Terry Patten’s book “A New Republic of the Heart” is a wonderful exploration of how we can respond to our current global crisis with wisdom and passion and sanity, I highly recommend it. It is the second book over that last ten years that has made me stop and marvel at the accomplishment. (The other one was John Welwood’s “Towards a Psychology of Awakening”).
Whilst Welwood’s book integrates the psychological and spiritual dimensions of life, Patten’s book includes the political, in terms of looking at our relationship to societal change and how to be an “activist”. The integration of these three dimensions is something that I have, in one way or another, been working on for over fifty years, so I found the book exciting and very helpful. He uses an “Integral” perspective with much wisdom and humility, bringing these three perspectives into a whole which reveals how the only sane path is to become an “activist”. How, as we come to realise that we are not just isolated separate individuals, we can open to the “intelligence of our hearts” and see that engagement and taking responsibility for ourselves and our world is the only sane response. This is also about seeing how all forms of defeatism are expressions of trauma and our alienated ego.
He presents a clear explication of the truth that we are profoundly part of the Whole. Indeed, that the spiritual dimension of our lives is all about our experience of Wholeness. Both Wholeness and everything within it, including ourselves, are participating in the unfolding of its evolutionary path towards its own ever-fuller realisation. The perfection of the formless whole, emerging into existence through Consciousness, Love, Energy, (because this is how we perceive it, through our head, heart, and body) in the process of embodying itself in form.
To my psychotherapists’ sensitivities Patten doesn’t articulate in enough detail how trauma (in its widest sense) is the cause of all our separateness and alienation, our fixed rigidness, our arrogance, our blindness, our avoidance. But this is a small criticism, and he does try, acknowledging how “the revolution is (being) fought on many fronts, the centre of the battle is a nonviolent revolution in every heart.”, and how this is about each of us working through our “shadow”, or trauma conditioning.
It has become even clearer to me recently how the trauma that gets stuck inside us with its hurt, pain, fear, or distress, is real and needs our care and attention. However, so many of our difficulties emerge from the misinterpretations and misbeliefs we formed alongside our trauma. These are not true, but they are the nightmares we get trapped in, as we play out our identification with our self-judgements, shoulds, sense of inadequacy, lack of self-value, blame and anger. All those negative “beliefs” plague our relationship to our lives as though we were cursed. The pain is real, our nightmare story surrounding it, is not, it is just a dream.
As Patten says, the world has “lost its soul”, it has lost connection with the deep wisdom we each have, in the depth of our mind, our heart, and our bodies. We need this wisdom and sanity, which can only recover through expanding our consciousness, which requires us to heal, which in turn needs us to consciously integrate our three “centres”. This healing repairs our alienation and separateness, it opens our minds and our hearts and our bodies, and from the presence this brings it eventually becomes obvious that we need to participate in repairing our world. It is us.
How much we can achieve is obviously unknowable, but there is surely no other sane or honest, or holistic (holy), response. As he puts it, “We are all addicts – to fossil fuels, to consumerist culture, to our consensus trance, to ineffectual consolations. We can admit that we are addicts, and affirm our process of recovery, one day at a time. That means saying “yes” to life, forgiving ourselves, and taking seriously our responsibility for the future, today.”
It is as though the world is a traumatised addicted person (like most of us are), waking up to the knowledge of their dis-functionality but without the resources to change. A “third force” made up of awareness and understanding, is required to facilitate the process of change. This comes from facing the reality of ourselves, taking responsibility for our dysfunctionality and then understanding it. It is about opening up our hearts and minds and bodies to seeing how trauma has configured us. This can then open our hearts to finding self-compassion, then compassion for the other and the world as a whole. With such opening, our defences with all their negative, blind, and destructive attributes, can be increasingly left behind as we open to our connection to the transpersonal depth of ourselves, where “Goodness, Beauty and Truth” reside in the depth of our here and now. Then we can increasingly embody caring for ourselves, and this amazing planet of ours.
Therapy is about supporting individuals to find this “third force”, and we need to somehow get this understanding about trauma more widely out into society, to help it heal. It seems to me that our general societal consciousness is moving towards this, but there is still a long way to go. The mass media is still dominated by billionaires who are deeply resistant to this message and its implications for society. The message being that human beings are fundamental good, and that all the negative aspects of ourselves, all lying and deceit, all selfishness, all hatred and violence, all flow from trauma (along with many of our illnesses). This means that society has a role in supporting the healing of trauma directly, as well as through reducing of inequality. The current cry linking climate justice with social justice is surely entirely legitimate and necessary (Greta et al).
Patten also quotes Thomas Hübl who has been wonderfully helpful in making it clear that all aspects of our society are configured by trauma, that we live in a sea of its consequences. All rigidly hierarchical institutions that use “power over”, are expressions of trauma. Everywhere where there is a lack of open honest relationship, there is trauma. Our culture is full of its influences.
This book is a powerful call to action, and it conveys so well how such action has to derive its energy from the profound holism deep within us, and within existence itself. Otherwise as Patten says, activism is just another ego-based projection. He conveys how this “sacred” activism naturally emerges from embodying the presence that comes from healing our trauma and re-integrating our heart, head, and body. This conscious “Beingness” is our connection to our non-separateness, where our heart (and its “intelligence”) opens to caring and wanting the best for everything that exists. From here the only feasible position to take is a cautious optimism, moving away from any form of defeatedness with its cynicism, head-in-the-sand avoidance, or projective Panglossian optimism.
It may well be that the path ahead is full of disasters, but as Patten says when talking about “Wholeness” and our movement towards it, “That new republic already exists, as our social mycelium, and as our intuition and intuitive attraction toward a still-unmanifest possibility. It is already fully present, but mainly in potential. It is where we are heading, our telos or omega point. It is like a “strange attractor” that conjures order out of a chaotic open system as it transitions … into a higher order state.”
Jim Robinson – May 2021