*Italics are humbly added to show the context of our four strands and philosophy of being.
The new consciousness did not arise in a vacuum, but has emerged from these and other life-giving stories or morphogenic fields that share the vision of connectedness of all that is. In earlier chapters we have looked at other morphogenic fields that we can engage because they affirm that our species is moving toward unitive consciousness (TEILHARD)* and we have powerful tools at our disposal that allow us to participate more fully in the grace-filled process.
The work of Susanne Cook-Greuter is quite helpful because it shows us that the unitive consciousness once considered the purview of rare individuals (MYSTICS)* is the kind of consciousness to which our species is evolving. With information based on empirical data, Cook-Greuter describes the emerging perspective on a large scale. Previously the characteristics of these stages of development have been expressed in religious terms. Indeed these stages are often the result of sustained attention to “religious experience” (experience of the transcendent), yet they may be described as profoundly “human experience,” accessible through experience described as religious but not limited to any particular religious tradition. Since often the images and metaphors used in religious expression stem from a cosmology rooted in the Paleolithic era, their use has sometimes been as restrictive as it is liberating. Using the language of psychology (JUNG)* allows us to move to a place of detachment from religious language so that we may update our own stories and images in a way that is resonant with the newer vision of reality that has been revealed. Far from separating us from our religious tradition, psychology can help us become clearer about what is of the essence.
The two higher stages examined by Cook-Greuter, Construct-Aware and Unitive, fall into the broader category of unitive consciousness. Individuals in these stages have developed the capacity to witness their own experience rather than be embedded in it. They have grown through the various developmental stages, with each stage becoming the object of the emerging stage. Both stages recognize the limitations of the ego and understand just how egocentric they have been. This recognition serves to free them of egocentricity and its concomitant illusions and to be vigilant with regard to the ego’s ploys. They notice paradoxes in their world, but they no longer see them as problems to be solved, but simply notice that they are part of the ongoing flow of life itself.
As they have moved through the stages, both Construct-Aware and Unitive adults have grown in their embrace, capable of including more and more of reality in their own worldview. They no longer consider themselves separate from the world but recognize that they are part of a single reality (COMMUNITY)*. While the Construct-Aware person may still experience a sense of separation between self and the world, the Unitive lives with a felt sense of connectedness to all that is. What the Construct-Aware knows, the Unitive has integrated more fully. Both view reality from deep time and deep space, recognizing that they are part of a process of cosmic proportions.
In light of the issues that threaten our very existence, it seems that to have a greater number of people in these higher stages of development, persons who have a sense of connectedness and who can embrace that reality in the way they live, contributes to the transformation in the consciousness of the whole. As it is lived on a larger scale, this level of consciousness shifts the center of gravity upward, pressuring the whole of our species to evolve.
While it is not possible to skip stages in the process of growth and development, it is possible to accelerate our movement through them with the practice of meditation (CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE).* Sustained meditation facilitates changes within the brain. While one hemisphere of our brain usually predominates over the other, a phenomenon known as lateralization, the practice of meditation over time brings the hemispheres into balance. The result is that the sense of separation characteristic of lower stages of development begins to recede and a sense of connectedness begins to emerge.
Meditation loosens the hold that the ego has over consciousness and allows the subject of one stage to become the object of the next. It helps the person overcome inattentional blindness and facilitates ever larger views of the world. It trains the mind to witness, to disengage from thoughts and actions, and to observe without judgment. Meditation enables the practitioner to live in the present moment with an abiding state of peace, no matter what the external circumstances may be.
Meditation accelerates our growth into cosmic or unitive consciousness. Far from being an escape from reality, it hastens its embrace. Meditation is not for the faint of heart or the weak in spirit. The process is an arduous one, for it involves facing egocentricity, engaging the shadow, observing incongruities, spotting illusions, letting go of attachments and monitoring the capacities for self-preservation, self-adaption, self-transcendence, and self-dissolution. While it helps us grow and develop, it is not about acquiring any particular state or stage of consciousness as the endgame, but it is one way we may choose to engage evolutionary grace.
The point of meditating is not to become a meditator. The goal is not to reach a final state or stage of human development. Meditation and the evolution to a cosmic perspective simply prepare us for the work ahead. They hold us steady so that we can engage the whales. They teach us to employ our capacities to the fullest in ways that facilitate the evolution of all life. They help us live in the awareness of the connectedness that the Universe Story so beautifully demonstrates. They allow us to witness that life is wrapped in incomprehensible holy mystery and filled with grace. And they empower us to respond from a place that is free to love.
We are the universe come to consciousness. We are the universe awakened to its own empowerment. We know that every movement we make causes a shift of energy and ruffles the space around us. As Marianne Williamson has pointed out, we are powerful beyond measure. As we embrace that power we embrace the world, and as we embrace the world we begin to see that we must co-create, we must become instruments of the grace that everywhere abounds.
A promising tool at our disposal is the power of intention (PRAYER CIRCLE).* Experiments have measured the physiological effects that come when we hold a particular intention for the purpose of healing. Studies suggest that more coherent energy influences the less coherent, that higher order influences the lesser. This begs the question that perhaps higher stages of consciousness- as powerful morphogenic fields that act as an attractor- can encourage lower stages to evolve more quickly. The phenomena of entrainment and resonance suggest that the more we vibrate at the same frequency, the stronger the field will become, the stronger the attraction will become, and the greater ease with which the field may be entered. Intentions held by small but pulsating groups can change energy patterns all over the globe. This is an awesome power, one we must not engage frivolously. Al Lynne McTaggart points out, we are setting intentions all the time, usually unconsciously. What if we were to be intentional about our intentions, allowing them to come from the greatest depth we know?
Of course, the power of intention can be misused. If it is the case that we are always setting intentions anyway, simply as the result of our thinking processes, then we must disengage from the in attentional blindness that has been there all along. We have set intentions unaware, inadvertently misusing a power that we did not know was ours. How do we learn to set healthy intentions? How do we learn to set healthy intentions? How do we set intentions that flow from the deep self and not a fear-filled ego? We meditate. We become intentional about our own journey, and we share with others who do the same. We do not seek to arbitrarily establish our own morphogenic fields, but pay close attention to that which is emerging as a result of the pressure of the Spirit and then do what we can to grow in wisdom and respond with grace.
We are prepared for the call that is ours. We have all the tools required to step into the stream of grace-filled consciousness that is ours to live. The journey will be messy. We will miss a few steps and we will not always make the best of choices, but journey we must-together-growing all the while in our capacity to become people of compassion.