Losing our way


Smokestacks and rubbish – nature on the eve of destruction from the UN Extinction Report

I recently heard from a psychologist who really dislikes the word ‘spirituality’ because it’s something that cannot be proved by scientific research. This made me wonder about how mainstream science has relentlessly focused on the material and the physical, with an insistence that consciousness only exists in the brain, and so has created a one-dimensional view of life and what happens in life, and indeed what happens after life.

Anne Baring, a Jungian therapist and writer, includes this quote in her book on ‘The Dream of the Cosmos’

‘Western thought has committed itself to a vision of reality that is based almost entirely on the daylight world of ordinary states of consciousness, whilst systematically ignoring the knowledge that can be gained from the night-time sky of non-ordinary states … Trapped within the horizon of the near-at-hand mind, our culture creates myths about the unreliability and irrelevance of non-ordinary states. Meanwhile, our social fragmentation continues to deepen, reflecting in part our inability to answer the most basic existential questions.’

This of course is exemplified by our separation from the rest of the created world and our treatment of nature. In this secular culture the rational mind is seen as of supreme value – recognising no power or consciousness beyond itself; this means we have become disconnected from the deeper matrix out of which we have evolved and on which we depend. We have been reduced as human creatures to a biological mechanism as exemplified in this statement from Stephen Hawking: ‘Brains are like computers. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark”.

Francis Crick one of the discoverers of DNA put it equally bleakly:

“You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and associated molecules.”

However, there is another view increasingly prevailing and one where the ‘evidence’ of the destruction caused by our one-sided consciousness is only too clearly revealed. I like this quote from the Catholic theologian Thomas Berry representing what has been called ‘Ideational culture’ which is a move away from rigidity of beliefs in both religious and secular worlds and towards values of responsibility towards creation.

‘Suddenly we awake to the devastation that has resulted from the entire modern process … In relation to the earth, we have been autistic for centuries. Only now have we begun to listen with some attention and with a willingness to respond to the earth’s demands that we cease our industrial assault, that we abandon our inner rage against the conditions of our earthly existence, that we renew our human participation in the grand liturgy of the universe.’