Your Great Chain of Becoming

Your Great Chain of Becoming, By Noelle Sterne

The metaphysical-physical concept of the Great Chain of Being (GCB) began with the ancient Greeks and gained widespread acceptance, especially during the Middle Ages and into the eighteenth century. The GCB describes the supposedly inviolate hierarchy of nature, in which all life and material objects, organic and inorganic, originate from the Creator in an unquestioned order. All is arranged in perfect design: first God, then the angels and demons, then the physical universe, then royalty representing the Divine, and then ordinary humans, down to animals, plant life, stones, metals, even minerals. 

In the Great Chain of Being, one’s place in the hierarchy is set, fixed, immovable. Any deviation, it was believed, would go against the Creator’s plan. These convictions and rationale were widely held to, especially in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and extended also to degrees of difference (supposedly) in humans. 

For example, the king, divinely ordained, depended on the unquestioned loyalty and devotion, as the hierarchy demanded, of his lords for allegiance and military strength. The lords of the manor depended on the same allegiance from those who enabled them to remain lords—their servants and serfs. No advance beyond one’s designated and predetermined place in the Chain was tolerated or imagined. Going “outside” one’s place was nothing short of blasphemy, an attempt to oppose the Divine Order of all.

The GCB has persisted in various forms, even though diluted, to the present. Based on vestiges of the Chain, pernicious in our history has been discrimination against Native Americans, African Americans, Latinx, women, and many other groups. Granted, the American anti-GCB credo is strong—anyone can “make it” in the United States, whatever their origins and backgrounds. And an immense number of stellar individuals have disproved their “prescribed” place in every field. Nevertheless, many people, influenced by others, hold to various versions of the GCB. 

Today, the Chain’s enslavements are often more subtle than in previous eras. Consciously or not, we may have accepted our genes’/parents’/teachers’/ siblings’/neighborhoods’/negative others’/self pronouncements about our inevitable and immovable place in the Chain. Sometimes we’ve not only ingested the limiting verdicts of others but have accepted too the myth that we shouldn’t go beyond them. 

Where are you buying into the Chain? Have you accepted your “place,” decreed by other supposed authorities, influences, or forces you think you’re powerless against? What excuses are you using?

  • “I didn’t go to college. I’ll never get promoted beyond a foreman in the factory, like my father.”
  • “My whole family was poor. I’ll never be much more than that.” 
  • “My father and grandfather collected their paychecks and looked forward to the weekends of beer and TV sports. Laziness is in my genes.”
  • “Why does my chest hurt? Must be heart. Runs in my family back to my  great-grandmother.”
  • “No one in my family exercised. It was for jocks, not intellectuals like us. That’s why I’ve never been able to stick to it.”
  • “I barely passed biology in school. How can I become an environmentalist?”
  • “I can’t meditate. Must have ADHD.”
  • “My best friend will be mad at me if I tell her I’m resolved to make progress on my degree, especially since she’s still far behind me in getting hers.”
  • “I’ll always be 15 pounds overweight, like everyone else in my  family/town/district/state/country.”
  • “My boyfriend said he broke up with me because I’m a slob. Guess that’s what I’ll always be.”
  • “My English teacher told me to go into accounting. I’ll never be writer/artist/dancer/actor/musician/designer.”

Well, it’s time to un-Chain—and Claim. How? Believe. Believe that you can. And Declare. Create statements for what you want. Repeat. Fill your mind with the new declarations.

One of Louise Hay’s books is titled The Power Is Within You. This alone is a mantra worth repeating. We have the absolute power to go beyond any false judgments, our own or anyone else’s, about our limits. Deepak Chopra tells us, “You and I are essentially infinite choice-makers. In every moment of our existence, we are in that field of all possibilities where we have access to an infinity of choices” (The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, p. 22).

Psychologist Gay Hendricks gives an immensely helpful explanation of our “Upper Limits.” “Each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. That thermostat “holds us back from enjoying all . . . that’s rightfully ours” (The Big Leap, p. 20). 

Hendricks analyzes four major reasons why we hold ourselves back, all of which are worth exploring, and one of which relates to our personal GCB. This is “The Crime of Outshining” (p. 55). The “crime” refers to the belief that if you surpass someone else—usually a significant someone—your surpassing will reflect badly on them, and they won’t like your success or achievement, despite any hollow congratulations or forced smiles, and they will somehow take it out on you. 

Parents and others in authority or supposed friends and supporters may encourage us to shine but secretly may feel we shouldn’t go beyond or outdo them—we should know our (GCB) “place.” They may feign joy at our promotion, award, or finished novel. But their dull eyes and downward-slanting shoulders betray them. The implication, and your fear, are that they will withdraw their love and approval of you–or never give it. 

But ask yourself: Whose life are you living? Is such tyranny a reason to squelch and underplay yourself and your talents? 

Don’t become a victim of others’ threats or behavior. Don’t be taken in. Don’t accept your supposed place in the Chain. 

And realize this: There is no Chain!

Pardon my passion, but our rise-ability is limitless. We don’t have to accept any “destiny” dictated by biology, family, culture, or current societal mores. No one else, by birth, education, training, or arrogance, can dictate your rising or how far you rise. 

Your limits may be hampered only by how you have labeled and accepted yourself. For example, can an elementary school teacher become a college professor? A cook become a chef? A classical musician become a rocker (or vice versa)? A designer of t-shirts successfully produce a line of custom-made suits? A greeting card illustrator become a painter? A writer of doggerel become a poet? The answer to all such questions is Absolutely! 

And you? 

As Wayne Dyer says, we can give our label of ourselves “a new job description” (Dr. Wayne Dyer’s 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace, p. 75). “By actually rewriting your agreement with reality, you can change your mind . . . . Change your attitude toward yourself, and resolve to believe in your connectedness to the higher energy of God” (p. 88). Dyer does not say to believe in your place in any so-called great chain.

So, you can knock out others’ preconceived notions of you that both of you may harbor. You can change your self-perceptions and free yourself of those old, binding notions. Whatever your desires, profession, and other interests, you can burst those chains. Expand, reach, stretch, and rise as high as your imagination and yearnings prompt. 

Beyond any false limiting definitions and patterns, listen inside to your deepest yearnings, and follow them courageously. You can become anything you passionately desire to be. For all that you long to be and can be, you deserve your own great chain of becoming. 

© Noelle Sterne 2024