“Looking out upon the horrid ruin we seem to have made of the planet, in spite of the kind hearts and good intentions of the vast majority of human beings, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that some nefarious force has hijacked civilization, driving it towards ends that serve almost no one…
“Reasonable people can, depending on their vantage point and life situation, look at the same set of events and form different beliefs about them. These beliefs then become a filter that determines what they see and, indeed, what they look for. It is as if they enter separate but parallel realities….
“It is as if the events are happening for you, but not for me; that in one universe, [a] police raid really did happen, and in another universe it did not — and both these universes coexist on earth…
“Can you not feel the obsolescence of that part of you, the part that endlessly seeks to control the world, to dominate others, to maximize egoic self-interest?
“For all of us, the time is coming for that part of ourselves to bow out, so that we can step into service, into trust, and, collectively, into the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.”
— Charles Eisenstein, in Synchronicity, Myth, and the New World Order [visit www.charleseisenstein.net]
The world of the entitled, and the world of the struggling
In my last column, I took aim squarely at people who believe they “create their reality” by their enlightened thoughts and positive attitudes. Particularly, I excoriated those who adhere to the teaching of Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret, that your good fortune and material prosperity are the natural consequence of the “law of attraction” that says positive vibes attract positive reward to you. Their reality is not mine. Byrne’s law is delusional, and her disciples are unpleasant company; where they inhabit, they’re “entitled” to blessings — because they use the law of attraction to bring good things; unsuccessful people are ignorant of the law.
At the top of this page you will read some musings by Charles Eisenstein about the way in which people can be said to inhabit different realties. I find his insights compelling. I intuit the truth that you and I can have “different realities” in a sense; but if you and I cannot agree what it means to have different reality, we will never understand why the world is experienced differently by each of us. Eisenstein’s theory of different realities is not so simple as mine; please read the essay I quoted.
The meaningful way “our realities” are different is this: we are responsible for the way people react to us and we to them; we do not, however, create material change just by thinking it. It is not literally sunny on you and cloudy over me in the same space, though we may feel that way metaphorically. Due to attitudes we can control, I may feel friendliness around me, while you feel a lack of it. But there’s no mysticism to material possessions. I do not have money because I think of wealth attracting itself to me and I mysteriously manifest material opportunities to make money. Materialism has mundane explanations. “Attracting money” is not about justice, either; bad people amass vast fortunes: examples abound. As I wrote last column, European capitalism grew potent from social injustice, slavery, colonialist wars: a history of greed.
Eisenstein and I part company: my doom-story, his hopeful vision
I am a fan of Eisenstein. Yet in one very important respect I part company with his vision for the future. He is hopeful that humanity can go through an age of transition – “from separation to inter-being”, in his terms — that avoids a crashing descent into atrociously-large numbers of human fatalities. Due to the crises of our planet, our economies, our social orders and our relations between states and societies, I think crashing descent is the more likely path.
Eisenstein is brilliant in diagnosing where humanity went wrong in the past; he is spiritually uplifting when he says “we had to do it this way – we had to take the Story of Separation to its extreme, the path of ‘scientific’ Control over nature and material – so that we could pass through to the next, and better, epoch, when we tell the ‘Story of Interbeing.’ ”
But I think he is mistaken to foresee humanity transitioning with relative smoothness to this next epoch, without a crash and mass deaths. I wish he were correct, but I think he is not. I say a Dark Age is imminent. Humanity will survive; many humans will die premature deaths, and those deaths would be avoidable had we made other choices in our history than we in fact made.
The Sixth Great Extinction, of which our species is the main agent, is happening. After earth has endured this phenomenon, there will be a human population and economic activity that is adapted to balance with other life-forms on our common planet.
Do not cease to strive
What I have said about the Dark Age is not an invitation to give up being engaged in causes you believe in. I will quote myself from a column I wrote here almost two years ago:
“Having decided for myself that materialist consciousness has led humanity to a lethal confrontation with our planet’s natural limitations, and to wars that scarcity will generate among the peoples of earth struggling just to live, I have to go on believing that my work in the world has worth and meaning.
Nothing I have written here ought to be construed as dissuading anyone from activism against our rulers. All resistance matters, for each one who tries to save us.
Human striving to make a better future must go on. In the midst of collapse, we resist it. We’ll see more of what Christopher Hedges predicts. We must fight it even as it increases. Violence, anarchy, crime, poverty, decay – it’s not going to be stopped by prayer, I am very much afraid. But pray anyway; it’s good for your spirit. It prepares you to act.
By acting against what is wrong, we will transform our consciousness as a species. It is by what we love, not what we think, that we change. Silent meditation, prayer, contemplation, all help. Yet the material world needs you to act too. Action is where your love makes its difference. You can’t just “vibe” the world to heal it.
To anyone who would withdraw from all activity in materiality and try to make the world better only by the power of your spiritual energies, is, I think, completely misreading why spirits are incarnated into materiality.
‘Trust that the cosmos loves you and will nurture you, but plant your garden.”’
A parallel reality in the Western tradition: “the kingdom” message of Jesus
Our religious foundation for Western civilization, Christianity, contains crucial teaching from Jesus of Nazareth about “the kingdom of God/ of heaven.” Jesus was not teaching that we can only live in that realm by dying and being admitted to paradise through divine judgment — which is what the Church came to teach as orthodoxy.
He taught, most authentically, that by living in a particular way, within a moral order that is alternative to the ones of Caesar’s Imperial Roman despotism or Judea’s theocratic Temple religion, a mortal can live in the kingdom while walking the earth. I am persuaded of this interpretation of Jesus’ message by two excellent books: Writing in the Sand, by Thomas Moore, and The Jesus Sayings, by Rex Weyler.
Moore asserts that typically we read the word “repent” as a key message of Jesus, when in fact the better translation of the word we are given as “repentance” is “transformation.” Jesus taught his disciples to seek metanoia, an altered mind/consciousness. [Note that Moore is in complete harmony with Eisenstein on the significance of the myth/story by which we live and understand the world we inhabit. Change your story, and your world changes with it.]
“The word metanoia has been routinely translated as ‘repentance’… But if you were to go through the Gospels and retranslate this one word… as ‘discovery of a new world of meaning,’ you would have an altogether different take on these ancient writings… Metanoia is the process by which you enter the kingdom. Jesus asks for a deep shift in worldview. He requires a change in the myth by which we live.”
Here is Weyler’s summation of the core teaching of Jesus about “the kingdom” (Greek, basilea, Aramaic, malkhuta):
“… Jesus offers no guaranteed pro forma kingdom, but speaks in metaphors and parables … Do you want to enter the kingdom? Look inside, not into the sky. When you no longer separate spirit from matter, you will be in the kingdom. When you make the two into one, inside like the outside, male like female, then you will become divinely human… The kingdom is like a tiny mustard seed. Watch out. It can grow into something useful.”
In other words, if one lives as Jesus was teaching listeners to live, one enters a parallel reality, still on earth but changed utterly by the consciousness one brings to bear on the human world.
Parallel Reality: musings on history and politics
One of the very first columns I ever wrote here concerned Stephen Harper and his reality. I am disturbed by friends who demonize Harper, seeing him as evil by design, and I wrote to offer a view of him as sincerely believing in his worldview of human happiness through materialism.
I am acquainted with people who do not vote, do not read newspapers or keep informed on current events, and try to minimize their interaction with government and constituted authority as much as humanly possible, in the belief they are creating a new world. The beginning of their new world is to drop out of this one and its norms, laws, and structures of control. I respect their efforts; I tried to be like that in my twenties, but could not sustain it. I also tried to talk people into more “participatory citizenship” and convince them to be political activists, and even violent revolutionaries, in another phase of my life.
Alternative subcultures of religion (neo-paganism, Wicca, Native traditions, occult) healing and medicine (Qi Gong, ayurveda, homeopathy, herbalism, muscle testing) and economy (raw food, 100-mile-diet, Vegan, self-sufficiency, solar power) are often part and parcel of the lives of people who want to change the world beginning at home, bypassing the overworld whenever they can. We in the West Kootenays all know someone who inhabits alternative pathways.
Historically, people have created new realities in their national society by ignoring the powers of overlords: by having nothing to do with government institutions, by ignoring laws (civil disobedience) in such numbers the rulers could not arrest the masses of disobedient subjects, and by operating parallel systems of economy and institutions of law, people have simply rendered the overlord’s government irrelevant and non-functional. The two examples I know best from history are the methods of the Irish and the Indians (of India) in the early 20th century, when they were creating conditions for their independence from the Empire of Britain.
Ireland became the Irish Free State in 1922 by a combination of war and the creation of a parallel national government during the years 1916 to 1922. India also struggled with the Empire using the methods taught by Mahatma Gandhi, such as satya graha and ahimsa.
(Fascinating footnote: Irish and Indians are the west and east poles of a vast ancient ethnic folk whose language was the root of all Indo-European languages; the word rig means king in both ancient Celtic and in Sanskrit. Both cultures had law codes in which fasting, refusing food, was a recognized way of forcing powerful people to render justice. Shaming the powerful, with the threat of their honour being lost if someone died from starvation, was effective; hence the fasts of Gandhi and Bobby Sands against British prisons and courts have a terrifically long pedigree.)
Conclusions: the dialectic of destruction and creation
Every individual searches for the path that reconciles their deepest values and convictions with action and behavior. We work for a ‘livelihood’ but we live for our imagined higher purposes. Just because humanity is headed to bad times, one does not cease to be kind, to work, to love. As we struggle to stop pipelines, stop commodity-development atrocity in the environment, and to resist Harper and Christy Clark in their obsession with attacking the resources of Canada to sell in return for “jobs, jobs, jobs” – let us also be creative as well as obstructive. Block the Machine — and also design alternatives to mechanized capitalism.
It’s not enough to stop the wrong from happening; in parallel to cutting off the wrong path, we must be blazing new trails at this fork, to a path of humans flourishing in equilibrium and harmony with non-human life. Homo sapiens has not yet earned the name of our species…
Charles Jeanes is a Nelson-based writer. The previous edition of Arc Of The Cognizant can be found here.