Our senses give us a false sense of solidity of matter and hide the fact that it is only the tip of the iceberg of a spectrum of consciousness realities revealed through transpersonal experiences.
By changing our worldview, we become agents of positive, structural change, helping co-create the better future we know is possible, rather than being victimised by undesirable change.
For the majority of human history, we have considered the human spirit, soul, self, or mind a self-evident and fundamental part of reality. The material realm was often regarded as less of a reality than consciousness, or at best an extension or reflection of it. With the progress of empirical science, however, a conflict developed between those those who dared question orthodox doctrines and the religious power that defended such dogma. A relative truce was achieved by establishing mutually exclusive magisteria: the material realm could be investigated by the scientific spirit and matters of the spirit were to be left to the clergy.
Religious authority’s censorship and abuse of power led scientists away from studying the nature of our internal reality, limiting to phenomena that can be physically posited, until subjective reality was all but rejected in a new kind of bias and censorship. Consciousness was increasingly considered an illusion, an imaginary ghost in the biological billiard ball machine, a relatively unimportant secondary phenomenon of the brain.
It is worth pointing out that many of the pioneers of physics like Newton, Einstein and Bohm did not limit their world view to the observable physical world and were curious about the subjective realm.While great technological progress has been achieved through Newtonian-Cartesian materialistic science, its usefulness has declined with the rise of quantum physics a century ago.
After a reductionist detour of about two centuries, the idea that consciousness is real, fundamental, and irreducible is resurgent. However, this time, consciousness is returning to the centre as a result of the application of the scientific spirit, including parapsychology and contemporary consciousness science, rather than religious thought.
The current planetary crisis is further demonstrative of the inadequacy of the materialistic worldview as a paradigm upon which to build civilisations.Not only is the ailing materialistic paradigm challenged by the physics and consciousness research of the last century, materialism lacks internal, logical consistency. For all the claims of scientism that the human essence does not exist, that we are just pieces of matter, it reaches such conclusions through experience and thought, which take place in the realm of consciousness. Truly, only consciousness could be simultaneously this clever and unwise as to negate itself!
Why is this pathological, destructive paradigm so persistent? Our senses give us a false sense of solidity of matter and hide the fact that it is only the tip of the iceberg of a spectrum of consciousness realities revealed through transpersonal experiences. In other words, we do not react to things we know in theory the same way as things that we experience viscerally. We are moved by experiences, not data or facts. We are moved by the image of a single, beached refugee child, and not by statistics that we cannot comprehend. Consciousness science –but above all, consciousness practices –allow us to become more perceptive and achieve new levels of awareness, ethics and maturity.
Plato’s allegory of the cave
A group of prisoners, who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, face a blank wall, watching shadows projected on the wall from things passing in front of a fire behind them. The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. Plato explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, for he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.
Transformative experiences like near-death and out-of-body experiences allow us to look beyond the shadows of Plato’s allegory of the cave. Experiencers tend to reduce their fear of death, to achieve a greater level of altruism, universalism, intuition, problem solving, tranquility, introspection and sense of purpose. The cognitive shifts they afford help us realise we view reality through limiting and distorting filters. By doing so, we can see ourselves and our lives from a multi-dimensional and integrative perspective. By changing our worldview, we become agents of positive change, helping to co-create the better future we know is possible, rather than being victimised by undesirable change.Even when we are faced with troubling personal or social situations, the same integrative, multi-dimensional perspective based on personal experiences of insight beyond the material realm can give us strength. We can remain relatively positive and lucid so as not to succumb to and spread fear, hatred, self-loathing or manipulation, remaining a voice for serenity.
At the deepest levels, all human activity is rooted on our values, attitudes and patterns of behaviour, which are in turn based on our state of consciousness. As such, our reality may be seen as an extension of the consciousness. Consciousness may be described as an organising intelligent principle that is in a continuous process of individual and inter-connected, collective evolution, over a number of existences with and without a body.Relationships and interactions with others provide the context and means for the evolution of consciousness. As more people from different disciplines and aspects of civilisation experience reality beyond the materialistic confines, from art and architecture to ethics and policy making, our collective system begins to shift. Many of the world’s problems come from the perspective we are on our own in a competitive world and that nature, life and people are things to be exploited. When we see ourselves as consciousness that stems from beyond the physical body, this continuity and connection between ourselves, our bodies, spirits and all living things becomes apparent.
With this knowledge, life, the environment, and most other things in life become more valuable and precious. Through extraordinary human experiences and related scientific evidence, we can see ourselves as a multi-dimensional consciousness in the process of evolution along with other beings. With this realisation, we become more connected in a cosmic way to our fellow human beings and the priority becomes the well-being and development of individuals, communities, and the human family as a whole: human knowledge, abilities, intelligences, ethics, maturity, character, cooperation, and integral health. Well-being and development through cooperation take centre stage, rather than competitive accumulation or growth of material wealth. A major pseudo-scientific fallacy of contemporary systems is revealed: we seek to manage civilisation on the basis of measurements like GDP and interest rates, while what matters most –such as love, happiness, personal growth, serenity, awe –simply cannot be measured in dollars and similar units.
Until recently the future used to be an optimistic concept, but most people now live with anxiety regarding the future. We live in a world with accelerating technological change and its associated increasing unemployment, uncertain geopolitical scenarios, periodic financial crises, and more frequent and powerful ecological disasters. It is not that we necessarily lack technical solutions, but rather feel jaded about the generalised ineffectiveness of our so-called leaders to address our critical and most fundamental needs.
There is a growing awareness that the challenges we face as citizens and as a species are not going to be solved by a given personality or political party. We face structural problems that cannot only be addressed by system change that comes from deep paradigm change. Lincoln is often credited with the saying that “the best way to predict the future is to to create it”, and the Nobel laureate Dennis Gabor has said that “the future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented.” Indeed, we cannot look to the elites that perversely benefit from our sinking ship, but must rather find our leaders in the mirror.
As more individuals proactively change their own worldview and make healthy changes in their core, the more they promote change through their actions and collaborations, the more they ‘hack’ the prevailing morphic field (the sphere of human thought, information field, zeitgeist, collective unconscious)*–and the closer we get to a tipping point for regional and global change.
Nélson Abreu (BS Electrical Engineering) is a research vice-director, educator and writer at International Academy of Consciousness, and co-founder of ConsciousTech and Ohm Institute. He began investigating and experiencing phenomena like out-of-body experiences in 1998.
*For more information on morphic fields, see the article by Melissa Joy Jonsson
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