Importance of Enlightenment
|I'm going to muse a bit about why I
think personal enlightenment is an important, perhaps even crucial,
response to the crisis of civilization.
Here are my assumptions:
Enlightenment of this kind is not a change of attitudes toward compassion, altruism, cooperation or any other "enlightened" values. That shift of values is a result of the awakening, not its cause or essence.
It's vanishingly unlikely that this sort of enlightenment will be pursued by those in power. As I said before, they have no incentive to do so, and their reptilian complex will actively discourage it. For someone who is not in power however, there is an incentive to pursue this kind of enlightenment.
It gives them more ability to chart their own course, and reduces their susceptibility to being herded. As a result they may be able to accomplish more of their own goals. Of course the level of awakening varies enormously from person to person, but even people who simply develop a light green environmental awareness have brushed against it.
One thing I have observed is that awakening is not necessarily an unpredictable and uncontrollable event. There are techniques that facilitate it. I've experienced it, and have seen it work in much the same way in most others who go through he same program I did. It's still an experiential process that is much more of an art form than a science, but I have seen it work. And of course, many people are awakening in the time-honoured tradition – spontaneously, in response to a crisis whose perception has both limbic and cortical components.
The question that arises immediately is, "So what?" So some individuals are experiencing this awakening – they are still trapped in the cultural and biophysical systems that are part of the problem and have no ability to change that, regardless of their level of enlightenment. Why should we waste our time thinking about such things? My answer is two-fold.
First, as far as I can tell there is no top-down solution to our predicament. There is no chance that globally ameliorating legislation will be enacted, or that the herd of people sleep-walking towards the cliff will spontaneously cast off their triune yokes and become rational actors. Efforts to bring this about through education or persuasion are, in my opinion, doomed from the outset. As a result, if we are to think about and do useful things, those things must come from some other domain.
My second reason for giving such an idea the time of day is that human culture is an emergent phenomenon. It emerges from the dynamic interplay of human actions, which in turn stem from the complex interactions of the three parts of our brain. I've come to understand recently that our culture is a complex adaptive system that exhibits self-organized criticality. One characteristic of such systems is that they go through periodic phase changes, reversals or other discontinuities (colloquially called "tipping points"), driven solely by the internal dynamics of the system. Within such a system, changes in the behaviour of a small percentage of the low-level components can have dramatic influences on the overall system behaviour.
Given all of the above, here's how I think it might work. First, a growing number of people start to wake up. They form into small affinity groups that reinforce the individual shifts in values and behaviour that resulted from their awakening. Over time, the limbic herding instinct will bring in more individuals to share those new traits. I believe this is precisely what's happening with the mushrooming number of environmental, social justice and spiritual groups identified by Paul Hawken in his book "Blessed Unrest".
At some undetermined and indeterminable point there will be enough of a change at the lowest level to cause a discontinuity in the behaviour of the system as a whole, kind of like a stock market reversal that happens organically when enough people have become convinced to change their trading direction. At that point, the ordering power of the guardian institutions will be overwhelmed in some undetermined and indeterminable manner, and things will change in some undetermined and indeterminable new direction.
Now that doesn't mean that we humans will magically stop listening to our reptilian and limbic brains. What it does mean is that there is a growing number of people who are trying to recognize and ignore the unconscious orders of those parts of their brains. That, coupled with the unpredictable shift in the direction of human culture that has been precipitated by those same individuals, means that we might have a chance at continued existence. And a chance is all we have ever had, or had any right to ask.
June 24, 2009
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