By Bob Calkin
It’s inconceivable to me that the universe of which the Earth is a tiny part all happened by chance. It makes more sense to accept there is a mystery which we probably won’t uncover, but that the universe’s evolutionary thrust is driven by a sacred intelligent energy that is inherent in the way the universe functions. The role of human beings in this cosmic drama is to evolve in order that the universe will know itself. We are the universe becoming aware of itself.
As it is there is reliable scientific theory that the universe has evolved to its present state and continues to evolve. The course of evolution is towards more and more complexity. Human consciousness also evolves being able to handle more and more complexity and to also increase its span of care and concern.
However, it is also clear that even though human consciousness has evolved towards greater complexity and care and concern there is something problematic about human consciousness.
In the western developed world we have created a civilization that confers many benefits but at the same time the Earth’s ecology is under serious threat, so much so that our civilization might not survive this century, there is major social division within societies and within the wider global community and there is widespread psychological alienation. Moreover the economic model that emerged out of the 1930’s depression and after the Second World War has collapsed.
All of these issues pose major challenges which the current dominant consciousness will not be able to solve.
What then do we make of the sacred intelligent energy that drives evolution of the universe?
Evolution will continue no matter what and the Earth will continue (at least for the next few billion years) but our current human civilization may not unless we evolve beyond and transcend the current dominant consciousness. This means that human beings mightn’t be able to fulfill their mission of helping the universe know itself to be
replaced by some other form of consciousness.
The stakes are extremely high and they have probably never been higher for human civilization. One of the critical issues is the creation of a new economy, but the danger is that we will create an economy that continues to defy the laws of nature and that will not repair the damage caused to the ecology.
It’s around this issue of economic reconstruction that questions of consciousness arises. How do we understand the consciousness that has given rise to the modern world and a consciousness that will take us beyond our current challenges? Along with many others I call the current dominant consciousness modernist consciousness.
Modernist consciousness is a term used by many to describe a whole range of cultural values, norms and practices. People whose consciousness is at this stage experience the self as a separate isolated individual. Modernism values wealth, status and the good life through material wealth and consumption. People are valued in terms of what they own and their income. Progress is achieved through science and technology and seeking the best solution is equated with what advances wealth and status. It values winning and striving for excellence and appreciates individual autonomy and independence, all organized within a meritocracy.
These are the things that people with this level of consciousness identify with. In the current financial meltdown all of these ideas and values are under threat and stand at the heart of the fears and anxieties that have arisen as people have seen their dreams and hope shattered. The danger is that those with shattered dreams will try to recreate the economic conditions that they have lost. The real solution involves building a new consciousness based around what I call a spiritual life of everyday experience.
Modernist consciousness is based on values of wealth, status and the good life based around conspicuous consumption which it is assumed are the core of human nature. Those with this consciousness fashion their lives around these values.
Developmental psychology has taught us, however, that there is no such thing as a universal human nature. Our nature as a human being evolves through different stages and there is no such thing as a permanent human nature common to all people. This has to be a source of hope for the future. There is far more to being human than as an economic optimizer as the economists would have us believe.
This consciousness created the modern world, but it cannot take us to a world that will work in harmony with and value the Earth and allow the Earth to heal, as well as valuing all living forms. It will not be possible to retain this form of consciousness and create a post financial crash economy and a mode of consumption aimed at reversing global warming and repairing the ecosystem services.
Einstein said that you cannot solve the problems created by one type of consciousness with the level of consciousness that created the problem in the first place.
What type of consciousness will be required to replace modernist consciousness? I call this ecological consciousness associated with a spiritual life based around the experience of everyday life.
This new form of consciousness will need to have the potential to solve a series of big questions. It will be needed to create a new economy that obeys the ecological boundaries of the Earth, protects the positive features of our civilization, addresses the social divisions that exist and heals widespread psychological alienation. How would we describe such a consciousness?
Ecological consciousness like all stages of consciousness has six themes:
Ecological consciousness perceives our reality as human beings participating in universal life which is a conscious intelligent energy field, life has us we don’t have a life, we are the dance, life is the dancer.
Ecological consciousness recognizes that we have needs in order to serve universal life. In the modern world needs extend to education, health care, safe communities, opportunities to develop our competencies and consciousness and so on. Ecological consciousness sees these things as needs that it requires in order to serve universal life but does not covet them, identify with them or become attached to them.
Ecological consciousness embraces a relationship between ourselves as human beings and the way we make a living in a way that promotes living in harmony with and valuing the Earth and all living forms, and that is an expression of the purpose we fulfill on behalf of life, where service is the prime concern.
Ecological consciousness adopts a life style that makes as few demands on the Earth’s resources as possible and weighs up how all activities impact upon the Earth, other people and other living forms. Above all ecological consciousness abandons the pursuit of wealth and status except as a means of supplying our needs in accordance with the Earth’s ecology. This is a revolutionary and radical idea.
Ecological consciousness adopts an attitude of abiding in all and everyone abiding in it as a basis for its relationships with others.
Ecological consciousness engages in political, social and economic events. It does so aware that people are at different stages of consciousness so as to manage the spiral of development for the benefit of all, and in a way that facilitates the growth and development of all. It tries where possible to promote amplified ecologically conscious people into positions of leadership. Ecological consciousness looks to the possibility of converting itself into a world wide movement pledged to influence the course of events.
There are clearly huge gaps between modernist consciousness and ecological consciousness. Is the gap so great that it’s unbridgeable?
The answer to this profoundly important question needs to be considered in relation to the severity of the challenges we face, the likely outcome if we don’t face them and the fact that as human beings we are programmed to evolve and develop. It’s important for as many people as possible to face up to the nature of the challenges and to accept that modernist consciousness will hinder our chances of preserving our civilization. Recognizing that we must face this challenge and lead a spiritual life based in everyday experience is one of the critical challenges that we face.
We know enough about consciousness, about how it develops and how people can make real and lasting change. There are also enough people whose consciousness is bordering on ecological consciousness, even though the present numbers who have reached this stage is relatively small.
This suggests that it will be possible for enough people to take on board the evolutionary challenge of developing ecological consciousness to lead the way to a new economy that obeys the laws of the Earth’s ecology, that is able to respond to the grievous social division and to healing psychological alienation to be hopeful that we just might have a chance.