What does it mean to discuss the human story in our time in the light of the metaphor of a threshold?
This idea suggests to me that the human species is facing a momentous opportunity—to step across a threshold that will lead us into a world where the spirit of synthesis and the sense of universality will be a feature of civilization and culture. It will be possible to resolve issues that currently seem so impossible to move forward on (climate change, poverty, empty and soul-less materialism) with relative ease. People in the professions, academic disciplines, the arts and so on will draw vision and insight from an understanding of the wholeness and interdependence of life.
This does not mean a utopia—just that the dominant note, the direction and trend in government, civil society, and in the consciousness of vast numbers of people, will be concern about the good of the whole and the good of the part. Within this overall spirit of the time there will of course be conflicts, tensions, and muscular differences of opinion. After all, as individuals and groups, nations and regions, we will continue to face challenges and opportunities in the endless path of development. In a spiral dynamics sense, all of the levels, all of the stages in cultural development will continue to be present.
If we look at this from an analytical perspective, we might say that to stand before a threshold presents us, as a species, with a choice. Either we pass through the doorway or we turn our back on the wholeness paradigm. There are many deep thinkers who see our time in this light—as one of choice. And there are many who are concerned that it looks as if we are choosing to turn away from the door. Racist anti-immigrant movements throughout Europe and elsewhere are cited as evidence of this retreat from the threshold. In the United States fundamentalists, right wing tea party elements of the population, and climate skeptics are most often cited as evidence of our unwillingness as a species to stand tall and pass across the threshold into a future that will be increasingly conditioned by a sense of universality.
I do see that we are presented with a choice, but I think that our humanity is growing and maturing in response to this choice. Those who stand in opposition to wholeness may appear to hold significant power, yet in my understanding they are better understood as a counterpoint to the dominant trajectory, and not the main story. It may be true that in political battles they continue to be powerful, but their power is better understood when we look at polls showing that younger people are naturally drawn to inclusive and holistic policies, structures and understandings. Separatism is dying out as a dominant force in human affairs—and its death comes with a massive, cataclysmic explosiveness.
Consider the recent Rio + 20 Earth Summit. Here was a chance for governments to act on the challenges of climate change and on the dawning vision of a green economy. Collectively the governments lost the opportunity—they failed to take decisions, failed to act decisively (although huge developments took place in civil society at Rio and amongst local government groups as well as innumerable professional and business groups). It makes sense to acknowledge that governments came to Rio with mixed reactions of fear of the unknown, repression of their knowledge about the science of climate change, uncertainty, vulnerability, and concern about losing or winning competitive advantage, together with some visionary sense of future opportunities and an emerging response to principles of wholeness and interdependence.
Some governments and governmental leaders reflected more of the fearful reaction—others more of the visionary response. Yet as a whole it is the tension between these that characterizes most governments. And this I think reflects what it is to stand as a species on the threshold. We do not yet have the common will or vision to pass through the doorway, but this shared vision is emerging. It takes time, just as any deep transformation of consciousness takes time.
I believe that it is critical that our action and our activism, in whatever field we are drawn to, be infused with an awareness of the depth and breadth of the transformation in consciousness taking place now. It is this background, hidden, realigning of thinking that is taking us, as a species, through the threshold. We need to see how diverse and widespread this realignment is. Only then can we see that the opposing forces are not as powerful as we may have thought them to be.
We sometimes speak of the intelligence of the body and the processes of bodily functions as being below the threshold of our awareness. Applying this idea to the current state of humanity suggests that the knowledge about inter-dependence that has emerged during recent decades in science as well as spirituality will become an almost unconscious part of our being as more and more of us enter into an intuitive understanding of wholeness. This will mean increasing numbers who find that their sense of meaning and purpose grows out of their understanding of the interdependence of all life. That is an incredible thought and I have seen that it is actually happening in a multitude of circles of thinkers and activists, in fields as diverse as business, sustainability, the arts and medicine. It is a sign of the future—when the threshold will have been crossed.
There is yet another, perhaps more hidden and mythological perspective on the threshold that seems important to me. This is the ancient idea that prior to any initiation, the one who stands in the shadow of the portal will often resist, and resist vigorously, the future that is sensed beyond the closed door. This resisting aspect of the self, known as the dweller on the threshold, represents all the psychic and mental experiences of the separated self, built up and carefully nurtured over life-times. Prior to illumination and initiation, prior to the crossing of the threshold, the accumulated potency of the personality, the identity of the separated self, stands in opposition to the Angel of the Presence, another name for the Soul.
Passage across the threshold depends upon the surrendering and submission of this potent separated self. As the personality is humbled before the Presence, it finds itself entering through the doorway, transformed, liberated and naturally reflecting the perspective of the Soul. This is not an image of the personality as evil or inherently negative. Rather it is an image of all the power and potency of individuality standing before the Angel; seeing in the Angel a Greater Light and a Greater Love and choosing to be a willing servant of that greater Light, that greater Love.
This view sees the passage across the threshold as an initiation into more expanded consciousness. It sees humanity now, in all its rich diversity— its thinking, feeling, doing life—as in a moment of intensity where the revelation of interdependence stands face to face with all of the accumulated habits of separation. In the grand debates over climate change, economic inequality, religious and cultural pluralism, the two archetypes of mind and heart (separation and wholeness) are engaged. This engagement between the two reaches into our individual psyche, into all of our relationships, just as it reaches into our institutions, our professions and our systems of law and governance.
Yet this engagement need not be seen as a battle with winners and losers. Rather it can be seen as a process leading us, together, across the threshold and into a space where interdependence seeps into all of our thinking. Change will not come either from the bottom up or from the top down. Rather, transformation will come from all directions: bottom up, top down, inside out, outside in. Transformation will be the dynamic in local affairs as well as national, regional and global. It will be a keynote of religious life, of economic life, of our spiritual as well as our material lives.
I believe that this transformation is already underway. Standing, as a species, at the threshold suggests that the pioneers are already on the other side, calling their brothers and sisters, calling the community as a whole to join them, singing the song of wholeness – and singing it from inside out, singing it from an immersion in the spirit of wholeness rather than, simply, a set of ideas about wholeness.
Steve Nation is Co-Convenor of the Spiritual Caucus at the United Nations, a caucus of NGOs affiliated with the United Nations HQ in New York. He worked for almost 20 years at the London office of World Goodwill and Lucis Trust. Together with his late wife, Jan, he is co-founder of Intuition in Service and the United Nations Days & Years Meditation Initiative. Since 2002 he has coordinated an annual global meditation Vigil for the United Nations International Day of Peace. He writes a monthly newsletter available by email, Please Hold in the Light, as well as a regular column for the UK journal, Caduceus. Steve is actively involved as a Board member of: Lifebridge Foundation, USA; Lucis Trust, USA, UK & Switzerland; Darjeeling Goodwill Animal Shelter Trust, India. He lives with his wife, Barbara Valocore, in the Catskills region of the Hudson Valley, NY, USA.
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