In the first article in this series, I explained an expanded view of consciousness that is consistent with some of orthodox science’s hypotheses. (For example, a subset of conscious experience depends on brain-encoded information, giving the brain an active role in generating contents-of-consciousness.) But this view is not limited to orthodox science’s restrictions. (For example, in the expanded view, contents-of-consciousness can affect brain dynamics, so that –for example – functions of mind-beyond-brain can make themselves known in the ‘material’ world.) Mind-affecting-brain is not at all the same as ‘telekinesis’, or mind-over-any-form-of-matter! It simply proposes a two-way link between brain and conscious experience, as opposed to the one-way identification that mainstream science currently – and contradictorily! – supposes. As I explained previously, the expanded view used in this three-part series is not ‘unscientific’: it’s just based on where science will be in fifty-years time, rather than on where it is right now!
The usefulness of the expanded view is that it offers a powerful framework for understanding the world. Now you may well object that the expanded view hasn’t been ‘scientifically tested’, so it’s not a reliable basis for mission-critical analyses. This is a great point, and it takes us into the issue of how we know whether anything is reliable. And that question is intimately related to the emergence of the so-called post-Truth movement, which I’ll address (within an expanded-consciousness framework!) in the third and final article in this series. For the moment, I’ll invite you to a pragmatic position that investors, policymakers, and parents have often been driven to. ‘If it’s logically-coherent, not-yet-falsified, and useful … I’ll try it out!’ (As I said in the first article, the only criticism that can be applied to the expanded-consciousness view is that it hasn’t yet been tested, not that it’s not-testable. Unfortunately, execution of tests may lie some way away.)
Globalization from a Consciousness Perspective
To illustrate the value of a consciousness-centric approach, let’s look at globalization. Obviously, the status of freer trade and movement has taken center-stage recently, with the Brexit vote and Trump’s ‘America First’ stance. To those with liberal values, these events are negatives. Events may even be judged appalling (deplorable!), if they mark the start of a reversal in a centuries-long trend to global integration. To those with patriotic values, they are victories over a weak-minded catering to foreign interests. Obviously, other views exist, in addition to these two kinds! And equally obviously, this territory is currently evoking passionate, sometimes vicious, emotions.
Who’s right? From a consciousness-based perspective, that’s the wrong question. In one view (more typically associated with Eastern cultures), humankind is on an inevitable journey to re-discovering a quality of one-mindedness (or unity consciousness) that we seem collectively to have lost. Globalization can be seen as an out-picturing at a material level of this journey. And this is one of the reasons that debates are so energized: although factions may not necessarily be aware of it, they are tussling over the most fundamental trajectory that humanity is embarked upon. It’s not fundamentally about jobs, or wages, or welfare payments. It’s about the return to unity, in all levels of reality. To paraphrase the British football manager Bill Shankly: some people think globalization is a matter of life and death; I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.
Those who see recent events as a backward step can take genuine solace in the fact that arrival at a unified destination is inevitable. From this place, they can engage with equanimity, rather than from a threatened and fearful stance. Inevitability of a genuinely One-World future-reality may also temper the ways in which the ‘victorious’ might be tempted to taunt their opponents. Their opponents do have the right basic vision, ultimately, and acknowledging this should marry ‘victory’ with humility. (At least, it could.) Notably, in all likelihood, the victors’ vision of recent shifts generating an unambiguously-positive economic future is poorly founded. (Not that this means victors were wrong to make their case.) Why? The ‘problems’ were never in the superficial arrangements that may now be reversed. They were in consciousness, and humankind as a whole is still some way from making full contact, in that domain.
Although One-Worldists may have ‘the right vision, ultimately’, a consciousness-centric approach also emphasizes those dynamics-in-mind that will subvert the return to unity, at every opportunity. The existence of these dynamics explains how it is that the reality of globalization has turned out to be very different from its promise. For example, the very theories that were used to argue in favor of globalization (i.e., mainstream economics) emphasize that there are those-who-lose. These ‘losers’ must be compensated to their own satisfaction, according to theory, if free trade and free movement of capital and labor are to be unambiguous ‘goods’. But this compensation rarely happened, if ever. Of course, this understanding is becoming commonplace, after Brexit, and Trump’s election. But One-World proponents may need to delve into their own consciousness, to see where and when they looked away from the need to take account of those disadvantaged by the advancement of their vision. It’s here that direct contact can be made with those ‘subverting dynamics’. It’s here that those who feel marginalized by current events, can understand their own direct contribution to the historic marginalization of others. (This isn’t an exercise in attributing blame, or a sort of ‘karmic-retribution’ model. It’s a pointer towards building the foundations for a different future.)
Hang on a minute – Unity Consciousness?!
The vigilant will have noticed that I slipped ‘an inevitable journey to unity consciousness’ in there. This might seem to be quite a leap from the ‘expanded view of consciousness’, carefully constructed to be congruent with (future!) science. Didn’t we just leave science for spirituality?
Actually, I’m not a big fan of an alleged science/spirituality division. It seems to me that a more constructive frame is this. There is reality. And any assumption-based approach may or may not yield helpful insights about that reality. Here I consider both science and spirituality to both be assumption-based approaches, typically. (If you don’t think science has any assumptions, please see the first article in this series!) So either science or spirituality, or both, may (or may not) be helpful in navigating reality.
This is a really big topic. A consciousness-based framework suggests that it will evoke responses from readers that range from ‘Nonsense! Science is the only reliable way to truth!’, to ‘Nonsense! Only [my?] spirituality is the Truth!’, to ‘Nonsense! There is no Truth: it’s all subjective!’
In the middle of all that, let me sketch what I mean by ‘unity consciousness’, in a way that connects to my earlier, ‘expanded’, account of consciousness itself. Indirectly, I suggested in my previous article that conscious experience is like a virtual-reality bubble, for each of us. If you and I are sitting in the same room, I may think that you see ‘the same table’ as I do. But a more accurate description is that the two of us are each constructing our own virtual-reality projections, based on sensory data. So there are two table-images, one in my stream of conscious-experiencing, and one in yours. (More generally, as in the graphic above, there are two different constructions of the same scene. Replace the cameras by people, and you get the idea.) Once we’ve got this account of separated, disconnected consciousness-streams straight, we can start to make hypotheses about what unity consciousness might be. For example, say I can perceive both the fundamental stuff which my bubble is made of, and that which yours is made of. If I could see directly that these two stuffs are identical, this would begin to establish a kind of unity. Other hypotheses are available: this is just an illustration, a starting introduction.
If this all sounds a bit (or a lot!) speculative or esoteric, perhaps I could invite you to examine your own intimate relationships, whether with family, friends, or partners. Is it not those moments where we feel closer to unity than to separateness, that draw us so strongly to these connections? Of course, there’s a matter-based, molecule-based explanation of that draw, too. But now we have two hypotheses, which is a good starting point for fully-rational exploration!
Understanding the Gift of the Visceral Roar
One interesting exercise I went through recently was to read through every post and counter-post on Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. If any evidence was needed of the visceral and intense polarization of American society, you can find it there. Both ‘sides’ are attacking the other, with an equal and often murderous rage. How is this to be understood, without resorting to a partisan position that blames one side and privileges the other?
The lens of consciousness offers an answer. What’s at stake here is a level of value far beyond prosperity, or even material survival. It has to do with the fundamental journey of the being. In each case, that journey seems to be threatened by current circumstances. For One-Worldists, an end to globalization means they are being held back in fragmentation, by a reversion to isolationism and protection. For those marginalized by globalization, its primacy offered precisely the same threat, albeit in a different way: being left behind in fragmentation, while others marched on without them.
The emotional energies associated with this level of the human psyche are immense. In fact, the magnitudes here can seem to threaten the inevitability of a realized-unity. (I haven’t given any justification for ‘inevitability’. But that’ll have to wait for another time.) How could we possibly make it through this intensity of polarization, to arrive where we have to go? However, when we’re asking this question, in this context, we’re right at the leading edge of human activity. This is the gift of the visceral roar! It helps us meet with the right question. It shows us where to focus. Fully met, and properly digested, it can even become fuel for the next stage of the journey.
Onwards and Upwards
The consciousness-centric framework offers a constructive understanding of globalization, nation-centric anti-globalization, and the various forms of associated discontent. This understanding can help predict what happens next. It can provide guidance on how to usefully intervene or participate. Or it can simply offer reassurance as to ‘what’s really going on’. In the next article, I’ll extend this same framework to the climate-change debate, and to the post-Truth phenomenon. And via a joint consideration of globalization, climate-change, and post-Truth, I’ll show the unifying power of the consciousness-based view.
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