Previously I wrote about the need for our civilisation to cultivate a spiritual awareness. In contemporary western society spirituality is often viewed with suspicion or disdain. It the realm of new agers, hippies or indigenous tribes, not something a rational, civilised, modern human needs to be concerned with.
Even before Rene Descartes declared “I think, therefore I am” western society had been developing a worldview that sees humans as separate from an otherwise inert mechanical world. This “Age of Separation” as Charles Eisenstein calls it, has spawned a seemingly mighty global empire that provides the lucky few with fantastical material luxuries. However these luxuries come at a great cost for the rest of the Earth. It is not just the global impacts on the atmosphere and biodiversity but also the numerous smaller scale cruelties that are perpetrated on a daily basis. Child labour, animal testing and vivisection or mountain top mining are just some of the horrific realities of the modern system. It is only when we reconnect with more ancient truths that speak of a living, interconnected cosmos that we can begin to see how the illusion of a separate self is a fundamental factor in the development of this destructive system.
There are signs that this Age of Separation is reaching its zenith. Science is now teaching that everything is connected in a way that is far more mysterious and wondrous than the mechanistic worldview that imagines everything to be inert matter and motion. Ecology for instance is showing the myriad of connections that exist and are required in a healthy ecosystem. While systems thinking theory postulates how novel properties emerge from specific relationships and interactions among the parts in the organised whole or more simply “the whole is more than the sum of its parts”.
We need to take this a step further and open up to the idea of not only an interconnected universe but that of a living universe. One where something, call it God, energy, life-force or the great mystery, permeates everything in this glorious, interdependent and ever-changing cosmos.
This belief is what it is to be spiritual. It is something deeper, freer and more encompassing than any particular religion. Achieving a state of spiritual consciousness is not simple. Certainly in our society it requires us to overcome all the contrary conditioning of a separate self. Over the millennia different cultures have codified spirituality to create the religions of the world with its terms, stories and practices that try to facilitate the spiritual experience for its adherents.
Meditation is one way to experience the unity with the totality of life. I have often found my moments of clarity come from spending time away from noise and frantic pace of the human built environment or through music and dance. I will not attempt to describe the awareness that arises as I think it is something that needs to be experienced rather than described. As the ancient Chinese sage Lao Tzu wrote;
“The Tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal name.
The Tao is both named and nameless.
As nameless it is the origin of all things;
as named it is the mother of 10,000 things.”
Of course this is not an easy state to achieve and maintaining this awareness is even more difficult. It’s certainly not something I have been able to do. Even if I can’t remain in this state of nirvana at all times, these moments rejuvenate and recharge me and gives rise to a different view of the world and what is means to be human.
In this state the focus on one’s work naturally expands to encompass the wellbeing of all beings within the Earth community we belong to. Importantly too, the work we do is not just motivated by intellectual reasoning but also love, compassion and creativity – all aspects of our humanity.
So what if everyone or at least a critical mass of humans were to embrace a different understanding of what it is to be human by reawakening this spiritual consciousness? What sort of world would be possible?
For further exploration:
- How whales change climate discusses the link between whales, the world’s largest mammal, microscopic plankton and the planet’s climate and is an elegant example of the interconnectedness of our world.
- The Ascent of Humanity: Civilisation and the Human Sense of Self by Charles Eisenstein
- Spiritual Ecology: The cry of the Earth edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
- The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision by Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi