Video talk excerpt, Living in Cosmic Consciousness with Duane Elgin,
recorded at the United Palace in New York City on December 3, 2017.
We are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home.
For at least 50,000 years, humanity has been on a journey of separation—pulling back from nature and becoming ever more differentiated, individuated, and empowered. In recent decades, we have become so dominant as a species that we are producing Earth-changing trends—global warming, species extinction, unsustainable population, massive famines, waves of migration, and more—that threaten humanity’s future. Now, with stunning abruptness, humanity is being challenged to turn from the familiar path of progressive separation to an unfamiliar path of global caring and cooperation. The transition from self-serving separation to world-serving cooperation confronts us with an evolutionary crisis: Who are we? What kind of Universe do we live in? Where are we going?
Because we are confronting the limits of the Earth’s ecosystem to carry the burden of humanity, we are also confronting our assumptions about the nature of the Universe and our evolutionary journey. Do we continue our rapid march into materialism, grounded in the assumption that we live in a Universe that is indifferent to humanity and comprised mostly of dead matter and empty space? Or do we open to a transforming insight from the combined wisdom of science and the world’s spiritual traditions: The Universe is not dead at its foundations but is profoundly alive and we humans are an integral part of that larger aliveness? In the words of Plato, “The Universe is a single living creature that contains all living creatures within it.” Life within life within life.
Our view of the Universe profoundly impacts how we live in the world. If we think we live in a Universe that is comprised of non-living particles without meaning and purpose, then it makes sense to exploit that which is dead on behalf of ourselves, the most visibly alive. Alternatively, if we have direct experiences of connecting with the aliveness in nature and the world around us, then it is natural to respect and care for the countless expressions of aliveness. These are two radically different ways of looking at the Universe and, in turn, produce dramatically different views of our identity and evolutionary journey. This leads to a startling conclusion: The most urgent challenge facing humanity is not climate change, or species extinction, or unsustainable population growth; rather, it is how we understand the Universe and our intimate relationship within it. Our deepest choices for the future emerge from this core understanding.
Evening sun in the Andes, Chile | photography ©Yuri Beletsky
How have we come to such a critical crossroads in our evolutionary journey? First, in the last several hundred years, we have been spectacularly successful in exploiting the abundance of the Earth’s resources to create a short period of unprecedented material prosperity for a minority of the Earth’s population. This burst of affluence emerged from a worldview described as ‘scientific materialism,’ which regards the Universe as unaware of and indifferent to human existence in the unthinking and unfeeling dance of dead particles in a cosmic system without purpose or meaning. Second, based on this worldview, we have been consuming the Earth’s resources far beyond her rates of regeneration. Short-term material prosperity is being gained at the cost of long-term ecological ruin. As Wendell Berry reminds us, nature “has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.” We are creating by our own hand a long-term future that is unforgivingly inhospitable for advancing human civilization.
We are now being compelled by circumstances to come together—collectively and rapidly—to cope with profound climate disruption, massive human migrations, unsustainable population growth, critical shortages of key resources such as water, the threatened extinction of nearly half of all animal and plant species, and much more. As world-changing trends of enormous magnitude converge and amplify one another, the people of Earth will confront the unyielding reality that, unless we wake up and work together, we have only the legacy of a grievously wounded Earth and impoverished future to leave to our children and grandchildren. We require a new pathway ahead and are reminded of Einstein’s famous words that “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.”
We are moving through a perilous phase of planetary transition. Will we have the species-wisdom to make deep, structural changes in our manner of living and turn toward a more sustainable future? If not, the alternatives are the collapse and even extinction of human civilizations. It is unwise to be complacent about the possibility of collapse as this has happened numerous times throughout history. More than 20 major civilizations have collapsed over the millennia, including the empires of the Romans, Mayans, Aztecs, Easter Islanders, Anasazi, Mesopotamians, and the Soviets. Importantly, many examples of collapse involve climate change as a key, contributing factor.
Although collapse has occurred numerous times in the past, today is different in one crucial respect: There are no frontiers left. The circle has closed. The entire world has become a single, integrated system—economically, ecologically, and socially. Never before has the entire planet been at risk of collapse and taking all the world’s civilizations down at the same time. Humanity has never before experienced the collapse of an embryonic but truly global civilization such as exists today. Our time of planetary transition is truly a great transition, unprecedented in human history and deeply formative in shaping the long-range future.
To move swiftly through this perilous time of planetary transition requires unprecedented breakthroughs in how we live and relate to one another. Yet, cooperation will be difficult in a world that is unraveling and where most people are coping with chronic, planetary-scale, traumatic stresses. A natural tendency is for people to separate and seek islands of safety to ride out the disruptive storms of transition that are beginning to blow through the world. However, if we pull apart and seek our personal security by retreating from the world and isolating ourselves, then systemic problems are certain to escalate and produce the very future of ruinous collapse we most fear.
Being unflinchingly realistic, it does not seem likely we will turn away from our current path of separation—with its growing inequities, overconsumption of resources, and deep injury to the Earth—unless we discover a pathway into the future that is so truly remarkable, transformative, and welcoming that we are drawn together by the magnitude and promise of its invitation. Just in time, that pathway is being revealed by insights converging from science and the world’s wisdom traditions. We are discovering that, instead of struggling for meaning and a miracle of survival in a dead Universe, we are being invited to learn and grow forever in the deep ecologies of a living Universe. To step into the invitation of learning to live in a living Universe represents a journey so extraordinary that it invites us to transcend the wounds of history and begin a process of healing and reconciliation to realize a remarkable future we can only attain together.
Great Nebula of Orion, birthplace of thousands of stars | photography ©Yuri Beletsky
In contemplating a great turn toward this new pathway of evolution, it is important to ask: Is the Universe truly as Plato described—‘a single living creature’ that contains all living creatures within it? Seeing the Universe as a super-organism with a permeating aliveness is not new—this was humanity’s basic understanding for tens of thousands of years until gradually replaced by the worldview of scientific materialism roughly 300 years ago. Since then, the scientific community has been employing its ever more powerful tools to explore the nature of reality and has discovered a Universe of astonishing depth and subtlety. In turn, the ancient intuition of a living Universe is now being reconsidered freshly as science cuts away superstition to reveal the cosmos as a place of unexpected wonder, depth, and sophistication. Here are six key attributes emerging from science and cosmology that point toward a living Universe:
“Communicating the climate message to inform, but also engage and influence behaviour has proven intensely difficult. Over a decade of research on this issue has highlighted the need for communication to engage with people’s “deep frames” – beliefs formed over a lifetime, which are mostly subconscious.
“How is this to be done? The world must turn to its artists: storytellers, film-makers; musicians; painters and multi-media wizards, to name a few.
“Under the global Future Earth initiative, a team of around 60,000 scientists and social scientists has been assembled to understand and report on the physical, tangible dimensions of the problem. I argue we need 60,000 arts and humanities experts to focus upon the intangibles – the communication, engagement and meaning-making aspects of the problem.
“Of course many artists are already grappling with climate change…. But the scale of effort, when compared to the role artists have played in other significant societal shifts, is piecemeal.
“Consider the artistic and cultural flourishing that accompanied the rise of Ancient Greece, supported by the agents of change Pericles and Alexander the Great.
“Or the Islamic Golden Age of the 8th and 9th centuries, which saw a boom in both art and science. Or the Enlightenment, which featured arrays of great scientists, philosophers, musicians and artists such as Galileo; Newton; Descartes; Spinoza; Kant; Hobbes; Voltaire; Goya; Bach and Mozart.
“If a new human civilisation is to emerge that can live within its ecological limits, artists and communicators must have a prominent place, alongside the great scientific and technological innovators of our times.
“Humanity will never be able to defeat a threat it cannot perceive.”
Read the full story by Elizabeth Boulton….
Guy Dauncey, Findhorn Fellow and author of the novel, Journey to the Future: A Better World Is Possible, on a cooperative new economy….
“The old economic story that competitive profit-seeking in a free market will solve all our problems by generating economic growth has shed its coat to reveal a Gothic horror story offering nothing but misery, death and collapse. We are long overdue to toss it in the recycling, and build ourselves a new story.
“The new story starts with syntropy, the incredible anti-entropic process that causes all forms of existence to cooperate with others within their empathic reach to increase their organizational capacity and reach, from atoms and molecules to the first living organisms. Syntropy generates Nature, and after several billion years it generated humans, not as selfish individualistic profit-seekers but as the most cooperative, altruistic species that has ever lived.
“So what is this new cooperative economy? It is big and small, varied and diverse. It’s as multi-colored as the rainbow and it’s happening all over the world.“
Read the full story….
Why do eight families own half the world’s wealth?
Capital Institute founder John Fullerton and spiritual teacher Thomas Hübl explore the possibility and promise of Regenerative Economics. In a stimulating four-part conversation, they examine the systemic patterns that keep our flawed financial systems in place, even when they no longer serve humanity’s needs.
In this second of a four-part series, Fullerton and Hübl discuss “System Design & Unquestioned Assumptions.” They observe that the accumulation of wealth among an ever-shrinking number of people reveals a critical flaw in the design of our economic systems. Just as our bodies cannot be healthy without good circulation of energy and nutrients, only a “regenerative economics” will serve humanity as a whole.
In this engaging video talk, Kosha Joubert, Executive Director of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), presents a snapshot of the inspiration behind key ecovillage projects from all over the world, beginning with the Findhorn Foundation and Community, the birthplace of GEN. She draws from select passages in her book, Ecovillage: 1001 Ways to Heal the Planet, to give a flavour of their richness and diversity with examples from Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa and North America.
According to Vandana Shiva, big corporations are turning everything into a market, into a commodity. We need to make a shift and recognize that nature is the condition for life, for us to live on the planet. Food is the place to start to reconnect with nature.
The film also features Pachamama Alliance – Heartfulness – Earth Guardians – Global Ecovillage Network – Action for Happiness – Satish Kumar and many others.
Guy Dauncey, Findhorn Fellow and author of the novel, Journey to the Future: A Better World Is Possible, shares his felt sense of an EcoRenaissance he sees emerging right now on our beautiful planet – the birth of a new vision, the promise of a new future.
“….I feel this other future that is already happening today. I see it being lived out in the lives of people who have decided that they want to contribute something positive, who want their lives to be rich and purposeful, who are working to start organic farms, create ecovillages, protect creeks, form cooperatives, share tools and books, organize festivals, lend money for social impact, run for council, start a social enterprise, start a Nature school.
“So what do we call it, this other future we are creating? The non-catastrophic one? It feels like a Renaissance, and yet it is a rebirth of something buried deep within our ancestral memory, of a time when we lived far more cooperatively, when we gave without counting the cost, when we were supported in our time of need, when we remembered and respected our ancestors, and taught our children to understand the ways of the elders.
“So let us name what I feel is emerging, sprouting in souls, reaching towards the light. Let us name it EcoRenaissance – the rebirth of connection with Nature in all its threatened glory, and reconnection with community, our friend and neighbours who care about this beautiful planet, its incredible past, and its yet-to-be-realized future.”
Read the full story….
Is it possible to embrace a more global sense of family as part of our emerging new story?
“We see so many people are left alone. Why? Because of the concept of family. The very idea about family itself needs to be questioned…. What, for me, is family? Love and acceptance. Where I can be as I am. Where I’m not judged. If the concept of family is love and acceptance, my God, [in] every family you can have so many people. You can love more people. You can accept more people. You can stop judging more people. You can include more people in your family. No one need be alone. You’ll have a totally different kind of society, a different kind of living experience on this planet. ~ Guruji Sri Vast
Produced by Chris and Dawn Agnos of Sustainable Human.
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