“Our business is to break down & dissolve the mental ego & get back to our divine unity without losing our power of individual & multiple existence in the universe.”
– Sri Aurobindo
“Evolution is not finished; reason is not the last word nor the reasoning animal the supreme figure of Nature…”
– Sri Aurobindo
This post is an edited version of a piece I wrote at the end of 2010, which very much anticipated the welling of expression seen recently in the ‘Occupy’ movement, and takes note the growing presence of mindfulness studies in mainstream media and science, among other things. There is also a vision of the growing dissonance between the current global economic and political structures that underpin our lives, and an emerging grass-roots, globally integrated and distributed way of operating that can’t help but bypass the old and stale boundaries that might have once been helpful, but now stand as impositions. This new ‘movement’ is still finding its way and its new definitions, but recognises all the same that our current foundations for life are not sustainable, not at all equitable, or in our best interests if we wish to survive the next millennia.
Amid the noise and distraction the fake culture of consumerism has increasingly become, a groundswell of people from all walks of life have hit the wall so to speak, the limit at which we are amused by pushing the boundaries of pointlessness. It’s a sense, a feeling. For every generation has had its counter-cultural views and issues to raise and consider. But somehow this feels more, a culmination, a point at which some deeper cycle, more far reaching in our collective Mind, has reached the limit of its internal tolerance, and must in some way break, be it gently or violently.
The stories we are starting to tell ourselves in the media, music, film, online, are slowly shifting in focus. While these stories remain gems in the rough, they are nevertheless growing and weaving a re-focused lens on inner-truth, and wittingly or unwittingly shine with a touch, or sometimes even a self-aware ray, of the Ineffable. It can easily be missed, disguised more often than not in the full-spectrum of life and expression that we currently live in, but easy to catch by those who have found themselves of late trying to scratch the same internal, cosmic itch. For Art, and its role as our collective mirror, ultimately survives through meaning. By which I mean that meaning must ultimately come from within us. Given this current state of affairs, the sum accumulation of structures and systems that order and direct our ways of life is facing the kind of crisis of meaning that impels us to find it fresh in a way that is unprecedented on such a collective, global scale. Signs of this has found its very first faint murmurs happening now, and it has the potential to bloom into a fully-fledged renaissance not unlike, and perhaps even more far reaching than the last.
If we cast our thoughts back, even casually over our recorded history right up to now, it has been a major preoccupation of civilization in its most enlightened thinking to find some kind of right order, by cycles and missteps, fleeting successes and tragic failures, visionary hope and misguided tyranny. Yet no matter how comprehensively we think, no matter how well defined we make our best ideals whatever they happen to be, humanity has yet to shake off the shackles of discontent, doubt, opposition, or fear. Violence occurs both as an attempt to grasp the reins forcefully, physically and psychologically, or through sheer disintegration. One begets the other. Whatever tentative foundations of peace we have in the world right now, its flaws are now more exposed than ever by this very crisis of meaning and the emerging response.
It is just the beginning. For within the response is a collective ‘feeling’ that humanity is in desperate need of re-casting the way it searches for truth, formulates truth, and reveals truth in a lasting, deeply meaningful and satisfying way. Yet, as long as humanity continues blindly to take the limit of this search as the same limit that has followed us throughout all of recorded history thus far, such a search will wheel around in dead-ends, come to rest upon yet new tentative foundations, only to topple again in various unforeseen ways. For it is the Mind and its thinking itself that must urgently become the object of our scrutiny and the subject of deep change. History also shows that trying to hammer people forcefully into idealistic shapes is futile and elicits sooner or later an opposing response, for corralling people into fixed ideas is yet again the Mind and its thinking, imposing some abstract boundary-line. In the ideas behind democracy we have a very enlightened impulse and vision towards freedom, and indeed it resonates deeply in us that freedom, somehow, is our innate condition, or at the very least our deepest desire. However enlightened these enshrined ideals are, the governing apparatus that has built up around them has become bloated and unserviceable, distorted and contradictory as we have unwittingly married it to our commonly shared afflictions, rooted in the mind and its thinking itself. So much so, that the original integrity and enlightened intentions have largely been lost, or turned into a great chest-thumping show, full of spectacle but little real substance. All sound and fury, signifying nothing as the Bard would say. And no amount of mindless consuming can escape it.
This new renaissance must have in it, and it is already present and gently emerging, the kind of genuine reflection that shifts people away from the storm of the Mind and the world it has created around us, in all its wonders and all it horrors, towards something beyond, something Transcendental. The current condition of mind is still very much the field and scope of events, but through the cracks that are appearing the light of deeper reflection must cut through the crusted, tired, completely outmoded, and meaningless language of church and state, of belief and reason, of matter and god, of left and right, and so on ad infinitum. This Transcendental ‘something’ cannot in its very nature be co-opted into any system, cannot be valued and economised, cannot be legislated and enforced, cannot be reasoned and argued, cannot be codified or ritualised. There is no mechanism of the mind by which it can be captured and made static. For such an operation would render it yet another object in thought, and miss the mark. Yet its presence, always Now, can be felt when we stop and deeply reflect, listen to its silence and let it transform the very nature of our thinking. This faculty of self-reflection, at once ubiquitous and mysterious is like a seed of the Transcendental planted within, ready to blossom.
It is a major flaw of reason that it does not recognise or appreciate the extent to its blind plodding and groping in applying itself to the problems of our age and how we are to live. It is rapidly losing the ability to recognise its own malaise, entranced as it is by the world it sees and has created, and myopic in its insistence that all must be vetted and approved according to its cataloged rule of order. Standing alone pure reason, if there can be such a thing, is an egoless ideal without agenda or predetermined bias. It aims for a factual truth that can be stated and understood, and verified by replication. It has succeeded in fashioning all facets of our lives and yeilding the many secrets of matter to do so. In all the many ways that reason is employed, it is still us that must be there to weild it. Without our desire to know and the eye to observe, reason cannot operate and conclude.
It is this factor, this point of interaction that is the elephant in the room, for no matter the degree of objectivity we are able to achieve in facts and reason, it is still us that must engage with them. Our collective and individual inner-lives have driven and generated the world we see around us today, yet Reason pretends at being hermetically sealed from it. To what degree can facts, by themselves, give us self-knowledge? By what power can facts alone satisfy our insatiable need to understand? If we were to discover some central fact of reason that explains us and the world, how does it change us? How are we moved?
In the end it is us, how we respond, react, and digest the objects of reason. In the end, it is us that has been there at every moment to witness the events of our collective life. And it is us that is here to witness the world which the mind has constructed us to live in. To what degree then are we happy with this world? Free of reasoning and justifications, apologies about ‘human nature’ or any kind of explanation. If there is such a thing as Truth, how can it remain a sole object of reason standing apart and independently of us? What does our deepest feeling tell us? No matter how we cut it, no matter what direction we trek, all the roads lead back to us, individually and collectively, to turn this unceasing urge to witness and know back, inwardly, upon ourselves with all the power, scrutiny, and enthusiasm that we have applied to understanding the external world and the human sensory apparatus that it both produces and appears to. For our continued reluctance and ignorance in addressing and reflecting upon our inner-life is our continued indifference to the world which we are busy creating for ourselves.