Another look at politics prompted by George Monbiot’s book – Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis
I am very sympathetic to George Monbiot’s ideas in his new book about the need for local community to emerge as a force for social change. How this change needs to come from the bottom up, and how such change always reflects a change in general consciousness, and as such is permanent and integrated. I agree with much of his analysis about how so many of us have become lonely and isolated, through many causes, especially Protestantism and Capitalism and Consumerism.
I also think that it is to do with our current Postmodern zeitgeist, through which it is inevitable that we all believe different things and assume that there is no “Truth” or “Reality” beyond our subjectivity. There is no understanding or general acceptance of any values which might bind us together.
What I hope, and think, is emerging though is in effect a new religion, or rather a new psychology/philosophy/religion. All the great religions started as a means of realising human potential, but what happened is what happens to all institutions it seems, they became dogma ridden, power obsessed and fossilised over time. The new psychology/philosophy/religion that is emerging is partly being articulated by Ken Wilber’s “Integral Theory” and in his recent book “The Religion of Tomorrow”. It combines the understanding of our need to “grow up” as well as to “wake up” on our developmental journey towards Love and Consciousness.
The process of how we “grow up” has been continually refined for over a century now through the development of psychology with its slow convergence amongst all the different approaches about how we mature throughout our lives. There is still much to be done in freeing ourselves from our scientific / medicalised legacy, but I believe this is happening. There is also still much to do in freeing ourselves from our Postmodern defeatism which fails to see the huge ongoing potential for development we have towards the objective meaning and truth that somehow exists.
My life, our lives, Life and the Universe, are not completely relative. Relativity is obviously a huge part of everything, but it is not the whole story, Meaning and Truth and Love and Consciousness exist, even if we can never fully know them. I know this because I can see from my own development, and that of my clients, that this development has a trajectory. This is towards freedom, towards embodying our expanding consciousness and the opening of our hearts to Love.
This potential to “waking up”, is not so well understood and accepted in our society. But we do have the possibility of developing through a series of “stages” and “states” of consciousness where we move, in steps, towards living more and more consciously, in an open-hearted embodied way, into ever greater connection to the ‘here and now’. The ‘here and now’, this present moment is Consciousness and Love at its core. This miracle is, as I understand it, at the heart of Christianity as well as all the world’s great religious traditions.
So, the possibility is of developing communities that consciously have as their aim this combination of “growing up” and “waking up”. There are people currently working hard to include Wilber’s “Integral Theory” into Christian and Buddhist approaches as well as “Integral” itself trying to establish a path towards realising our potential. Gestalt, the therapeutic modality I trained in, is in many ways very close to this philosophy, as are many approaches that describe themselves as “psycho-spiritual”.
I cannot see how lasting communities can form and develop without there being a shared deep sense of meaning, a shared recognition and understanding that it is through the ‘here and now’ that we connect, in some way or other, to meaning, consciousness and love. “Integral” theory provides a very inclusive and comprehensive ‘map’ which could support the establishment of a common understanding to support such communities. It provides the space where any point of view can be understood, and its relationship to the whole seen. Religion was the glue that bound communities and societies together, and what we need now is a new global emergent consensus about the meaning of human life and how human development is about both “growing up” and “waking up”. Both these processes intertwine and support each other in the journey of human development towards its wonderful potential to increasingly embody Love and Consciousness as our ego is first healed and then let go of.
Yes, I’m sure in time this new approach will become institutionalised and fossilised and need to be revolutionised. But that is human nature, with its essential components of choice and evolution and involution.
I deeply question at times whether there is any point in attending to politics? The forces at work in the unfolding of societal levels of consciousness seem to be so far beyond any individual input. The cacophony of the noise of ideas feel so loud and chaotic and the law of unintended consequences so strong. Surely the only action it makes sense to embark on is changing ourselves.
Yet I do think that I can see how the developmental forces of the universe are working away in the background, our collective consciousness does develop, the values of our society are constantly changing towards greater openness, honesty and fairness. I can also see how my defeatedness around politics comes from my personal conditioning. But how this movement into creating meaningful local communities can happen in the short to medium term, I still can’t quite see.
The move to a decent minimum wage and the exposure and rejection of sexual abuse and sexual harassment are recent examples where the developing social consciousness have led to change. The ongoing process of women’s liberation, and of racial equality and LBGTI liberation are also examples. From earlier in my life it was the hopelessness of bureaucracy and the denial of self-responsibility emanating from state industries and the trade unions that led to the Thatcher revolution’s emphasis on personal responsibility. The pendulum swung much too far into a mad neo-liberalism, but that is now hopefully in the process of moving back into some new creative synthesis.
It is the emergence of need into consciousness that is always the prelude for conscious motivation and action. So maybe patience is the key, that this psycho-spiritual developmental perspective will become sufficiently established, in tandem with its relational counterpart of our deep need for community and wish to share our journey, for it to change our society’s structure.