Our levels of consciousness

Last week I met with a group of like-minded friends where the topic of “the self-destructive nature of the human race” was discussed. Once you open your eyes and look around you the signs are everywhere. The problem seems to be that it’s only a handful of people that notice it or maybe the masses are all so caught up in their own “separate” worlds that they no longer see the forest but only small fractions of their own tree or they think that it will never have an impact on them in their lifetime.

We live in a selfish, materialistic , consumer based society that is busy consuming itself. The human population on the planet is expanding exponentially and our greed for money and power are creating acts of war, poverty, civil unrest, and the collapse of our monetary systems. We are destroying vegetation, forests, habitats, ecosystems and food-chains. We’re polluting the oceans with toxic waste. We’re harming our atmosphere by burning fossil fuels which turns our planet into a greenhouse and in turn causes global warming causing massive floods which we are already experiencing…

What will it take for us to wake up and stop our destructive selfish ways?

This made me think and while I was doing some research for my studies, I stumbled onto some material called “Spiral Dynamics”. Spiral Dynamics is a theory of human development introduced in the 1996 book by Don Beck and Chris Cowan. They argue that human nature is not fixed: humans are able, when forced by life conditions, to adapt to their environment by constructing new, more complex, conceptual models of the world that allow them to handle the new problems. Each new model includes and transcends all previous models. According to Beck and Cowan, these conceptual models are organised around so-called vMemes: systems of core values, applicable to both individuals and entire cultures.

Beige (Instinctive/Survivalistic meme)

  • Do what you must to stay alive – survive

Purple (Magical /Animistic meme) Starting 50 000years ago

  • Keep the spirits happy and the Tribe’s nest warm & safe

Red (Impulsive/Egocentric meme) starting 10 000 years ago

  • Be what you are and do what you want, regardless

Blue (Purposeful/Authoritarian meme) Starting 5000 years ago

  • Life has meaning, direction and purpose with predetermined outcomes

Orange (Achieves/Strategist meme) Starting 300 years ago

  • Act in your own self-interest by playing the game to win

Green (Communitarian/Egalitarian meme) Starting 150 years ago

  • Seek peace within the inner self and explore with others, the caring dimensions of community

Yellow (Integrative meme) Starting 50 years ago

  • Live fully and responsibly as what you are and learn to become

Turquoise (Holistic meme) Starting 30 years ago

  • Experience the wholeness of existence through mind and spirit

As you can see from the model above, we are spread over a mixture of these levels of consciousness and people display a combination of characteristics from the various levels of consciousness based on the set of values they live. Every individual is conditioned and nestled in systems of cultural and social networks that have a profound influence on the knowing and being of the individual. These levels can also be grouped into three basic stages of consciousness namely Egocentric, Ethnocentric and World centric as described by Ken Wilber.

Moral development tends to move from “me” (egocentric) to “us” (ethnocentric) to “all of us” (worldcentric). The problem is that the majority of people are stuck in the first two stages and only progress to the third stage by some kind of profound experience they encounter like a serious illness/disease, a near death experience or losing everything they own.

Modernity

Modernity is partly to blame for the situation we find ourselves in. It coincided with the scientific age shaped by the Newtonian mechanistic worldview. Is has also been the age of industrial capitalism and unlimited economic growth. It’s optimism of the future was based upon the certainty that the progress of science, technology and reason would solve all human problems.

Religion, morality and things like art were passed on to the realm of “private belief”. The only thing that mattered to the human race was economic and political advancement. Towards the end of the century these systems started to collapse with one superpower determined to use war to wipe out terrorism while ignoring the ecological destruction of the planet.

On the religious front scandals have rocked the churches and undermined their authority. Some are oppressive of woman and others have caused nations to declare war in the name of religion.

No wonder we have a generation that is skeptical about ideology. Deep down today most people feel totally insecure. We are constantly bombarded with bad news like murder, divorce, abuse, violence, terrorism, etc. All this negative feedback we are getting is a great cause of stress which in turn has a massive negative impact on our health.

This begs the question why we carry on doing what we are doing knowing very well what the results are going to be?

I think most people today live in a state of suppressed despair, trying to find ways to distract themselves from the hard realities of life. Some turn to alcohol or drugs, some commit suicide, some use sport, entertainment or sex to divert their attention from the worries of life and then you get the ignorant ones that still find their imagined security in wealth and material possessions and live under the illusion that none of this concerns and affects them.

Post-modernism

From its modernist beginnings, postmodernism is an attempt to question the world that we see around us and especially not to take other people’s views as the final truth. Postmodernism puts everything into question and radically interrogates philosophies, strategies and world views. Together with globalisation, postmodernism with all its complexity and possible excesses, is an attempt to find new and more truthful versions of the world.

The good thing about post modernism is that it’s starting to wake people up, they are starting to think for themselves and ask questions instead of just taking someone with so-called authority’s word for it. All truth within a postmodern context is relative to one’s viewpoint or stance. It is an attempt to think beyond the confines of the past. It is starting to drive us to higher levels of consciousness and if we can move beyond the ego and the dangers of individualism then there might be hope for us.

Individualism

The cultural ideal of the western world is the self-made, self-sufficient, autonomous individual who looks after himself and don’t need anyone’s help. He/she might pay for professional services but because it is purchased, he is still autonomous. Having money is vital to maintain one’s independence, hence the careerism and hectic pace the autonomous lifestyle requires. This becomes people’s mission and they will sacrifice anything to maintain it.

The long term effects of individualism however is a different story. They include alienation, loneliness, unhappiness and an inability to maintain relationships. Today psychologists are beginning to realise that it leads to self-centeredness and narcissism, which in turn is the cause of mental illness both neurotic and psychotic. It is now recognised that the “me-generation” is thoroughly unhealthy. Something Ken Wilber calls “Boomeritis”, a term that he uses to describe a pathological state of consciousness that particularly afflicts Baby Boomers. Boomeritis is characterised by relativism, narcissism, and an aversion to hierarchy.

Science and Religion

Science and religion have always been at loggerheads. Their disagreements have been many, varied and colorful, but center around their opposing ontological approaches i.e. religion sees nature as spiritual and science sees nature as material. The most effective way to close down a human mind and to manipulate its sense of self is to programme into it some form of dogma. A dogma will always defend itself from other information and repel any alternative opinion which contradicts its narrow, solidified view. Dogmas become a person’s sense of security and means of retaining power.

Mysticism goes beyond religion and science to combine both points of view. Mysticism demands that its followers verify and question beliefs until they discover the truths themselves. Followers are called verifiers or seekers and should not accept doctrine, but question it; In mysticism, then, we find a type of spirituality which has close parallels to science. a spirituality that begins with faith but ends in a certainty which each of us can discover in our own practice.

The certainty of science has been damaged by quantum theory. Time and space are no longer thought of as constant or linear; sub-atomic phenomena behave differently in the presence of observers and are now thought of in terms of both waves and particles. This idea demands the necessity to hold two seemingly opposing ideas in the mind at the same time.

” Quantum theory has led the physicists far away from the simple materialistic views that prevailed in the natural science of the nineteenth century.” Werner Heisenberg. This seems to suggest that the fundamental realities of mysticism and science are moving closer together.

Conclusion

In the words of Albert Nolan, we are like a giant ocean liner that has come loose from its moorings and are drifting out to sea. The dangers ahead are incalculable. Are we heading for extinction? Some want to return to the safety of the harbor (fundamentalists), but that is no longer possible. Others are distracted so they are not aware that we are drifting. Still others want to jump ship and swim to the shore, but we are too far out. We are all in this boat together.

On the other hand a growing number of people view this drifting out to sea as an opportunity to move away from the slavery and suffering of the past, in search of freedom and happiness. New possibilities are on the horizon every day. The hunger for a new spirituality is hopeful. The desire for justice, peace and cooperation is encouraging. The dangers of individualism are being recognised and quantum physics provide us with a map of where we are and where we might be going.

The dangers and threats remain. The ship is already leaking and while some are trying to repair the leaks, others in their selfish blindness are creating new leaks and ignoring the icebergs ahead. There is no storm at sea, nature is not hostile to us, the storm is on board between the passengers themselves. Each blindly pursuing their own agenda.

The only people that can save this ship are the people on board. By educating the passengers that are stuck in the beige, purple, red, blue and orange levels of consciousness. By becoming “Consciousness Ambassadors” we can tip the scale so that more people can evolve into the green, yellow and turquoise levels of consciousness.

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