I am embarking on a new project -- related to the Shakti Centre but more pointed to meet today's urgent crises -- especially climate change, widening social inequality and the need to change the global economic system behind it. It's called the Sacred Activists for a Cooperative, Sustainable Economy. Here is the plan -- let me know if you'd like to be part of this!
Global Citizens Movement Towards A World Participatory Democracy and Cooperative, Sustainable Economy
Our world is beset by crisis – climate change, other forms of massive environmental destruction and massive, growing social inequality. The time for denial and distraction is over: the time has come to act.
A global crisis demands a global call to action. “Global” means we, the people of the world – not the present globalized corporate economic system that is causing the crises – but we, the people, transforming it, to a cooperative, sustainable one, through the structures of a new participatory world democracy.
This is a call to galvanize a global citizens movement towards a world participatory democracy and cooperative, sustainable economy, based on the consciousness of interconnectedness, unity-in-diversity, equitable sharing of resources and non-violence. I will speak more specifically about possible strategies to do that, but first I would like to give a brief background of what I see as the deeper causes of the crises, and a model for how to apply the remedy – the consciousness of interconnectedness – at all levels, from our personal psyche to our social and economic systems.
1 -- The Three C’s: Connecting the Dots between Consciousness, Capitalism and Climate Change
Naomi Klein (and now the Pope!) has already clearly identified the causal link between capitalism and climate change (and in general, environmental destruction and the growing inequality that goes with it.) Here I add a third dimension to this causal chain, for it is the consciousness behind capitalism and climate change that is the deeper cause of both of these. This consciousness is a distorted one, the delusion that we are separate, and therefore must live in competition with each other, and in conflict with nature. This divisive consciousness finds its expression, par excellence, in the capitalist credo – the enshrinement of individualistic self-seeking and private self-profit, disregarding the consequences for others and nature -- the result being our twin crisis of climate change and extreme social inequity.
To reverse this vicious causal chain and replace it with a virtuous one – one that restores healthy life systems and our creative, symbiotic relationship to them – we need, then, to start with a fundamental change in consciousness. In fact, this change would restore our natural relationship with consciousness itself, which is itself the deepest source of our unity, our interconnected being. Consciousness is by its nature connective. Once we have we embraced this essential truth of our interconnectedness, with our own source, each other and nature, it is natural to base our social and economic systems on cooperation and sustainability – the outer embodiment, in our material systems, of our interconnection and unity.
Thus a new chain emerges, from a consciousness of interconnection, to cooperative and sustainable systems, to a course-correction on climate change and our crises of social inequity.
2 -- Interconnectedness: A Holarchic Model of Interconnectedness at All The Nested Levels of our Being
2 -- Interconnectedness: A Holarchic Model of Interconnectedness at All The Nested Levels of our Being
Einstein famously said that you can’t solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that caused it. It is obvious today that in order to solve our crises we need to come from a far more enlightened consciousness.
Enlightened consciousness – both in its most exalted and most practical sense -- is the realization of interconnectedness: that nothing exists as a separate self, but in interdependence with everything else. In fact, if you stop and think about it, you’ll realize that everything that appears to us is at its root dependent on consciousness itself; it is the “glue” – the unified field -- that connects “subject” and “object.” This means that “subject and object” are one: we as the perceiver, and everything we perceive – ourselves, others, nature, the cosmos – are not only intimately and intricately interconnected, we are actually boundlessly “One” with each other and with all that exists. (Some people call this God; but even secular science attests to this.)
Not only has this been the perception of great mystics and seers, but whole societies have been based on it. The collective insanity of extreme individualism and destructive greed we see today is neither inevitable nor natural; it has been deliberately promoted by commercial vested interests, and an economic philosophy that is wrong-headed, short-sighted and destructive. Actually, the understanding of basic interconnectedness and the need for cooperation (with each other and nature) is natural, and has been part of indigenous cultures, as well as a basic tenet of many forms of Eastern spirituality, for centuries.
The challenge today, of course, is that that needs to be applied on a global scale, and in a situation of much greater complexity. To this end we need a model, a framework, for how to translate this ancient wisdom – the knowledge of interconnectedness – to all levels of our being, transforming not only our inner psyche but our contemporary social, ecological and economic systems.
I would like to offer a simple model that could possibly serve as a nucleus for a global citizens movement towards this end. It would facilitate the expression, at all levels, of this principle of interconnectedness, which I see as fundamental to this great transition.
It starts with the recognition that we are not separate entities, but all of us are embedded in a nested series of systems. The mature, or integral, consciousness we need for our next evolutionary phase is to expand our identity from our personal sphere alone to an identification with all the wider systems of which we are a part. We are each citizens of multiple dimensions. As we mature, both personally and collectively, we come to identify ourselves not as a separate self but a seamless part of an integral, ever-evolving Whole.
We can imagine a model of the concentric spheres or systems in which each of us is embedded, and then begin to identify how a consciousness of interconnectedness would express itself in each sphere. These spheres, from inside out, would include the spiritual, energetic, psychological, ecological, economic, socio-political and planetary/cosmic.
At the deepest, spiritual level, for example, “interconnectedness” would mean the experience of unity with our spiritual Source (secular types can just skip this one, but for those who have a sense of it, this unity is also the source of our interconnectedness at all other levels, with each other, nature and cosmos… Or, in more scientific terms, it means that everything is interconnected within a greater field of consciousness – without this, nothing would appear at all!) This level, in my opinion, is in fact the most potent for both individual and social transformation, but, for the purposes of gathering a widespread global citizen’s movement in time to meet the most urgent crises, it’s not necessary that everyone relates to this innermost level.
At the energetic level, interconnectedness refers to the fact that we are all interconnected within a unified energy field, and thus every action we take (as well as any thought or emotion) invisibly affects all others. When we learn to respect and honor this, we gain enormous power to influence others and events for the good, rather than unconsciously from negative or self-serving motives. Quantum science is verifying how powerfully we affect each other, even at long distances. Deep healing can take place at this level, personally and collectively.
At the psychological level, interconnectedness would entail the capacity for empathy, to put oneself in the other’s shoes, to extend one’s consciousness beyond one’s own perspectives, feelings and belief systems, and enter into the consciousness of the other. This includes the cultivation of compassionate communication and forms of collective intelligence (Lots of work is happening in this area today!) This is also the realm of the moral and ethical call to address the crises of social inequality and injustice.
At the ecological level, interconnectedness means the interdependence and symbiosis of ecological systems, and of ourselves within them. It means that we recognize the intricate balance of the web of life, and our own participation within it. This one is probably the most obvious, the easiest to convey, and already understood by many, as climate change is driving the point irrefutably home. Ecological interconnectedness can also be easily explained in scientific terms, without any reference to spirituality or consciousness (or even morality or ethics!) It is very pragmatic, and, at this point, impossible to deny, since the consequences of violating it are staring us in the face!
At the economic level, ideally our economic system would follow the contours of our ecological system, replicating its patterns and respecting its boundaries. It would replicate the reciprocal cycles in nature with it own patterns of cooperation, sustainability and reciprocity. Models of ecological economics, steady-state economics, non-growth, solidarity and resource-sharing economies, all give us clues to the features of a new economy based on interconnectedness. This realm is essential to address, because everything in our cultures is dependent on our economic structures.
At the sociopolitical level, working in tandem with these cooperative economic structures, the principle of interconnectedness would be expressed through collaborative and participatory democratic processes, from local-scale to global. This might eventuate in something like a world-wide participatory democracy, mediated by the Internet, one of the possible outcomes of the global citizens movement which we have been discussing. At the global level, certain structures for global governance would need to be agreed on, essentially to protect the principles of cooperation and sustainability, for the benefit of all. They would not supersede or conflict with, but rather ensure local sufficiency, as well as local creativity, and fair reciprocity between regions.
The planetary-cosmic level is the one that provides an over-arching perspective of who we are and what we are doing, of our place in the universe. It places us in the greatest context of the “Universe Story”, embracing both the eternal, universal, and the evolutionary dimensions of our being. It both imbues life with greater meaning and restores our sense of wonder at the sacredness of its ever-unfolding mystery. It gives us the energy and inspiration to serve this greater unfolding.
This is just a brief synopsis, of course, of what a healthy expression of interconnectedness would look like at each of these nested levels of our being. Much more could be said. But the basic point is that, by embodying an appropriate expression of interconnectedness at each of these levels, a systemic synergy would be created, forwarding ancient wisdom into contemporary, evolving complex systems.
When this holarchy of nested systems is balanced and healthy, the spirit of interconnection and unity permeates all the subsequent, increasingly complex dimensions emanating out of its core. Where it is violated or ignored, as in the disjunction between the natural expression of interconnectedness at the ecological level, and the rapacious, self-serving violence which our present economic system inflicts on it, that power of interconnectedness surfaces, erupts – as in climate change today – to course-correct and restore balance.
This is why the restoration of the principle of interconnectedness, as the guiding ethos of our culture, is so crucial for the next stage of our evolution. In this holarchic model, everyone has their place; there is no hierarchy by which the post-industrial Northern, Western cultures are taken as the most advanced, the ones to lead the way (an assumption many from these cultures, however well-meaning, still implicitly make.) In fact, those cultures that have preserved the ancient wisdom of interconnection and unity, and how to live in harmony with each other and nature, should have a central position (as, I believe, should the interconnective values of the feminine, which have also been so long repressed.)
At the same time, because we now need to apply those values to highly complex, global systems, all sectors and strata of society have an important place in this – the scientists, ecologists, systems-thinkers, economic visionaries, permaculturalists, political activists, etc., from North as well as South, combining their skills in the context of a holistic, integral vision, guided by the core consciousness of interconnection and unity, to effect this great transition.
What is important is to gather all these different sectors around this central, holarchic vision of interconnectedness, by which everyone can see the bigger context of how their various, respective roles fit together and contribute to the Whole. Each individual or sector can then focus in on the level of work most suited to their skills, talents and interests, yet never losing sight of the Whole, and how the different sectors and roles complement and enrich (rather than contradict or exclude) each other.
3 -- Global Citizens Movement Towards a Cooperative, Sustainable Economy and World Participatory Democracy
Our aim, as stated earlier, is to galvanize a global citizens movement towards a world participatory democracy and cooperative, sustainable economy, based on the consciousness of interconnectedness, unity-in-diversity, equitable sharing of resources and non-violence. Global structures would be developed in line with these universal principles; at the same time they would ensure the protection of local resiliency and creativity, assuring that no harm, violence or exploitation occurs between any one region or sector and another; nor any activities incurring environmental destruction.
At all scales, local to global, decisions would be made by the people, for the people, the Earth and future generations. It would be based on the understanding that what is best for the Earth, her interdependent life-forms and future generations, is also what’s best for us now.
There would be a short, pointed manifesto stating these aims, and made to go viral on the Internet. Signatures would be gathered on-line of people demanding this transformation, declaring themselves citizens of the Earth and global citizens of this emerging world vision, backed by powerful leaders. There could be a world-wide one-day strike and other forms of ongoing mass demonstration to bring the movement visibly to the public attention, as well as to that of the powers-that-be, and continue to gather momentum and traction, in the real world of action as well as the virtual one.
Meanwhile, behind the short manifesto would be a holarchic model (as outlined above) based on the expression and embodiment of the key principle of interconnectedness at all the nested levels of our being – spiritual, energetic, psychological, ecological, economic, socio-political, and planetary/cosmic. People could see where they fit into this larger picture, and direct their energies, talents and skills to the sphere that attracts them most, working in co-creative synergy. An interactive website would map and track the activities in the different areas, facilitating coordination and collaboration between them. This would also serve as a developing prototype of a digital platform for world participatory democracy.
4 -- The Two Biggest Obstacles to Action; And How We Can Break Through Them
Two barriers we have to overcome are first, the inertia, apathy and hopelessness that anything can be changed, the epidemic of “impotence” in the face of entrenched powers; and, conversely, the fear of any alternative, cooperative economic system being authoritarian, stripping away our freedoms (which is in fact exactly what the present system is doing!) People have to understand that a cooperative economy is an expression of people’s power, unlike the present travesty of democracy, where decisions are made by ruling corporate elites, who would indeed have us powerless.
Because our crises are global, we do need a form a global governance to remedy their causes and ensure that they do not recur. But this governance need not be dictatorial or authoritarian – rather, the very point is that it would cooperative and democratic, under the people’s control, for the benefit of the people and the natural world we are part of. Systems do not have to be based on top-down power and control; they can be based on collaborative, co-creative synergy, “power-with” rather than “power-over”; with basic cooperative values in place, as well as checks and balances, to ensure that no one dominant group takes over.
One might ask, but when has such a system ever existed? And that’s the whole point -- the emergence of such a system is the next stage of humanity’s evolution. And this is by necessity – for there’s no other direction to go but down. Crisis demands evolution, a jump to a whole new order. There are plenty of precedents in the past, of how necessity has compelled people to take courage in hand and jump into a whole new future. At such revolutionary turning points, people take power back into their hands. They set new norms for society, instead of passively submitting to the ones that have been forced upon them.
Another obstacle that, ironically, paralyzes many from action is the desire to control, and the unwillingness to step forward without having the “whole plan” in advance. No one of course has the whole answer in advance, but by coming together and sparking in each other new hope and new possibilities, a new evolving future emerges, greater than the sum of its parts, unleashing potentials we couldn’t have even imagined. We cannot afford to be afraid of the unknown, but trust that by stepping forward, step by step, its hidden, implicate order will unfold. The unknown can actually work to our advantage, if we are open and let it deliver its gifts.
This means, while we need a framework in which to work together, we need to always leave space for creativity and emergence. The model I have offered here is not meant to be air-tight – it is meant to breathe, at all scales. We warmly invite the participation of all who resonate with this vision to join us, to contribute their creative gifts, and help transform our world from one of competition and conflict to cooperation, connectedness, and the flourishing of the Whole. We are all in this together.
Sacred Activists for a Cooperative, Sustainable Economy