Tim Wyatt – England
The world is in turmoil environmentally, politically, economically, socially and above all spiritually. The old certainties of materialism are being rapidly torn apart as science and spirituality approach a new convergence. Human consciousness is also undergoing a major shift – away from exclusively materialistic and mechanistic concerns towards enhanced spirituality. Individuals are moving beyond raw emotion and pure intellectualism towards a wider perception of the universe – developing new faculties of imagination, inspiration and intuition.
Advances in human consciousness during this the fifth Epoch or Root Race of human development are almost immeasurable. Theosophy both in its present and previous incarnations has played a crucial role in influencing and guiding this evolution. Harnessing the Ageless Wisdom and making it a practical tool for spiritual and global evolution isn’t just desirable but crucial.
Theosophy – unlike contemporary mainstream science and religion – has a clear idea of what mind is all about and a coherent picture of what consciousness actually is. Science, despite all its certainties, apparent sophistication and, I have to say, arrogance, simply cannot define either mind or consciousness. It can only explain it as an exclusively physical process - some kind of elaborate firework display in the cerebral cortex sending electro-chemical reactions surging along the nerves and ganglia. It can offer nothing but a purely materialistic explanation for this or indeed anything else.
Unlike the adherents of science, Theosophists have the distinct advantage of knowing that both mind and consciousness exist in the non-physical realms. The brain is the seat of mind in the physical world only. We know that aspects of consciousness not only survive the death of the physical body but are eternal and indestructible.
For vast aeons of human evolution – up to the fourth sub-race of this the present Fifth Root Race humanity possessed what might be called spiritual-intuitive thinking. As the civilizations of India, Egypt, Babylon, Chaldea, Greece and Rome crumbled and as we entered the current fifth sub-race of the fifth Root Race, this spiritual-intuitive thinking was replaced by increasing intellectualism and the masking of the more intuitive aspects of our thinking. Of course, this was all part of the plan. But it hasn’t been without its problems.
Intellectual thinking is very much the product of the material world in which we’ve become progressively more enmeshed over the past few thousand years. There is debate as to whether we have yet sunk to the lowest point in physical matter and are now on a path of spiritual ascendency or whether this has yet to happen. The deep descent into matter and the thinking that goes with it was a key part of the process of human development.
Intellectualism and materialism are ideal bedfellows. They knit together perfectly – like gin and tonic, Simon & Garfunkel, politicians and lies.
As we’ll see, we’re gradually beginning to move beyond this solely intellectual way of thought – synthesizing it with our largely latent psycho-spiritual consciousness and re-engaging the faculties of imagination, inspiration and intuition.
During the emergence of the Sixth Root Race in the far future, humanity will develop what Theosophists call Buddhic or intuitive consciousness until it is as sophisticated as our five physical senses. As I say, there were sound evolutionary reasons for this need to develop intellectual thinking. It was a means of developing individualized human consciousness which only appeared on the scene relatively recently. According to some esotericists this only happened as recently as the Renaissance during the 15th Century.
Prior to this, the vast bulk of people on the planet – with a few notable exceptions – had not progressed beyond group consciousness. This is the consciousness of the race, the nation, the tribe or the family. You only have to look around the world to see that this has by no means disappeared. On a global scale, nationalism and sectarianism are alive and well, fuelling war and conflict. Go to any main sports event and you can see that humanity has yet to transcend and transform its tribal instincts. They appear to be a kind of ritualized and surrogate gang war
The Canadian-born mystic, astrologer and author Manly P. Hall often pointed out how attempts by visionary people to pioneer free-thinking nearly always produce vicious responses from the prevailing powers, be they secular or religious. Moving beyond current ways of thinking and ushering in fresh ideas have always been attacked by three forces desperately struggling to maintain the status quo. These are the church – or the prevailing religion of the time or place – the state and the mob. Shakespeare wrote a lot about the mindless mentality of the mob and we see that this form of collective consciousness and its consequent human behaviour is alive and well today.
Throughout history only a few individuals have dared to challenge the prevailing wisdom and they have nearly always paid with their freedom and often with their lives for expressing ideas which humanity has never encountered before – ideas far beyond their time. The executions of John The Baptist, Socrates and Giordano Bruno are just three high-profile examples, although the Catholic Church slaughtered millions during the Inquisition in its attempts to suppress new thought-forms. It is, of course, not the only religion with blood on its hands.
Yet whether the church, the state or the mob like it or not – consciousness does evolve, sometimes incrementally slowly and sometimes very rapidly indeed. Over the past couple of centuries it has been transforming at a rate probably never seen before as the world has shrunk thanks to mass communications. And yet the speed of that transformation has brought with it its own crises. Industrial and technological development has brought war, pollution, social dislocation, economic meltdowns, massive inequalities, resource depletion and mass neurosis. All around the world the number of people seeking help for depression and other psychological dis-eases rises alarmingly each year. The long-held certainty that material wealth makes you happy is looking not just a little tattered but fantastically absurd.
Shifts in consciousness – outwardly at least – have become generational. We don’t think like our parents or grandparents did and our children don’t think as we do. These days fewer and fewer people believe in the notion ‘My country right or wrong’ and sign up to be maimed and butchered in industrial wars on the battlefield. By and large our own generation no longer wants to jail homosexuals for life, execute criminals or put single mothers into mental institutions. We are more compassionate, caring and liberal than our Victorian forebears, though we retain primitive attitudes and instincts.
Nevertheless, free-thinking – letting the mind progress beyond its materialistic prison – is still a relatively rare phenomenon. And yet free-thinking is absolutely essential if we are to regain and refine this intuitive – and what are sometimes called our noetic faculties – telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition etc.
The irony is that our modern world shapes and enforces conformity to prevailing views just as much as the religions and cultures of the past did. And fundamentalists still rule the roost in many cases – be they of a religious, scientific or political persuasion. Fundamentalism is what happens when you forsake free-thinking.
Moving beyond the sphere of pure intellectualism and adopting more transcendent forms of consciousness is the challenge we face right now and over coming generations. Despite the seismic changes happening around us this transition to a new form of consciousness will be both painful and difficult – and this is why.
These days there is an almost complete absence of what you might call certainty or stability in the world around us. As Theosophists we know that life never stands still and everything is in a perpetual state of flux and subject to continuous and vigorous change. And yet everything seems to be in a process of permanent deconstruction on a scale which we’re just not comfortable with. We’re in a hyperactive part of the cycle when change has accelerated to break-neck speeds. Few people believe that they are in control of very many aspects our lives – if any at all. Esotericists, of course, have an entirely different view. They know that they are potentially very much in control and that their thoughts create the physical world around them.
Although we live in an information-driven world fuelled by the internet, TV and social media, the big paradox is that people are often more ignorant about themselves and the world around them than ever. We seem to have developed a technologically-induced tunnel-vision and weirdly we appear to be more disconnected from ourselves than ever. We are literally drowning in information and it may be that this actually gets in the way of our understanding. We are victims of information pollution and are in danger of being digitised to destruction.
It’s often said that ignorance is bliss. And as one senior Theosophist is fond of pointing out: ignorance is also exponential – meaning that it knows no limits. Ironically, in today’s digital world ignorance is also a prized attribute – especially among our growing élite of so-called celebrities. And here we have to be somewhat questioning and critical of significant sections of humanity for its over-riding tendency towards being not only stupid but also lazy, greedy, and selfish. We also lack courage – and courage is a vital attribute for anyone on the spiritual path.
Numerous scientific and sociological studies have clearly demonstrated that around 19 out of 20 people – 95 per cent are essentially passive. In numerous scientific experiments the vast majority of people will do exactly what they’re told by an authority figure – whether someone in uniform on a train or by a priest or doctor. Similarly, in chilling experiments participants were happy to oblige when told by a scientist in a white coat to inflict high voltage – and sometimes even potentially fatal – electric shocks on others in experiments. Only a small proportion of volunteers rebels or questions the situation.
The most celebrated experiments along these lines were conducted by Dr Stanley Milgram from Yale University. Beginning back in the 1970s he conducted trials in which volunteers were ordered to deliver shocks to other volunteers in a different room if they answered questions wrongly. Beginning with 15 volts they could hear the screams of those being questioned and punished. Gradually the voltages were increased. Astonishingly, 65 per cent of volunteers were prepared to inflict a potentially fatal 450 volts on those being questioned – simply because they were told to do so. Thankfully for the scientists and the volunteers the shocks weren’t real, although the volunteers inflicting them didn’t know this at the time.
In everyday life we see this mentality all too clearly. People are proud of their passivity. ‘When my boss says “Jump”, I ask, how high?’ they proudly proclaim. They are able to justify any action because they can claim it was what they were told to do. This is moral cowardice on a mass scale. It’s what leads to totalitarianism be it fascism, communism or anything else. When confronted with the atrocities they have committed the perpetrators tell their accusers that they were only carrying out orders. We heard this time and time again from ex-Nazis on trial at Nuremburg and elsewhere after the Second World War. No wonder the controversial writer David Icke refers to the mass of humanity as “sheeple”.
Alongside passivity is an even greater curse. Ninety-nine out of every hundred people follow the prevailing views however mad, bad, brutal or absurd and never question anything at all. Interestingly, these people will vigorously defend their beliefs –sometimes violently – even if they are demonstrably wrong and even if they have never spent a single second independently investigating them for themselves.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine people out of every thousand never have an original idea in their lives. Even if they have the imagination, they don’t know how to use it and even if they did it would be too much effort. Another problem is that they would be out of line with the majority and they fear shame, ridicule or contradiction. Cowardice again rather than courage.
What I’m getting at is that for the bulk of humanity free thinking is hardly ever on the agenda. A great many have developed a pathological fear of risking originality but ironically they still regard themselves as individuals. So essentially being Theosophist means being brave. It means having the fortitude to hold minority views, heretical ideas and original notions.
Over the past 3,000 years consciousness has been undergoing profound change – and now it’s gone into warp drive even though much of humanity remains enslaved to the materialistic paradigm and all the false philosophies and illusory notions which go with it.
Nevertheless, there are signs everywhere that there is some kind of awakening. People are questioning the smug supremacy of science and the dubious benefits of technologies which enslave and dehumanize as much as they liberate and enrich us.
For many, mainstream religions are not just threadbare but a total threat. They have often atomised and degenerated into fundamentalist sects which interpret the holy scriptures in an entirely literal way – thus completely absolving them of the need to think for themselves. Over a long period of time people have begun to reject some of these religions – most notably Christianity in Europe, although curiously not in America where hell-fire preachers still spout gory tales of brimstone and damnation to their gullible followers.
Increasing numbers of people see these religions as autocratic, top-down, hierarchical and dictatorial organisations which no longer have any resonance or relevance. But increasing numbers of people are searching for a spirituality which does resonate and which does have a deeper mystical significance. One thing they do know is that they don’t find it in any religion.
Interestingly, in surveys in recent years on both sides of the Atlantic more and more people describe themselves as spiritual beings or say that they’ve had spiritual experiences. It’s clear that more and more people recognise that they are indeed spiritual beings undergoing a human experience rather than physical beings who happen to have a spirit. But they no longer feel the need to go to churches or temples to be lectured in prescriptive language by people in robes who tell them what to eat, think and wear.
What I’m suggesting is that imagination, inspiration and intuition are the key ingredients of the emerging consciousness over the coming years, decades and centuries. Unshackling, developing and utilising these far-reaching faculties is the means by which we can transcend the three-dimensional, five-sense physical world and build a link to the spiritual and super-sensible realms which, of course, are at the very core of Theosophical ideas.
All this requires a huge expansion of consciousness in itself since many people at present trust only in the physical senses to perceive and interpret the world around them. Equally, many are yet to discover that there are interpenetrating unseen worlds which are a crucial part of their eternal adventure as humans. Because as many esotericists such as Rudolf Steiner have pointed out, the soul is ‘sense-free’.
I’m aware that some people find some of Steiner’s ideas unpalatable but he certainly wasn’t alone in wanting to develop a type of spiritual thinking that is ‘active, loving, spiritual and free’. In fact Steiner believed that this type of transcendent thinking was the central stimulus at the heart of all great advances in science, art, philosophy and religion down the ages.
Spiritual thinking – employing imagination, inspiration and intuition – contrasts sharply with the ordinary intellectual thinking via the lower concrete mind which has dominated our world certainly since the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the Industrial and Information Revolutions which followed. Above all, spiritual consciousness means being able to think your own thoughts and not be enslaved to other people’s ideas and opinions. This is the thinking which emerges from the vast spiritual self of your own true, eternal individuality – in short connecting with your own permanent Higher Self.
This Higher Self is not primarily concerned with the thoughts of the body, of other people or society at large. The Higher Self is concerned only with the big picture. Three things are required: commitment, persistence and above all courage.
Steiner – and many others in the esoteric tradition – firmly believed that conventional un-free thinking was both damaging and dangerous. Why? Because it alienates us both from the complex rhythms of the cosmos as well as everyone around us. In fact this type of constricted thinking actually leads to a hugely distorted image of other people – especially those outside the mainstream – children, the elderly, the ill and the disabled.
Spiritual thinking is eventually bound to challenge our certainties – and that will lead to a paradigm shift in consciousness as we develop these new faculties. It will not be an easy birth. At every stage of this process this emergent consciousness will be mercilessly attacked, ridiculed and undermined by the deep-seated cultural, philosophical and intellectual prejudices of the materialists.
The old ways of three-dimensional, five-sense thinking have led the world into a dangerous cul-de-sac of consumption, pollution, war, resource depletion, greed, inequality and many other iniquities. Although it was vital on our long journey of evolution, intellectual thinking has left us in a perilous quagmire – and a deep-seated spiritual crisis.
We might ask how long this will take? Well, it’s already happening, although the full process will take many generations as the sixth and seventh sub-races of the Fifth Root Race emerge. Full intuition – the buddhic wisdom-intuition consciousness – will not be the norm until we have progressed into the Sixth and penultimate Root Race. Yet we might also be surprised to see how rapidly consciousness can change. Crises can often act as accelerators of spiritual development – providing we don’t annihilate ourselves first. Struggles to find new ways of overcoming difficulties and limitations have a rejuvenating effect on our spiritual lives. After all the main reason for being in a human body on Planet Earth is to extend our knowledge through experience – and what better way to learn than through problem solving?
We know that our thoughts make the world. A change in consciousness among a very few people can have a sudden and dramatic effect. I often point out that relatively few people can make a significant impact on a situation. It’s said that it takes just the square root of just one per cent of the population thinking in harmony to seal that transformation. If we take the population of the world as seven billion people, then one per cent of that is 70 million and the square root of that is a little over eight thousand people – the population of a small town.
We’re seeing this emergent consciousness gradually appear in a number of ways. A minority of scientists when faced with the mysteries of quantum mechanics, superstring theory and dark matter, are slowly beginning to shed their exclusively materialistic perspective. I believe we have begun a long process of re-synthesizing science, religion and philosophy back into the single unity they once were.
The emerging world religion will effectively be a science of the spirit based on the Ageless Wisdom. Unlike its materially-based cousin it will not arrogantly proclaim that it knows everything. The very nature of evolution dictates that our knowledge and understanding of ourselves and the cosmos can only ever be partial at any given time.
Hopefully this new science and this new consciousness will open up pathways and portals to self-discovery which we haven’t yet even dreamt of. But I stress again that when you hold a minority view, being brave is all important.