Our sole concern must be with making manifest the future which is immanent in ourselves. ~ Jean Gebser
At nearly eight billion strong, humankind has populated all corners of the globe, planted flags at both Arctic poles, explored the very depths of the oceans, and launched itself into space. Yet, in a relatively brief span of time, we have simultaneously lain ruin to delicate ecosystems and catalyzed an accelerating environmental crisis, kicking off the planet’s sixth mass extinction event. However successful our species appears, without a thriving planet, without abundant biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, our kind and countless others will cease to exist. We know this. Yet, many remain unable to see, sense, feel, and therefore accept the reality before us.
…by coming together to integrate the past and heal trauma, we can unlock vast reserves of untapped energy and hidden potential, a profound resource that can be consciously used to light the way toward better possible futures.
The problem has been termed the meta-crisis for precisely this reason: in the words of Jonathan Rowson, it “highlights that our relationship to the crisis is part of the crisis.” This failure of relationship isn’t based in human ignorance, stupidity, or even greed, however; it lies far deeper.
From a mystical perspective, every systemic and seemingly intractable social problem, regardless where it plays out in the world, springs from the same source: humanity’s deep social, historical, cultural, and multigenerational trauma—our unhealed and unresolved past. Like dark matter, collective trauma cannot be observed directly; we can only perceive it by its symptoms—hyperarousal (e.g., social anxiety, intensity, distrust, agitation, fear, aggression, violence) or hypoarousal (e.g., numbing, apathy, lethargy, disconnection, ennui, pessimism). And by its effects: collective trauma blocks the flow of lifeforce through a living system, whether a person’s or a planet’s. It splinters persons and nations. It damages internal and external coherence, distorts perception and obscures truth, and greatly disembodies the traumatized, thereby injuring our capacity to relate to and with one another. In all of these ways, trauma suspends evolutionary progress and blunts our ability to meet the challenges of the present. In the wake of mass unresolved traumas, fragmentation yields disrelation yields polarization yields chaos yields collapse.
Think of the traumatized person or community like a large city that is experiencing power outages. Hidden layers of unintegrated past are like the sectors where electricity has failed; those zones are offline and disconnected from the whole. When trauma sunders connectivity, we grow estranged from one another and alienated from the natural world. We accept unbalanced and inhumane societal conditions as simply “the way things are.” This limits our ability to be in tune with the rhythm of life. Indeed, humanity’s unresolved past has left us so out of tune with life that, despite the rapid technological advancements of the last century, most cultures still rely on extractive economies, depleting Earth’s finite natural resources for wholly unequitable and unsustainable gains. We do this because we cannot feel the planetary system or our sacred interrelation with it.
The paradox of trauma is that its symptoms are really signposts, pointing our way out of the fog. Consider something: you are alive today because every single one of your genetic forebears, stretching back through time, survived long enough—through countless periods of volatility, chaos, and change—to reproduce a resilient child.
And that child went on to do the same.
We exist at all because of human resilience, which is our birthright. Everything our progenitors survived in order to bring us forward lives in us today, not just their struggle and suffering, but their skills, talents, tenacity, perseverance, and genius. Likewise, millennia after millennia, humans have learned and developed countless means and methods through which to mend, heal, redeem, and restore ourselves and one another—and all of that wisdom is as near as our DNA.
If our kind is to flourish and thrive, not just survive, the elegant interrelation we observe in the natural world must be mirrored in us. We aren’t merely on the planet; we are part of it. We aren’t the highest intelligence on Earth; we are a manifestation of Earth’s intelligence. The planet is us: its ancient carbon, oxygen, minerals, metals, and water are the same that comprise our bodies. Humans are simply the latest drumbeat in an ancient, cosmic, evolutionary dance, even if somewhere in our journey, we have forgotten the song.
We can raise societal awareness, tap new levels of collective intelligence, and enact a fresh vision for our world.
As it’s written in the Gospel of Thomas: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” By surveying the roots of the meta-crisis, we see that unresolved collective trauma produces mass disembodiment, leaving us not only disconnected from self and other, but from nature. This is the source of our greatest social problems, including the climate crisis. Still, having spent eighteen years working with over 100,000 people to facilitate transformational change, I have repeatedly witnessed the power of group healing to deepen and repair human connection. What’s more, by coming together to integrate the past and heal trauma, we can unlock vast reserves of untapped energy and hidden potential, a profound resource that can be consciously used to light the way toward better possible futures.
Indeed, the poison is the medicine; both the problem and the remedy is us.
Humanity is at a choice point. We can decide together to honor our shared uncertainty, anxiety, and fear, as much as our innate strength, determination, and capacity to transform. We can engage in mutual presencing practices and reaffirm our sacred interrelation. We can augment and amplify individual and social resilience, and invoke higher insights, emergent capacities, and richer frames of correlation and connection. We can raise societal awareness, tap new levels of collective intelligence, and enact a fresh vision for our world.
We already have everything we need to heal ourselves, our societies, and our planet. And we must, for there is no time to waste.
Thomas Hübl is a contemporary mystic, international spiritual teacher, and author of Healing Collective Trauma: A Process for Integrating Our Intergenerational and Cultural Wounds (2020), whose work seeks to integrate the core insights of the great wisdom traditions with the discoveries of modern science. Thomas’ teachings combine somatic awareness and advanced meditative practices, a sophisticated analysis of cultural architecture—including multigenerational and collective trauma—with transformational processes that address trauma and shadow issues. His teachings aim to guide practitioners toward a deeper level of self-awareness—from an ego-centered worldview to a life of authentic expression, service, and alignment.
Originally published in Kosmos Journal, Winter Edition 2021 and reprinted here with kind permission.