered that her husband was originally Jewish.

Predictably enough, she promptly left her husband, and taking her two young sons, returned to England. You have to understand that between the two world wars, anti-Semitism was effectively compulsory in Europe.

The Snowball Effect

Snowball EffectLooking back at the history of my family it is easy to see how every life decision and every action seemed to inevitably cause suffering to roll down through the decades like a snowball down a mountain.

Today a corrosive materialistic worldview encourages us to believe that we live alone and in a vacuum.

The immediate gratification of the individual has become the golden principal of our society. But if you sit down and think about your life you will see that suffering passes down through time and space and affects everyone it touches.

The decisions of my ancestors throughout the 1800s have directly affected my life and the suffering that I’ve experienced, but that begs the question, “what is this thing we call ‘suffering’?”

The Dark Secret

The three questions that have boiled everyone’s brains for the last three thousand years are these:

  1. Does ‘suffering’ exist separately and externally to me or does it remain within me?
  2. Why do some actions cause ‘suffering’ and others do not?
  3. How do we deal with the phenomena of human suffering?

Historically speaking, most of the answers that have been offered have not proved to be very satisfying and there is a very good reason for that! Most of us, for most of the time, look at life all wrong and inevitably our answers are necessarily incomplete.

We tend to look at life as a series of separate events, like polaroids or snap-shots of life. Looking at our earlier example from my own life, we could go back in time and watch my grandmother leave her husband and we might assume that all the subsequent suffering in my own family was caused by this one act by a stupid and selfish woman. Such a simple answer is attractive but it’s fundamentally wrong because life isn’t a series of snap-shots, it’s a movie.

The anti-Semitism that infected my grandmother didn’t start with her, it was born two thousand years ago in a war against the Romans and was nurtured with the birth of Christianity. This is the ‘dependent origination’ of my grandmother’s prejudice.


Indeed, her selfishness and arrogance was born out of the women’s suffragette movement, which itself was a reaction against centuries of oppression and the social turmoil left behind in the aftermath of the First World War.

Dependent OriginationNo act or event exists in a vacuum; everything is affected by everything else. The Buddha called this process of endless causation, ‘dependent origination’ and it’s a lot like gravity.

Gravity is invisible. It’s always there but we don’t see it until objects and events reveal its presence. Sir Isaac Newton would not have been able to discuss gravity without seeing an apple fall.

Similarly, my grandmother’s prejudice and arrogance had followed her from England to Ceylon like an invisible cloud of negativity until the events of her life were ripe for it to manifest in the world.

From this example, we can conclude that my family’s suffering did not begin with my grandmother’s actions but were influenced by a wave of negative dependent origination that already existed. So this in turn begs the question, “why do some actions cause an invisible force of ‘negative dependent origination’ and others do not?”

If you think about your own life for a moment, you will easily see that every intention you have ever had has created dependent origination of one form or another.

Negative and Positive Dependent Origination

But what the Buddha failed to notice was that some actions create a negative dependent origination, which results in suffering, while other actions seem to create balance and evolution, in other words, positive dependent origination.

Looking at my own example, we could say that anti-Semitism is born out of a deep feeling of the ‘Self of Now’ as being separate to the ‘other’. My grandmother’s arrogance was obviously born out of her deep sense of her ‘Self of Now’ as being superior to Jews. When she took her two sons from their father and left Ceylon to return to England she was choosing herself over the world, just as Buddha did when he left his newborn son and his wife.

We can therefore make the assumption that any volition that originates within the illusion of the ‘Self of Now’ will necessarily cause a wave of negative dependent origination. In order to differentiate this ‘wave’ of negative dependent origination from our reaction to it, let’s call this wave of potential energy, ‘Dark Matter’.

Quantum physics also uses the term ‘Dark Matter’ to refer to something that cannot be seen but whose existence is revealed by events in the real world.

If you enjoyed this Blog, then you might like: ‘The Self-of-Now‘ and ‘Automatic Reactions

Taken from the non-fiction book: ‘Quantum Mechanics For Your Soul – How to Repair Yourself and Save the World at the Same Time

Quantum Mechanics For Your Soul