We hear the expression “consensus reality” used more and more often to distinguish the conventional Western/Newtonian/Cartesian world view from other possible philosophies or frameworks of thought.
The frequent bracketing of these words in writing and conversation implies that there is one accepted version of reality that includes a social agreement about what the mind may or may not legitimately countenance, if its owner wishes to remain within mainstream discourse. Yet there is also a connotation of questioning or doubt in the use of the modifying adjective “consensus,” even a certain defensiveness.
It is as if the speaker, who may
generally accept the prevailing paradigm, does not completely agree
that what we have been acculturated to believe is, in fact, the only
The two pillars of this world view are materialism and mental dualism.
The materialist/dualist version of reality has proved useful for Western society in its attempts to dominate the material world, other peoples, and nature.
This philosophy has also led us to the
brink of nuclear war - the ultimate expression of self-other
division - and the extinction of many of the planet's many life
forms, as human beings pursue their own material well-being at the
expense of weaker humans, other animals, and plants.
It is as if our minds are being opened to new realities in some sort of synchrony with the conscious and unconscious, individual and collective, perception that we cannot go on as we have been without destroying life itself. Science, need, pragmatism, and morality have all fused. The established version of reality no longer “works” in all the operational and normative senses of that word.
Stated more positively, facts that we
are discovering about nature, and ourselves in nature, seem to
correspond to the knowledge that will be required to preserve life
and well-being on the planet.
This model embraces truths known to
virtually all past cultures and most contemporary societies, however
much the latter may be influenced by materialism and dualism in
their pursuit of modernization, political power, and market
advantage. How we in the West could have succeeded in forgetting
this knowledge is one of the great untold stories of our time.
The central tasks confronting humankind
at this critical juncture are to limit our destructiveness, to learn
to live harmoniously in the natural world, and to discover the
appropriate outlets for our remarkable creative energies. We will
also need to cultivate, really to liberate, those
the psyche that allow us to experience the numinous in nature and to
perceive realities beyond the empirically observable physical world.
Defenses and rigidly defined mental structures, compartmentalized divisions of the psyche, and self/other or self/object dichotomies are the stuff of everyday discourse in the psychology and mental health fields. However, change is occurring gradually, due to the influence of several factors: experiential and growth-promoting transformational models, the transpersonal psychology movement, the introduction of non-Western healing methods, a new emphasis on spirituality in therapeutic dialogue, and the feminist-inspired emphasis on relationship and connection.
But fear of subjectivity and
"mysticism," confusion of spirituality with traditional religion,
reliance on exclusively sensory/empirical or cognitive/intellectual
knowledge, and habitual dependence on quantifiability for academic
respectability and advancement have made the psychology professions
particularly slow to move toward the new world view.
These techniques include:
All share the healing and assumption-shattering power of non-ordinary states of consciousness.
By reaching affectively to the deepest
levels of self-awareness, these methods release creative psychic
energies and, most important, overcome the dualities that the
Western mind has assumed are the only ways of experiencing reality.
These techniques also bring us into contact with spiritual realities
outside the material world, force us to confront the cycles of
birth, death, and rebirth, cut through the intensity of our
attachment to the material world, and allow us to discover our true
place in the universe.
Her transformational impact included both a leadership model and the creation of a non-ordinary state of consciousness.
Through her presence in the United
States as a leading physician and political activist, Caldicott
effectively challenged the male-dominated nuclear weapons industry
and its political and scientific supporters, at great personal risk.
She was eventually attacked by the media and felt compelled to
return to Australia.
She would plant an infant in the audience and, at a dramatic moment in her talk, step down from the platform, pick up the baby, and speak of the intergenerational cycles of life, embodied in the infant, that would be interrupted forever by a nuclear war. The emotional impact of this performance, reaching to the perinatal level of the psyche and beyond, was so powerful that the consciousness of many who experienced it was forever changed.
Literally thousands of members of the
antinuclear movement were recruited by Caldicott in this way.
The extension of a New World View that
derives from our experience of the interdependence and
interconnectedness of all living things, together with a recognition
of the fragility of the earth's ecosystems, will be an important
step in the preservation of the planet.
Facing up to the established order,
taking a stand with one's whole being, exposing one's vulnerability,
and risking the loss of personal freedom all seem to inspire both
leaders and their followers.
They resist change intensely, sometimes violently, even when many of the individuals involved recognize the institutions' anachronistic nature, In particular, the worldwide military complex has become obviously incompatible with a sustainable future of the planet.
Yet wars continue, and arms sales
For instance, films that show the
accelerating damage to the Earth's biosystems from the perspective
of outer space have been particularly powerful vehicles for the
transformation of consciousness about the vulnerability of the
A growing global community is committed
to expediting the revolution in human consciousness described by