The integration of the invisible living threads of tradition in a post-modern consciousness

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?
Firstly, we need to carefully examine the worldview that governs our current conditions, which has led us to the current state of crisis. It shows how the principles and wisdom of the old traditions have gone to ground, and that meeting the current crisis means finding a way of integrating these within the current scientific world view in order to effect a conscious transformation. This is not a short process, but may unfold over centuries; however this is the time at which the seeds of such transformation need to be created from the old and replanted.
The current state
A civilisation can be said to consist of a set of cultural habits enshrined within social structures, and perpetuated through a shared collective consciousness. The current civilisation appears to be at the end of a cycle, culminating in a worldview whose gaze is fixated upon the external world, splitting itself off from a relationship to the inner landscape. Such a worldview, both creating and created by processes of industrialisation has resulted in supreme technological achievements in which many of nature’s processes have become harnessed to meet the desires of mankind. This is characterised by the dominance of ‘reason’ and the intellect whose narrow analytics have forced the ever-flowing internal and external physiological and material energies into closed systems operating in a machine-like manner. These systems are purportedly to support the ‘progress’ of mankind, but their effect has been effectively to stifle the very life force itself. This is the endpoint, the point of entropy, of materialism. The system is grinding to a halt.
The trajectory of the current civilisation and its purpose can be said to have begun 650 and 500 BC. This was marked, according to many commentators, by both a spiritual flowering, and also the coming into being of new political structures with the establishment of Rome as the centre. Jaspers, for example, argued that during this time around 500BC, ‘the spiritual foundations of humanity were laid simultaneously and independently in China, India, Persia, and Greece. It was ‘an interregnum between two ages of great empire, a pause for liberty, a deep breath bringing the most lucid consciousness’ (Jaspers, quoted in Armstrong, 2006). At this point the old structures were collapsing, and new ones still had not arrived. Jaspers was interested in the similarities in the thinking of these great spiritual pioneers such as Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha), Confucius, and Socrates. All these teachers instigated traditions of travelling scholarship when scholars roamed from city to city to exchange ideas. Plato later recalled this as a period of ‘anamnesis’ – or a remembering of things forgotten. Voeglin ( 2001) characterised this period as a ‘leap of being’ when individual values began to emerge from societal ones.
The materialistic view of the universe reached its apogee at the end of the 19th century. It came about as a result of a scientific method that had finally dismissed the possibility of anything existing beyond what could be seen and therefore measured. Any meaningful or inspirational perspective had been eliminated within the scientists’ gaze. reduced to a mere subjectivity that in and of its own was deemed scientifically valueless. Kant’s influential understanding that what we could know from the external world was never a ‘thing-in-itself’ – only our mind’s construction of it, was the nail in the coffin of any felt relationship with nature. Our thought patterns had become split off from our experience creating an ultimate prison from the external world leading to intense alienation.
Today we see this everywhere in the signs of out-of-control growth; from the etiolated forms of humans as their bodies are mechanically re-engineered; to an economic system where money as a form of exchange has reached figures that are incomprehensible; to out-of-control mental and emotional states unable to cope with, and indeed creating, the environmental, ecological and political chaos.
Nevertheless, the outcome of the trajectory, and perhaps its greater purpose, has been the development of the individualised ego. Each individual, has the generic capacity to reach more integrated states of consciousness through actualising her or his unique destiny within the greater collective. This cannot be done by individuality alone, but will need reconnecting first with the universe from which our minds are currently separated.
This long trajectory of individualisation has reached the end of its cycle. Just as Plato names that earlier period as one of ‘anamnesis’ so today the task is working consciously to reintegrate that which we have forgotten in order to bring ourselves to a new and more complex holistic level of consciousness. This means contacting the older forms of consciousness and reintegrating them into the brighter levels of consciousness that are the achievements of the last 2000 years.