Many of us are asking – is reality broken? This is the question I posed at the beginning of my ‘Year Ahead 2020’ piece published in New Dawn 178 (Jan-Feb 2020). In my review of the year ahead, which I titled ‘Consensus Reality Meltdown,’ I wrote:
What we have come to regard as ‘reality’ will officially become intangible and fluid, leading to the rise of adverse ideologies… We are increasingly losing our bearings, our fixed moorings, and this is likely to lead to further anxiety as people try to cling to invested beliefs. My sense is that throughout 2020 many of us will experience discomfort in one form or another.
The fluidity and changeability of reality that I suspected would emerge came suddenly, and not in a trickle but with the bursting of the dam.
In my review of the consensus reality meltdown, I noted that a certain rootlessness would creep into the world – a rootlessness of frantic uncertainty mixed with desperate tech-salvation. Things would become increasingly more liquid-like as older, established social forms dissolved faster than new ones could replace them. As the full COVID-19 pandemic began to arrive upon our shores, I wondered whether during the consensus reality meltdown there would be a reshuffling, allowing each person to take this time to listen to themselves. In the reshuffling, I considered that new pathways of connection could be forged. In a follow-up essay, I wrote:
After the consensus reality meltdown – after the reset button has been pressed – life will not be the same again. We will begin a new historical era. People across the world will climb out of their quarantined cocoons into a new time. Today as I write these words it is the day of the Spring Equinox – it is when a new year begins. The reset button was pressed before this Spring Equinox. Afterwards, there will be no Anno Domini, no Common Era. It shall be a New Era (N.E.).
It now appears evident that a rising confusion is entering into the world ‘reality-bubble’. Our social and political systems seem so full of abstract madness partly because they have lost their relation to anything tangible or remotely truthful. The writer Elias Canetti recognised this situation when he wrote:
A tormenting thought: as of a certain point, history was no longer “real.” Without noticing it, all mankind suddenly left reality; everything happening since then was supposedly not true; but we supposedly didn’t notice.
We are now beginning that gradual climb out of our quarantined cocoons and seeing the world anew. What now faces us is the question of how we accept, or allow, our collective future to unfold. The ‘COVID Consciousness’ that has infected us globally, through the entire human species, can have the effect of awakening us into a stimulated frame of mind, with new perceptions triggered – or it can force us into accepting a new consensus reality (the ‘new normal’) for the foreseeable future. Do we come out of our cocoons with a butterfly consciousness, or do we retain the caterpillar’s mind?
We are presently not out of our ‘cocooned lockdown’ – not fully yet. And this, I feel, is a good thing as many of us still have time for a reconsideration of where we are, what we are doing, and where we wish to go. This is not a story about viruses or dead infectious parasites – this is a tale of contagious sentient life.
Global ‘Stop’ Exercise
What I see is that human life has been radically halted – the brakes applied – as if being placed under a microscope of our own viewing. We have been compelled to view and to see ourselves in a way that has never been done before. We have entered into humanity’s largest experiment, and we are the test cases. Before we can take our further steps into what will become the most significant era for humanity’s future – into a phase of rapid evolutionary acceleration – we first need to take a ‘stop’ and to examine ourselves.
This forced stoppage reminds me of a physical-psychological exercise used by the Greek-Armenian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff. He named this his ‘stop’ exercise. According to Gurdjieff’s own words:
…at the command “stop,” or at a previously arranged signal, every student must instantly stop all movement, wherever he may be and whatever he may be doing… while he is in this state of arrested movement, the student must also arrest the flow of his thoughts, not admitting any new thoughts whatever… this is simply a movement interrupted at the moment of passage from one posture to another… generally we pass from one posture to another so rapidly that we do not notice the attitudes we take in passing. The “stop” exercise gives us the possibility of seeing and feeling our own body in postures and attitudes which are entirely unaccustomed and unnatural to it… the style of the movements and postures of every epoch, every race and every class is indissolubly connected with distinctive forms of thought and of feeling. And they are so closely bound together that a man can change neither the form of his thought nor the form of his feeling without having changed his repertory of postures…
This extract illustrates that its function was to give the ‘student’ a necessary moment for unhindered self-observation. A person, remarked Gurdjieff, is generally not aware as they pass from one posture to another – we are ‘entirely unaccustomed’ to this point of observation to the extent that it is unnatural to us. The only way to enforce this is through an externally produced state of arrested movement. Interestingly, Gurdjieff states that every epoch, race, and class have their distinctive forms of thought which are so tightly bound to their ‘posture’ that they cannot be changed. Later in this description it is remarked that,
psychological analysis and the study of the psychomotor functions, applied in a certain manner, demonstrate that each of our movements, voluntary or involuntary, is an unconscious transition from one automatically fixed posture to another, equally automatic…
If we now consider this at the larger scale, it implies that people are culturally bound to particular ‘postures’ of thought (aka, social conditioning); and that these thoughts and feelings are automatic (programmed). Gurdjieff’s method of breaking down these automatisms so that they could be observed was through imposing an external command of ‘stop’ that had to be obeyed. Now, what if we are to apply this to the current global social quarantines and the halt on global trade and business. Have we not just experienced a ‘stop’ command enforced upon us by an external impact in response to the 2020 pandemic?
For the first time in our known history, human civilisation in most of its forms came to a halt. We were stopped in mid-posture – a state of arrested movement – and placed in a space we are totally unaccustomed to. Time now, is it not, to ‘arrest the flow of thoughts’ – i.e., our regular social programming – in order to enter into a period of self-observation? What are we likely to find in this moment of ‘frozen’ introspection? What are the implications of the reset button being pressed?
Similarly, we may consider this as an act of force majeure, whereby humanity is now free from its prior commitments to a way of life it had contracted itself into. If we are free from our past contract, then whilst the world’s politicians are speaking of a ‘Second Wave’ of the virus, perhaps we should be considering this as allowing a ‘Second Wave’ for our human experiment – to begin a new trajectory, a new timeline for a human-planetary future. The past contract that humanity got itself involved in came to represent dysfunctional systems, damaging ideals and beliefs, and a ruinous path to a destructive future. If there was ever a time to break with this contract and to agree upon a new manner of collaboration and reciprocal maintenance, then this force majeure offers us a unique opportunity.
We entered a ‘stop’ phase upon an individual, community, and global level. Never before has this occurred, nor has it been possible. For most of humanity’s evolution, we existed as localised aspects of psyche and consciousness. We participated in the ‘mental life’ of those around us, the community; and later, the country. Only within a relatively short span of time has our species gained a global perspective. Whilst a collective unconscious species mind has existed, this lay beneath the conscious awareness of most people. This has now ‘flipped over’ into a physical presence in that so many more people are currently aware of psychical fluctuations across the world. We are presently experiencing these fluctuations during the 2020 pandemic. This was not possible before, even at the time of the ‘Spanish Flu’ of 1918–20. Why does this matter? It matters because the effects of consciousness, although seemingly intangible, are just as important as those tangible, physical effects we are generally more aware of.
Contagions of Consciousness
Consciousness is just as contagious as any biological virus. Perhaps more so, as it is not bound by physical parameters of movement. Consciousness is an open arena – and it spreads like ripples across fluid and intangible, interconnected fields. Each person, too, creates these ripples, which are then strengthened by the larger community and national consciousness fields. Similar to what Gurdjieff spoke of, we are creating thought postures that belong to collectives of human thought. As many people are aware, like things attract and resonate with like things. It is the same with thought. This is the reason why so many ‘like-minded’ people group together. They share a common bond in their thinking. At the same time, these physical groupings create collective fields of consciousness. These fields can become powerful and very influential. They have operated throughout extreme cases, such as warfare, where people behaved against their ‘better judgement’. Likewise, they have operated during moments of mob violence and mob psychosis. Such collectives of thought are easy to be caught up within – that’s why they are contagious. And now, as our species’ collective psyche is growing and developing, such ‘contagions of consciousness’ are extremely powerful.
Generally, as a person becomes ‘socially programmed’ by layers of conditioning, they are absorbed into the ‘national psyche’ of their respective country. This has always operated as a useful function of social management. As a person learns to de-condition themselves, and to throw off these layers of their psychological conditioning, they create more expansive states of awareness by having access to a broader range of consciousness fields. We are each of us affected by the ‘consciousness ripples’ emanating from others. It is how the ecology of consciousness operates. And since it is an interconnected ecology, individual awakening – or expansion of awareness – does not just remain at the individual level. As transpersonal researcher Chris Bache puts it, the ecology of consciousness is an inherently collective ecology. What we feed into our localised fields of consciousness will then go on to form part of a larger body or consciousness field. And this, ultimately, will form part of a grander resonating field of collective consciousness – at the community, national, and global level. Therefore, what and how we think is indeed part of our responsibility.
What we are experiencing now is not only a biological pandemic but also a psychological one. How we feed into this, and what is fed into this, will establish the tone of an overall psychic resonance. And this overall field of resonance can be coherent or dissonant, and many other degrees in-between. That is, if a psychological environment of fear, panic, and anxiety is created through thousands, or even millions, of individualised fields of consciousness, these will ripple out to congeal into a grander collective field of increased psychic density. The resonance of disturbance will be on a scale far exceeding the individual level. Similarly, if localised ripples of coherence, hope, trust, and empowerment are transmitted, these will not only influence local and community environments at the psychological level but also the larger global psyche. This is not voodoo or magical thinking – it reflects how the intangible realm of thoughts and human consciousness operates. Psychologically, we are not alone. Each person lives as a part of the world, and not apart from it. Each person has a responsibility to manage their thoughts – what they receive and process as well as what they transmit.
This present moment of a global ‘stop’ phase should give us time for reflection and consideration. Our automated movements and our automatic thinking patterns have been put on hold. We should take advantage of this unique opportunity. It may never happen again. It is likely we shall receive external impacts in our lives that momentarily make us pause as individuals – yet global ones are a very, very rare occurrence. In this exceptional moment, we should consider carefully. We will have questions now that are of great importance. It is crucial that people do not fall back into a heightened state of cultural programming swayed by external agents/systems that compete for increased control and social management. The ‘COVID Consciousness’ is an opportunity for a contagion of awakening, or it can be used as a strategy for managing a controlled consensus reality. It is now very much a question of our human freedom.
Human freedom, with genuine conscious awareness, also recognises the need for the social community, but not as an unconscious community. The human community needs to come together with at least a minimum of psychological insight. When communities and individuals lack psychological insight, they are open and vulnerable to the impulses of the unconscious from within as without. That is, manifestations of the unconscious do not just occur within an individual’s mind but also within the mass psyche of the collective. Unawareness of such forces can bring about emotional, mental, and physical instability. It is a psychological trait that when our minds recognise a repressed force within ourselves, a corresponding expression manifests in our outer, physical world. The source for so many ills resides within us. This is because the psychic or soul reality is real. We are conditioned into thinking that ‘psychic’ elements or things of the spirit are inferior to the physical things of life because they are non-material. The images we have within us, however, can be just as powerful as those without. It is a necessity that human civilisation returns to the fundamental recognition of the person as a human being; also, as a being with psychical force. We need to get back to ourselves in so many ways.
In the gnostic Gospel of Thomas, it is written that Jesus pronounced: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” The inner resources each person has within them can bring insight, conscious awareness, and experiential knowing onto contemporary issues and their distress. It is essential to bring the inner world to bear onto the physical, material world. Both realms must participate and be in congruence. In order to achieve genuine solutions, each of us must be prepared to change and transform from within, and not just by changing our ideas. Each person has a responsibility not only to the outer world but also to their individual inner life.
Resist Conditioned Conventions of Mass Mind
A person cannot live by the conventions of society alone, or from the impacts and influences of everyday life. We need sustenance from a source that is beyond all social institutions, and from beyond the distractions and attractions of physical life. It is necessary to create a distance from the tirades that life brings us. Ironically, the newly imposed rules of social distancing may assist indirectly by triggering an awareness of a form of distancing in terms of unhealthy energetic attachment and identification. In this, perhaps, a more acute state of self-awareness can develop as an antidote to the general state of social unconsciousness. Of importance now is how to resist the conditioned conventions of the mass mind by cultivating new faculties of perception. It is a question of personal freedom of thought and perspective. Our choice is thus twofold: between recognising the unconscious forces of the mass mind; and aiming for the personal development of our awareness to act as individuals.
What humanity is largely experiencing today is the moral uncertainty that precedes a new understanding as the old morality enters its death phase. As long as the majority of people expect all problems to be solved outside of themselves then our societies will continue to be dominated by unruly forces. The question of human freedom from these forces depends upon people willing to assume the responsibility of conscious awareness.
The great perennial task of humanity has always been the same: to become what we have always been and to show others the way by our own individual presence and behaviour. When we are finally able to heal ourselves from within then, and only then, can we heal others and the world without. The power for change begins and ends with us, the individual – not from the hand of a minority elite.
The question of human responsibility is to resist the forces of dehumanisation. If we do not awaken to our potentials during this space of ‘COVID consciousness,’ then we are vulnerable to the encroaching forces of dehumanising social-technological control, as I shall explore in the second part of this essay in the next issue of New Dawn.
2. Taken from his collection of personal writings from 1942 to 1972 called The Human Province.
3. Taken from ‘Talks with Gurdjieff’ – various online sources.
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