The New Story is a vision of a world in which humanity is a benign and cooperative presence within the planetary community of all life and not a selfish, disruptive, and destructive one. It’s a vision which many people have held and even practiced over the millennia. It’s a vision that my own subtle colleagues—a varied collection of non-physical individuals and beings with whom I have been working for over sixty years—have been promoting and thus one that has guided my own life. Their version of it is simple. It is the emergence of a world in which humanity and non-human nature work together as partners and colleagues in an ongoing and evolving spirit of wholeness.
More recently, in the 1980’s, the cultural historian and priest, Thomas Berry, articulated this vision in a series of books, beginning with The Dream of the Earth, and called it “the Earth Story.” When he began working with Brian Swimme, a professor of evolutionary cosmology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, this was expanded to become the “Universe Story.” The New Story as presented by Findhorn is a further development of this vision, expanded in part by Findhorn’s history of cooperation with Devas and other subtle intelligences of the natural world and thus including such beings as part of the planetary Story.
When I was asked to contribute an essay on “Living the New Story at the Turning of the Year,” I was happy and honoured to do so. When it came time, though, to put thoughts on paper, I felt stymied as I realised that I couldn’t easily translate my own experiences into a “New Story” context or terminology. As I stared at the blank page on my computer monitor and thought about this, looking for some inspiration, I concluded that I was less interested in an overarching cultural and mythic narrative than I am in the relationships I form day by day with my world. That I am guided by a planetary vision of wholeness, of which the New Story is an inspiring articulation, is without question, but it long since stopped being a mental image in which to believe and became part of who I am.
An important part of the New Story has to do with the direction and structure of cultural change. How should, and how can, our political, economic, social, educational, artistic, and religious institutions change in order to embody a world in which humans are partners and not predators on the earth? These are important considerations and deserve the best thought and wisdom, joy and insight we can bring to them. For twenty years, throughout the Seventies and Eighties, this was the “thought-arena” in which I worked. I was part of the Lindisfarne Fellows, a collection of some of the finest minds working to imagine and create a planetary culture, much as the Findhorn Fellows do today. Cultural change was my focus. But then in the Nineties, my attention and interest shifted from “planet” to “person.” The guiding questions for my life ceased to be, “What new institutions do we need to create?” or “What new planetary vision do we need to communicate?” to “What does an individual need to be and what relationships with the world does he or she need to form in order to bring a healthy and holistic world into being?”
With this in mind, let me share some examples from my own life in the hopes that they will fulfill the purpose for which I was asked to write this essay.
One of the questions I was presented in the invitation to write this blog had to do with how I “harvested the learning and insights” of 2020. Thinking about this, two things stand out. The first is how I choose to think about this past year. Certainly, words like “terrible” and “tumultuous” and “painful” come to mind; there is no question 2020 was a year of suffering, death and loss. I had had some advanced warning of this when, in December of 2019, one of my subtle colleagues said that the new year would be a “difficult year” and added that I should be prepared “for a roller-coaster ride.” But he offered no specifics beyond this, and I admit I didn’t imagine it would be as bad as it was.
However, as the minutes counted down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, I realised that what I felt was gratitude to 2020 and that it was this spirit of gratefulness that I wished to carry over into 2021. After all, the teachers I remember most from my years in school aren’t the ones who gave me an easy time but the tough ones who challenged me to discover and express the best within me.
Even so, gratitude may seem like an odd response to a year filled with such stress, but it comes out of the relationship I work to cultivate with life as a way of embodying the spirit of the New Story. This narrative urges us towards a non-adversarial world, a world of connectedness and mutually-empowering entanglement (to borrow a word from quantum mechanics). To say “Good Riddance!” to 2020 is to set up a mental veil that can prevent my seeing what that year has had to offer me. I have, in effect, turned away my mental eyes, not to mention my heart. To say “Thank you,” on the other hand, allows me to face 2020 with openness and thus with a greater chance of seeing what it has offered.
What has it offered? I don’t know in your case. Maybe it has shown you your courage or your selflessness. Maybe it has given you a chance to demonstrate resilience in the midst of adversity. Maybe it has awakened compassion. One thing this past year has given me is a deeper understanding of how white privilege operates in my life, for instance, and how deep and often hidden systemic racism is in my country, a valuable insight.
One powerful gift from this past year has been an opportunity to practice an inner sustainability. It seems to me this is very pertinent to those of us who seek to bring the world of the New Story into being. We face considerable historical, institutional and social inertia; trying to bring about cultural change is often met with pushback. It can be as if we are working against a headwind of opposition, if not always direct, then indirect in the form of habit. When we first “sign on” with a new vision of a better world, we can be fired up, excited, energised, but then we discover that things don’t change overnight. Telling a new story is hard work! There are so many “new stories” flying about, given all the misinformation, fake news, conspiracy theories, alternate facts, and so on being fed into our collective mind by social (I think of it as “unsocial”) media, and most of them encourage more division, not less, more antagonism and adversarialness, not less. Being true to the New Story can demand a lot from us.
This demand can be subtle, especially if we think of the New Story simply as a cosmology, a belief, a worldview and not as our very nature, our blood and bones. I can speak eloquently about the New Story and then turn around and live the “old story” in my relationship with another person. My mind may be filled with inspiring visions but my heart and my actions may communicate fear, dislike, “us vs them,” conflict. Where do I summon the reserves to be kind, thoughtful, courteous, and compassionate with others when I’m feeling stressed, I’m short on sleep, I’ve lost my job? Will the New Story help me? Probably not so much if it’s just a cosmology, but it can help a great deal if it has become who I am, that is, if I am right now, right where I am, the kind of person who lives in the benign and connected world of the New Story.
Of course, we will fail at this. And we will also succeed. Our failures will be less and less frequent and our successes more and more who we are if we sustain our awareness and commitment to be the embodiment of a “New Story Person,” or what I call a “Gaian Person.” We need to discover what in our lives helps us as unique individuals and as partners and colleagues to sustain the energy to be the presence of the New Story in life and action and relationship. We need to discover our capacity for stick-to-it-tiveness.
This is the kind of discovery we may not make when all is going well and we feel no challenge in our life. It is the kind of discovery we can make when the going gets rough.
The going got rough in 2020. If last year we discovered our capacity to keep going, to be the spirit of the world we want to manifest; if we discovered how to sustain ourselves in the midst of challenge, then we have gained a gift. The year has served us well.
This is important because 2021 is just part of a continuum along which the same forces at work in the world in 2020 are continuing. The dawn of a new year is in our minds, not in the world itself. Not that this isn’t a powerful thing, for human imagination and belief always impact the world, but climate change, economic hardship and injustice, political instability, anger, fear, violence…all these things are still in our world, still saying to the New Story, “Oh yeah? Think you can change us? Prove it? We dare you!” If we have learned this past year that what is within us gives us the strength and power, the wisdom and skill, to meet what challenges us, then we are in a good place from which to keep moving forward.
None of this may seem that important, or it may seem commonplace. But I worked as a leader in the New Age Movement from the Sixties through the Nineties, and during that time, I saw plenty of people who had the vision but could not sustain it when the new world didn’t manifest as quickly or as easily as they wished. When it comes to the kind of planetary change the New Story demands, we’re talking generational change, even if events accelerate it. We need to have the inner resources for the long haul, resources that allow us to meet each day with joy and gratitude, not with discouragement.
2020 offered us an opportunity to practice this.
The invitation to write this blog mentioned looking ahead to the “dawning of a new year filled with promise and pure potential,” and suggested I comment on this. I think this is an inspirational statement. I understand and agree with its sentiment. But every day is filled with promise and potential. Do I have more promise and more potential now that I’m in the new year than I had on December 31st, 2020? Certainly, circumstances can and will change, and opportunities may arise that were not present last year. I like to think, though, that “potential” is not a quantity, of which I can have more or less. Rather than talk about our potential, I think of our capacity to “potentiate.” Potential is what we create by how we relate to our world. A loving relationship on the whole generates more opportunities and potentials than does a hateful or fearful one. Instead of saying that I have to “live up to my potentials,” I can say that I want to increase my capacity to potentiate, i.e. to create potential.
The power of a worldview like the New Story is that it can inspire me to generate potentiality, if I am excited by this vision and especially if I can embody its spirit in the world. Personally, I’m excited because I see the world described in the New Story not as a possibility but as a living seed amongst us and within us; in this sense, it is here now, an integral and organic part of humanity’s long arc of planetary evolution. Nor is it just up to us to nourish that seed and bring that world into being. All creation is doing this with us; in some cases, we have to catch up! The kind of interconnected, mutually empowering and loving world that is at the heart of the New Story is precisely what exists in the subtle realms of the planet. At least, this has been my experience—just as it was for Findhorn in the early days of its existence. I think of it as the “subtle Commons of life,” because as in an earthly Commons, all the participants act in ways that will benefit all the other participants. Each life is a resource of energy and empowerment for every other life. When I tune into the subtle environment of the Devas and nature spirits in my neighbourhood, this kind of community is precisely what I experience.
In this sense, the world of the New Story already exists all around us. We are embedded in it, however much we structure our own world to ignore it and to create its opposite. What we have created is not sustainable, as we know. Even now, we are seeing it breaking up. As it does so, it will more and more need the presence of individuals who are rooted in the world of the New Story, who have integrated it into their consciousnesses and their lives, and who can stand with calmness and strength in the midst of change. The New Story becomes our story, it becomes who we are, not just for this year but for all the new years to come.
This reflection forms part of our ‘Living the New Story at the Turning of the Year’ Blog Series. We are deeply grateful to David for sharing his wisdom and insights with our Findhorn New Story Community. Be sure to read our other contributions in the Series generously offered by respected proponents of a new story for humanity at this uncertain and changing time in our evolution.