Socrates had it right long ago when he acknowledged that to the extent that he was wise, it was because he knew how much he did not know.
During my lifetime, the trend has been for homage to be paid to all the cocky, smart human beings who think they know everything.
The slicker and more self-confident the guy (and this is mostly about guys), the more rewards and adulation he gets.
Collectively, especially in the United States, arrogance has been the name of the game. I think this collective hubris may have reached its apex with the splitting of the atom and the knowledge that he who controls atomic energy controls the world.
Or so we thought.
Climate change is ushering in a whole new, and much more humble era.
It turns out that just because we can bulldoze forests and mountaintops, change the course of rivers, drill beneath the sea and through solid rock, and completely saturate the earth with satellite, drone and in-home surveillance devices, we are still just as vulnerable as we ever were to the simple, earthbound necessities of food and shelter.
As the big, climate-change-induced storms continue to roll in from the ocean, so frequently that they all begin to blur into an anguished nonstop disaster montage, a slow but steady sea-change in collective human consciousness is beginning to occur.
We are beginning to recognize how much we still don’t know, and how dangerous our ignorance, combined with arrogance, is becoming.
There is no doubt now that we who are alive today, along with our children and grandchildren, are going to be living through a remarkable transition time as the planet we have destabilized and plundered during the past few hundred years of industrialization seeks to return to equilibrium.
We must acknowledge that human over-population has played a major role in this process of destabilization. Our very success as a species is what is driving the current unfolding disaster. By reducing our numbers through disease, drought, flooding and the competition for shrinking natural resources that leads to war, the planet is doing what it must to return to a steady state where the ecosystem as a whole can flourish.
It is sobering to live with this knowledge.
Perhaps it is my sadness at knowing that I am going to be living through (and dying in) a veritable Holocaust of earthly creatures, that has me searching outside the box of science and common knowledge for signs of hope.
I was not raised with religion, but I have always been an instinctive spiritual animist, seeing the divine in the beauty of the natural world, and in my unbounded love for all the elements of our Earth—rock, water, air and all the myriad living beings that inhabit every strata of our planet.
I have also been open, since I was a child, to the possibility that there is more to our experience than meets the eye. I have always been fascinated by the occult, shamanism, and science fiction involving time travel to other dimensions of space/time.
I don’t know if it is just because I am paying more attention, but lately I have been perceiving a definite uptick in collective awareness that the key to fixing what ails us in the physical world may lie not in better “hard science,” but in a deeper connection to knowledge that can only be accessed through a different kind of perception.
The doors to this under-tapped realm of wisdom are accessible to us through what has poetically been called “our mind’s eye.”
There have always been humans who have been explorers in this realm—Socrates was one, the Biblical sages and prophets were others, and modern esoteric explorers like Rudolf Steiner, Terrence McKenna, Mary Daly, Martin Prechtel, Starhawk and many more.
In the 1960s psychedelic drugs opened the doors for many people who were not at all prepared for the “trips” they encountered.
Now we seem to be coming around again to a period where, as conditions in the physical world deteriorate, more of us are seeking understanding and reassurance in the non-physical.
The more we know of how bad things are here in the physical realm, the more we want to know that “another world is possible.” And the more we look, the more we find that indeed, there is much more to the universe than meets the eye.
Even scientists are beginning to align with the spiritists they previously disdained. In our age of quantum physics, the whole idea of a “spiritual dimension,” accessible through human consciousness, is becoming much less far-fetched to rational hard science types.
The new Hayden Planetarium show, “Dark Universe,” ends with a graphic that could be right out of “Twilight Zone,” showing that roughly three-quarters of the universe is composed of “dark energy,” a term invented to represent in language something we know enough to know we do not understand at all.
It could be that waking, embodied life is to human consciousness what the physical, hard-matter universe is to the cosmos as a whole. Just a tiny fragment of a much larger, and potentially much more interesting, whole.
What if the reason every living thing on this planet sleeps (whether in the daytime or the nighttime) is in order to reconnect with the non-physical realm that spiritually sustains us? We know that if we are deprived of sleep for any length of time, we go crazy and die.
What if “the dreams that come,” whether in sleep or in death, are just as valid a form of experience as the waking hours of our day, and our lives?
What would it mean to be able to think beyond the brief timelines of our individual lives, or even the eons of evolutionary cycles on the planet, and know that we are all part of a much grander cosmic dream?
Thinking this way does not give me license to let go of my focus on making a difference here on earth, now in my lifetime.
In some ways this imperative becomes even stronger, as it was for Socrates, Steiner and so many other visionaries who were also powerful initiators and guides during their lifetimes.
During this winter solstice season of introspection and questioning, I have been reading and re-reading the writings of one such contemporary guide, the Sufi mystic and spiritual ecologist Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee. I leave you with a passage to ponder:
In the book of life we can see the energy patterns of creation, the rivers of light that flow between the worlds. We can see how the individual relates to the whole and learn the secret ways to bring light into the world; we can understand the deeper purpose of the darkness and suffering in the world, of its seeming chaos. And the attentive reader can glimpse another reality behind all of the moving images of life, a reality that is alive with another meaning in which our individual planet has a part to play in the magic of the galaxy. Just as there are inner worlds, each deeper and more enduring, there are also different outer dimensions whose purposes are interrelated and yet different. The inner and outer mirror each other in complex and beautiful ways, and in this mirroring there are also levels of meaning. As we awaken from our sleep of separation, we can come alive in a multifaceted, multidimensional universe that expresses the infinite nature of the Beloved.
–Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Spiritual Power: How It Works
Let it be so.