There is a spiritual tradition of watching and witnessing: that events in the inner and outer worlds need to be witnessed. This book is a witness to changes that have been happening in the inner worlds(1) over the last few years, changes that are directly reflected by those in the outer world that belong to our growing sense of global interconnectedness and an awakening consciousness of oneness. In the outer world we can witness the effects of this unifying consciousness in the dawning recognition that we are one global human community and also part of one living interdependent ecosystem. The shadow-side of this awareness is an expanded global exploitation together with an accelerating ecological imbalance that some say has now pushed our planet's ecosystem past its "tipping point," with unforeseeable consequences.
Spiritual teachings tell us that events in the outer world are a reflection of changes taking place in the inner worlds. There have been changes in the inner world as vital to our collective destiny as what has been happening on the outer global stage, and yet these inner changes have been mostly unreported, unacknowledged. From within the inner world there has come an energy shift that belongs to this global awakening and evolution in consciousness: humanity's transition into a consciousness of oneness. But there has also been a darkening of the light that was a catalyst for these changes—a darkening that directly reflects our continuing ecological devastation.
Over the last decade or more we have heard about the need and possibility for a "paradigm shift," for a global shift in consciousness: how humanity is at the dawn of a new age. I first became fully aware of this possibility at the beginning of the new millennium, when in the spring of 2000, I noticed a new energy present. This energy had a spark, a quality of joy, and a deep knowing of oneness. It belonged to the whole of life and to the Earth itself, as well as to the heart and soul of humanity. It had within it all of the seeds of the next era of human evolution—qualities of oneness, interconnectedness, and the simple joy of life. This was a spark to help the world to awaken, to step out of an era of separation into an era of divine presence and unity.
This spark carried the possibility that the world could come alive in a new way, awaken to its magical potential, and that the whole of humanity could be part of this awakening. In simplicity and a certain naïveté I saw that there was a oneness waiting to be lived, and that we were this oneness. And yet at the same time, in order for this opportunity to be realized, humanity had to leave behind certain behavior patterns and power structures that resisted this new energy, that wanted the old ways to remain.
This new energy came into the world in the form of a spark of light to help humanity to evolve, to help it to grow out of an era dominated by a sense of separation, particularly separation from the world around us. It was a catalyst to enable the last era to transform, to help a new global awareness to be born. And this light was given freely: nothing was asked in return. And yet, as with all gifts, there was an unspoken responsibility: that this light be used for its true purpose.
But this gift of light was also a test for humanity: to recognize the oneness of creation and its sacred nature, to turn away from the darkness of a civilization that celebrates the ego and its desires, and has forgotten our ancient purpose as guardians of the planet. It might appear contradictory that the journey towards oneness means confronting the duality of light and darkness, and choosing the light over the darkness, but this is the reality we are experiencing. On our present global stage the forces of darkness in the forms of unrestrained materialism, greed, and other expressions of self-interest are destroying our ecosystem, and in order to embrace the consciousness of oneness that values the wonder and diversity of creation, we need to become free from their grip and from the ego-centered values that encourage them.(2) We have to make the simple but vital shift from "me" to "we."
And slowly, gradually, for a time it seemed this shift was taking place: for a time the darkness dissolved and there was hope in the planet; there was a spark of remembrance, an awakening of an ancient joy, the joy that belongs to life when it is recognized as sacred, before the time of division, when there is the knowing that all is One. And gradually a spring came again, and the trees and the animals laughed and thought for a time that their voices would be heard. And with this spring, the knowing returned, the ancient knowing that includes all of life. And all this was welcomed.
And on the human stage there was the beginning of a spiritual reawakening. Over the last decades in the West we have been given greater access to spiritual techniques and practices to help us step out of the world of the ego into the bigger, unified dimension of the Self. Spiritual knowledge that had been hidden for centuries began to be returned to us: the knowledge of shamans and yogis, the wisdom of mystics and monks. Spiritual disciplines that had been practiced in secret became accessible, books that once were hidden in remote libraries were readily available. We began once again to have ways to access the spiritual knowledge of our own soul. The idea of "spiritual awakening" no longer belonged to just a select few, but became a possibility for many people, and even for the world itself. In some countries spiritual persecution remained, but in the West there was a spiritual renaissance that had not been seen for many centuries. The signs of spiritual transformation were more and more visible like buds in springtime. And the spark of light speeded up this transformation, helped life's magic to return, its real spiritual nature to become more visible.
But the darkness of human desire fought back, together with the power structures that did not want any change. The darkness of possessiveness and the evil of greed now walked with heavy boots over the face of the whole world. Globalization meant more exploitation rather than unity.
Even the bright lights of spiritual awakening were obscured by the buying and selling of the marketplace—what should be given freely was commercialized and exploited. And slowly the light started to go out. And no one seemed to notice. Everyone was so busy, their attention was lost, caught in the many distractions and demands of daily life. No one seemed to notice that the joy was retreating, that the hope was disappearing. The trees noticed, the birds noticed, the rivers knew of the light being lost. But for so many centuries we had forgotten how to listen to the trees, how to hear the birds or the rivers. We no longer knew how to read the signs. And so we did not notice what was happening: how the light that was given was being swallowed up, how a spark was becoming lost. And many voices tried to speak to humanity, voices within nature, voices of indigenous peoples and others. But these voices were not heard, or if they were heard they were ignored. And so the light receded until its spark was finally lost. And without this spark, this light, there could be no real change: nothing new could be born. And this is the great unspoken tragedy of today. This is what has happened to the soul of humanity and the soul of the world.
But people behave as if nothing has happened. This for me is a great mystery, this complete denial of what was given and what was lost. People continue with their daily affairs, their buying and selling, their dreams and desires. And they seem to notice nothing, and yet in their souls something is missing. A note is no longer present, a color in the spectrum of the soul is missing, a joy has fled. And now the future is very different—because that note, that color, would have allowed something to happen that cannot now take place. Instead humanity must continue without a certain dream being born, without a certain wonder being made present, without a quality of life's oneness coming alive. Humanity must continue in this way because it did not take responsibility for what was given—it did not remember....
Footnotes to Excerpt
(1) By "inner worlds" I mean those worlds that are invisible to our physical sight but exist in other dimensions of reality: for example, the angelic world, the world of the devas or nature spirits, the archetypal world of symbols, the inner world of the soul and world soul. Shamans, mystics, and seers, among others, have traditionally had access to different inner worlds. Sadly, one of the greatest censorships of our Western culture has been to deny the existence of these inner worlds. This has been partly caused by scientific rationalism, but also by the Catholic Church, which persecuted those who had direct access to inner worlds, like the Gnostics.
(2) In our human story a step in the evolution of consciousness often involves duality and choice. See p. 145 in Darkening of the Light.