Transcendence is the only real alternative to extinction.
—Václav Havel, Independence Hall, Philadelphia, July 4, 1994
We are cosmologizing the human.
—Henryk Skolimowski, The Participatory Mind
Human consciousness has been on a long journey. Our awareness has shifted from the earlier archaic, animistic mode; to the religious and scientific; and then later to an industrial, mechanistic consciousness. Our ancestors did not live in the same world as we live in now, nor would they have exhibited the same kind of consciousness as we currently do. Consciousness is not a fixed phenomenon or static expression—it changes alongside the flows and fluxes of history, time, and environment.
An integral mode of consciousness began to emerge after the successive industrial revolutions that adapted a “machine style” perspective of control, power, and efficiency; and which eventually propelled global society toward excessive consumption and accelerated growth. This integral consciousness emerged parallel to a new era of technological innovation. That is, a consciousness that reflects dynamics of connection and communication across condensed time and space.
It can be said that we have gone from worshipping faith, then objective knowledge, to finally arriving at an understanding that everything depends upon the subjective self. Throughout this whole journey, like the hero that traverses through the underworld, we have ventured far in search of a mode of being – a state of consciousness and awareness – that can benefit us. A place of conscious self-awareness, which may be termed as sacred, has been present within humanity from the very beginning. It never went away – only we went away. This situation is similar to the behavior of individuals as observed by psychologist Abraham Maslow. Maslow noted how people step back from doing something important, believing others will do it instead. Somewhere along the way we made an internal agreement to stay back and not to overestimate our abilities. It appears that too many of us for too long have avoided being ‘fully human’ and content to remain as ‘only human.’
Regardless of how we may articulate it, the sacred presence within humanity cannot be denied as it is an expression of the evolutionary impulse. As such, it does not stop at transitional stages but is compelled to push toward ever higher states and degrees of consciousness. We are in the hands of a force that we can barely recognize. Throughout the long journey of our development human beings have been deeply involved in this sacred unfolding (for want of a better expression). What this means is that the transcendental yearning to go beyond one’s present state persists in each of us. All of this, our very humanism, should be an inherent part of our cultural mythology. Or at least should influence how we understand and perceive our reality.
Our experience of reality is never pure, but always mediated through consciousness in its various states of reception. The myths we hold as an individual, a culture, and as a collective species reflects our own state of mind. Unfortunately, humanity has for far too long considered itself separate from the cosmos. We feel as if exiled upon a dead planet somewhere upon the fringes of our galaxy. If we do not fully know ourselves it may be because our cultural myths (our narratives) place us within a cosmically isolated reality. To be truly integrated we must recognize that we participate not only upon the planet but also within a grander mythology. In other words, we should accept our responsibility as having sacred agency. After all, the history of human civilization is the history of ourselves as change agents.
The philosopher Karl Jaspers referred to the period from 800–200 BCE as the Axial Age. It was a time that, according to Jaspers, similar expressions of new thinking appeared in Persia, India, China, and the Western world. He indicated also that the Axial Age represented an in-between period, where old certainties had lost their validity and new ones were yet to emerge. The new religions that arose in this time—Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and monotheism—influenced new thinking in terms of individuality, identity, and the human condition. These new emerging religions helped to catalyze new forms of thinking and expressions of human consciousness. And yet, over time, we have seen how they were not wholly successful in establishing permanent developmental change.
Social thinker Duane Elgin has referred to our present time as the Second Axial Age in that religions of separation are being replaced by a new spirit of communion. Elgin says that the world is moving into a spiritual communion and empathic connection with a living cosmos. Maybe we are in need of being reminded that there is nowhere else to go when the cosmos already exists within us. This empathic consciousness that Elgin speaks of can be related to the emerging integral consciousness that reflects our increased interconnectivity through our global networks. This connects with our innate, fundamental drive to seek out communion and coherence. A mode of human consciousness that seeks coherence is itself a reflection of a universal natural order. In other words, it is a self-referencing feedback loop. And so now allow me to speculate.
My suggestion is that a purpose for sentient human life upon this planet is as a driver toward establishing a coherent planetary consciousness. In other words, to act as a channel to ‘bring in’ – i.e., receive consciousness – from the consciousness field and to manifest it specifically (that is, to project it) within our earthly reality. There is a correlation here with Aurobindo’s concept of the Supermind/Overmind, in that a form of higher consciousness can be made immanent upon the material plane. Aurobindo referred to this as human evolution moving towards a suprarational or spiritual age that exhibits an intuitive or Gnostic mode of consciousness.
The finer channeling of the consciousness field would require the adequate preparation of human receptivity. That is, our minds and even perhaps our nervous system would need to be sufficiently prepared in order to successfully actualize this potential. By raising localized aspects of human consciousness through individual perceptions and awareness we may better increase the coherence of consciousness amongst the whole—a form of collective transcendence through species consciousness. And this can be made tangible by local agents – i.e., each one of us – becoming aware and conscious in everyday acts of right thinking, right behavior, and right being. It is a mode of sensitive and balanced consciousness that comes only with considerable effort and discipline. This discipline forms part of the developmental awakening within each individual, and which then influences our perceptions and life experiences.
As such, we can come to recognize that we are no longer either isolated individuals or an inarticulate mass. We are localized consciousness acting through aware individuals who consciously seek to connect, collaborate, and care about the future. Each one of us, as localized consciousness, is a reflection of the grander nonlocal consciousness. And in this way each one of us is also a reflection of the other. No individual lives within a shell separated from everybody else, but each is connected to all through our conscious humanity.