We are standing at a pivotal point in the history of mankind where chaos abounds, and the ground on which we stand is literally shifting, as symbolised by climate change. Multiple possibilities abound, as do multiple threats. Coping with such chaos in order to realise these possibilities, and not be destroyed by threats requires a radical shift in consciousness. What this may mean in actuality, or the processes by which one may unfold it are as yet little understood. We may talk about an evolution of consciousness in general terms, but from within the chaos of our current times, where social structures are dissolving, and that which bound us together loses meaning, how do we face the chaotic energies and powerful forces that we may feel, as the ground on which we have lived our lives begins to tremble and shake?
If we are to understand and survive these times, then we need to understand more deeply cycles of change, of which levels of consciousness are one. Our current state of consciousness has reached the end of a cycle, and ends of cycles bring about ‘state changes’; just as ice turns to water, and water to steam – a fractal leap. The nature of the new form cannot be predicted from the former, just as we cannot visualise steam emerging from water; nevertheless the same ingredients are contained within the new form. Furthermore, there are cycles within cycles: these may unfold over centuries, or over a day, depending on where we put our initial yardstick.
Levels of consciousness imply ways of perceiving the world both collectively in terms of civilisations, and individually in terms of breadth and depth of awareness. Our current Western civilisation whose tentacles reach throughout the globe has reached the pinnacle of its intention – the unfolding of the individuated ego. Arguably, this process began around 600 BC at a time called the ‘axial age’ with the emergence of a self-reflective consciousness as exemplified in the lives and work of spiritual pioneers such as the Buddha, Confucius and Socrates. With this as our yardstick, in the current cycle of change, we can witness the dying throes of a rational, separated consciousness collectively in terms of the global crisis and individually in the growing crisis of mental health. Whilst this consciousness has brought with it technological progress it has equally separated each individual from their ‘feeling’ states, leading to an intense state of alienation from our own natures and nature itself.
Transition to another ‘state’ means incorporation and dissolving of the old for the emergence of new structures. This a natural process of growth that we see in all cycles; just as the flower unfolds from the leaves, and the leaves from the seed in the ground. In terms of levels of consciousness, then we could call these processes of remembering, incubation and metamorphosis; it is within these very processes that the energies of a new consciousness may emerge. A movement into a different level of consciousness means working consciously to reintegrate that which we have forgotten in order to bring ourselves to a new and more complex holistic level of consciousness.
However, within this dissolution of the old, some ingredients will remain the same and recombine providing critical nodal points in the new.These forms have remained within the emergent ones, albeit in hidden ways – these are the states of consciousness from which have emerged the teachings and wisdoms of the pre-Greek era – before even 600 BC. An evolution of consciousness at this time means bringing to light these older forms of consciousness, within the context in which they first arose, and seeding these wisdoms, ‘dreaming their truths’ within the current state of crisis and chaos in order provide the conditions for the new to seed itself in a conscious and rich terrain.
Let’s use the great insights of Steiner to try and imagine the depth of this process:
‘The wide-awake state of mind in which we have our everyday life and pursuit of knowledge today was something totally unknown to an earlier humanity. But this was where the possibility arose for pure thought, the existence of which may make us despair, but from which alone we can gain the impulses for freedom. If humanity had never gained this faculty of pure thought, which does not at the same time establish existence but is pure thought, neither would we ever have gained awareness of freedom…Humanity had moved a long way into a particular darkness, the darkness in which the impulse for freedom lies but the light of spirituality does not shine. Do develop a real feeling for the way this really was in human evolution. Looking back into an early age, we see human beings looking up into the starry heavens, saying to themselves :’The powers of those starry heavens live in me; I am part of this cosmos. As a spirit, man has been forced down to earth. The heavens had grown dark, so to say, for human beings were not able to see through, to understand the light, even sunlight or the light of the stars, all that shone down in a physical way “’ (Steiner, p.131, 2016)
These insights, this ability to see deeply into the cosmos and into our human evolution is what we have the possibility to recover for ourselves – each as a unique individual. We now have the possibility of freedom of enabling that brighter consciousness to come into connection, in some form or other, with those earlier states. This hard won, yet now misdirected individualism, means that we have the freedom to choose, to take responsibility, to develop our own individual ethical code, and most importantly to live by it.In order to do so, means regaining that connection to this older form of consciousness, and this can only be done by opening, reflecting upon, and transforming as individuals in order for a necessary shift in collective consciousness to take place and offer up new ways of relating to ourselves and planet.
For a more expanded version of this see the main article:
Seeding the old in the new – the living, invisible threads of the traditions
Steiner, R ( 2016) Initiation Science and the development of the human mind. Rudolf Steiner Press CW228