via my PaGaian pathway:
From the Tjukurpa – indigenous Lore of the Anangu traditional owners of Uluru – Central Australia, to the Ecozoic – a hoped for future during which all the living and non living components of the Earth community are activated by human conscious choice. This is my way of storying human consciousness at the individual and species levels and how the emergence of human conscious choice as a major geological and biological shaping power is now determining the future of our Biosphere and life as we know it.
Thanks to four decades of the NASA Hubble telescope and more recently the European Gaia camera both providing valuable information about our galaxy and beyond, we now know that our human race participates in an amazing cosmic event, an event that was billions of years in the making before the Sun and planet Earth came into being, an event that will probably continue for billions of years after our Sun and planet no longer exist. While our human participation in this event will only last for a relatively short period within it, we are nonetheless an amazing creative manifestation of it, particularly the manifestation of our human consciousness.
Consider the possibility of how our evolving human consciousness is the result of a Universe throughout which every single atom migrates in the direction of maximising manifestation and how thereby the emergence of human consciousness has enabled the Universe to reflect on and celebrate itself through a storytelling species, possibly for the first and maybe only time during this whole amazing one off cosmic event.
‘The role of civilised humanity from this standpoint is far more important than that of any other invertebrate form..
A consideration of the laws regulating evolution leads us into a domain hitherto reserved for religious and philosophical speculation. We are confronted with a new form of biogenic migration resulting from the activity of the human reason. Human thought has changed in a brisk and radical manner the trend of natural processes and has even modified what we call natural laws. Consciousness and thought, despite the efforts of generations of thinkers, have never been given physical basis, in terms of matter and energy. How can processes which seem purely physical be affected by consciousness?
This is a question to which we are trying to find a reply.
(Vladimir I. Vernadsky – ‘The Biosphere’ p81-82 – an abridged version based on the French edition of 1929.)
Vernadsky’s question encourages us to further consider how consciousness in general and human conscious choice in particular is now determining the future wellbeing of our biosphere.
Such conscious awareness cum choice can and does put our human storytelling journey into a more valuable perspective, one that should at least help us as individuals to make sense of our place in the world and our social circumstances. At the species level, it has the potential to help us overcome the geopolitical antagonism which now poses the threat of wars between nuclear armed so-called ‘major powers’. Moreover, understanding the significance of human conscious choice might yet enable us to at least mitigate if not avoid the immanent threat of catastrophic climate change, thereby enabling us to survive as a species and continue striving toward achieving our full creative human potential.
Consider Vernadsky’s question ‘How can processes which seem purely physical be affected by consciousness’? From a scientific perspective this question is complex; for me Elisabet Sahtouris and Willis W. Harman in their ‘Biology Revisioned’ (Sahtouris & Harman 1998), present a strong argument for why we need to adopt a more wholistic scientific approach when trying to better understand consciousness. Under the heading ‘Towards A Holistic Biology’ Sahtouris begins chapter 4 with –
‘Scientific distinctions between mechanics and organics have been blurred because we ignore the fact that mechanisms are, by definition, the purposive constructions of their inventors, and therefore cannot exist as natural entities evolving in purposeless (non-teleological) nature. Our whole scientific concept of nature as mechanism was derived from a Cartesian scheme that was logically complete because it included God as inventor. But to maintain that nature is mechanism after repudiating God and purpose constitutes a severe logical flaw at the heart of Western science’.
Then under the heading ‘Intelligence and Consciousness’ they begin chapter 5 first by quoting Owen Barfield (1982) then Lynn Margulis & Dorion Sagan (1995) –
‘Sooner or later a certain truth is brought home to you (namely, that consciousness) is the inner side of the whole, just as human consciousness is the inside of one human being.. Although it makes sense to enquire how and when consciousness developed into what we now experience as such, it makes no sense at all to enquire how and when mind emerged from matter… Once you have realised that there is indeed only one world, though with both an inside and an outside to it, only one world experienced by our senses from without, and by our consciousness from within, it is no longer plausible to fantasise an immemorial single track evolution of the outside world alone. It is no longer possible to seperate evolution from evolution of consciousness’.
‘Not just animals are conscious, but every organic being, every auto-poetic cell is conscious. In the simplest sense, consciousness is an awareness of the outside world… To live every organic being must sense and respond to its surrounds… Life is more impressive and less predictable than any thing whose nature can be accounted for solely by forces acting deterministically’.
With this more wholistic scientific perspective in mind, I have decided to focus my brief storying of human consciousness on my relatedness with self, other and all-that-is, starting with a place and people of my own choosing and life experience – the indigenous Anangu traditional owners of Central Australia, whose Lore – the Tjukurpa, expresses for me a particularly valuable example of human consciousness, best described by Professor T.G.H. Strehlow, whose extensive anthropological work among the nearby Aranda people of Central Australia informs a booklet entitled – ‘Central Australian Religion’ (1964),in which he writes, referring to the Indigenous Australian people :-
‘The eternity motif may indeed be regarded as perhaps the most vital single element of the many that are blended together in any human religious system… Throughout his (sic) life he regarded himself as being in perpetual union with the world of eternity and hence he felt no need of waiting for a future union with a supernatural being in a life after death. Somewhat paradoxically to our European way of thinking, but perfectly naturally in the Central Australian world view, it was in the present, in the limitations of evanescent time, that man lived in union with eternity’.
From a relatively casual study cum practically informed perception of an evolving human consciousness – especially my own, I perceive evolving human consciousness as having over time become less connected ‘with eternity’, with place and with each other;before eventually arriving with the benefit of much hindsight and millennia of hard won wisdom, at a hoped for future of re-integrated consciousness. This phase of re-integrated consciousness seems appropriately defined by author and teacher Thomas Berry in his 12th principle for a ‘Functional Cosmology’ as:-
The Ecozoic era of Earth development’, an era during which we ‘activate the inter communion of all the living and non living components of the Earth community’.
Over the past few decades my chosen pathway for journeying from the Tjukurpa to the Ecozoic is well expressed as that of ‘PaGaian Cosmology’ (2005), an Earth based spiritual practice – authored by my partner Glenys Livingstone Ph.D, and informed by my own life experience of living and working among the Anangu traditional owners of Uluru in Central Australia (1990-98). Glenys begins the Preface of her book with an explanation of the term ‘PaGaian’: –
‘It expresses a reclaiming of the term Pagan as meaning a person who dwells in country, yet with Gaian spliced in, it expresses a renewed and contemporary understanding of that country. Gaia is a name for humanity’s habitat, an ancient yet new name which I understand to include whole Earth and Cosmos – there is no seam separating Earth from her context. And Pagan religious tradition offers a spiritual practice of celebrating Earth-Sun creativity manifest in this habitat. The cosmology described in this book makes a start on bringing all of this together..’
This resonates with my experience with the traditional Anangu owners of Uluru their Tjukurpa and the place itself.Since their ancestors migrated to inhabit the great southern land now known as Australia, the indigenous Anangu people of Central Australia cultivated their Tjukurpa – a unique Lore abiding and place oriented way of knowing and being. The Ananguku economy was based on a world of organic abundance and relatedness with self, other and all-that-is; they were a people who had never been at war, were never ruled over nor exploited, hence they didn’t need weapons, nor did they need liberating – materially or spiritually, and they certainly didn’t need to be colonised by 18th century European imperialist invaders.
Some millennia after the arrival of the ancestors of these first Indigenous people to this land, Europeans invaded the great Southern Land. The Europeans came from a very different world to that being cultivated by the Anangu, they came from a world of scarcity – a deliberate gravitational force on society, violence, forced labour, slavery and mass exploitation, a world in which an elite ruling class had long since established centralised control and standing armies for the purpose of conquering and exploiting Indigenous peoples the world over. In contrast, the Indigenous Anangu people of Central Australia having cultivated their Tjukurpa – their traditional Lore, over millennia, had no concept nor vocabulary within their Pitjantjatjara speaking world that could so much as give rise to thoughts of having power and control over each other, let alone the more extreme thoughts of forming a centralised group especially for such a purpose.
While there were no doubt many stages and levels of human development between that of so called primitive indigenous hunter gatherers and their European imperialist invaders, over such time centralised groups such as fiefdoms and dynasties formed the world over for the purpose of having control over places, peoples and resources. While such human development almost certainly originated for the purpose of protecting places, people and their resources, it was only a matter of time before such centralised groups determined to increase their control over the place and people that were needed to produce, increase and protect their privately owned wealth and property, thereby the origins and need/desire for imperialist conquest and colonisation of foreign lands.
Such is the difference between an indigenous world consciousness in which an economy of abundance populated by a people that did not require liberation with that of an imperialist world consciousness influenced by an economy of privately owned wealth which became increasingly dependant on the exploitation of peoples the world over. Where then do we now find ourselves in the context of an evolving human consciousness and how might we yet arrive at Thomas Berry’s Ecozoic era; or something like it.
Jean Gebser’s ‘Ever Present Origin’ (1985 English translation) makes a major contribution to the history and our understanding of the ‘awakening of consciousness’ through what he describes as ‘Mutations of Consciousness’, Gebser’s extensive research provides as good a guide as any as to where we might now find ourselves on our journey of conscious/self awareness: –
‘a consciousness of the whole, an integral consciousness encompassing all time and embracing both man’s (sic) distant past and his approaching future as a living present..’
What Gebser is saying here about a future ‘integral consciousness’ has something in common with what Strehlow observed among the Aranda people ie – ‘that man lived in union with eternity’. It is as if Gebser is trying to take us full circle, albeit that he does so through several major mutations of human consciousness over millennia, each of which Gebser defines and describes in great detail under the headings – ‘Origin – or the Archaic Structure’, followed by ‘The Magic Structure’, then ‘The Mythical Structure’ and our present ‘The Mental Structure’. Although Gebser doesn’t refer to Strehlow’s Aranda as such, I am reasonably certain that their Indigenous pre-colonised consciousness would fit into the era of Gebser’s so called ‘Magical and Mythical Structures’.
The 18th Century European invaders of Australia and most if not all Northern Hemisphere (and Western influenced) peoples were and still are working our way through Gebser’s ‘Mental Structure’ of consciousness and it could well be our final structure given that our recent invention/use of fossil fuels and nuclear weapons, which could bring about a premature end to our human journey. So, while it is well argued that our human consciousness has advanced throughout the ages, it can also be argued that such advancement has simultaneously diminished our human relationship with self, other and all-that-is, and hence has diminished our capacity for manifesting the integral structure of consciousness necessary for a future Ecozoic era.
While looking at it from a somewhat inflated European perspective the pre-colonised consciousness of Indigenous Australians was and probably still is seen as being less advanced than that of their European colonisers, it was certainly more integral and thereby – potentially at least, more sustainable. Moreover, there is no guarantee that our presumed-to-be ‘more advanced’ Mental Structure of consciousness is going to survive long enough to mutate into Gebser’s final and fifth dimensional ‘Integral Structure’. On the contrary, our diminished relationship with self, other and all-that-is now poses a real threat to our very existence. How can this be, given the steady advancement of human consciousness over millennia, all the while morphing into being creative, artistic, curious, spiritual, religious, scientific, reasonable, economic and eventually political? How come people like Strehlow, Berry, Sahtouris, Gebser and Livingstone- all quoted above, can express in advance an understanding and desire for a future more integral consciousness, while at the same time – at the species level, we appear to be working against such an advancement?
It is not as though the human does not yet know how to manifest a more integral consciousness, especially when we consider what Strehlow had to say about the indigenous Aranda of Central Australia, their Lore and their capacity for ‘personal monototemism in a polytotemic community’ as a way of being – ‘in union with eternity’. Strehlow also had something very pertinent to say about the 18th Century European invaders of the Great Southern land: –
‘Unfortunately for the Central Australians the white man first invaded their territory when the rising flood of European colonialism was drowning the resistance of non-Europeans everywhere, and when the over preening pride of the white man had reached the summit of its arrogance. Many present day observers of the world scene feel that nineteenth century European hubris has brought upon itself its own retribution in the twentieth century; and doubts about many aspects of their own traditional civilisation are invading the minds of progressive thinkers everywhere in the new atomic age.’ (Ibid p 50)
Evidently it is possible for some humans at the individual level to have further evolved their consciousness by deliberately cultivating their relatedness to self, other and all-that-is; by practicing a similar concept to that of the Aranda’s ‘personal monototemism’ or by celebrating one’s place and planet Earth’s seasonal moments as expressed by Livingstone’s ‘PaGaian Cosmology’. This is all very well and good for individuals and small groups or communities who are able to do so, but that doesn’t mean that we will further evolve our human consciousness at the most critical species level, a similar practice to that of the Aranda’s ‘polytotemic community’ – albeit on a much larger scale? The hope is that we will advance our collective human consciousness to a more ‘integrated structure’ in time to eliminate or at least mitigate the threats of war between nuclear armed states, and or catastrophic climate change, because that is what is at stake and that is what is now most likely required, a radical mutation of human consciousness at the species level.
In the meantime, it is vitally important that as individuals we find our own pathway for cultivating conscious awareness and conscious choice, thereby we can deliberately participate in and contribute to the migration of all atoms toward maximising manifestation and by imagining a more integrated future Ecozoic era for all our fellow beings and Earth-Gaia.
The storying and importance of relatedness in general and relationship with family or kin in particular was literally brought home to me when a group of maple tjilpi – friendly senior Anangu men, realised I had not been home to visit my kin for about 26 years – since leaving Wales in 1967; they thought I must be a bit sick in the head. Not long after this friendly shame job-cum-wake up call, I returned home to Wales where I enjoyed relating to my family members – including young ones whom I had never met, in what for me, was a new and healthier way of relating. At the time I was in effect being reminded about and grown up by Anangu to the importance of my own Welsh place, heritage and kin: –
‘Bob’s admiration for Anangu takes a somewhat different direction from that of the other Piranpa I spoke to.. He continues: “..I’m pretty sure that my upbringing had something to do with it. My mother was a very nice and gentle person who was close to nature, and she influenced me.” (Stanley Breeden – Uluru – Looking after Uluru-Kata Tjuta~The Anangu Way 1994: p183)
I am rapidly approaching my eighth decade and having chosen ‘PaGaian Cosmology’ later in life I have been able to draw on and benefit from a rich life experience thereby finding an Earth based spiritual practice that celebrates relatedness to self, to other and to all-that-is (which as I understand it, is all Self). PaGaian Cosmology celebrates the interaction between us humans and our planetary Gaian environment; it is simultaneously a personal, cosmic, seamless relationship poetically expressed, particularly during Earth Gaia’s seasonal moments, the annual cycle of Earth around Sun, a cycle expressed in eight transitions of solstice, equinox and quarter moments. They are moments in space time that can be trusted, even worshipped: Hence the splicing of the words Pagan and Gaian to form PaGaian… it connects and celebrates the dialectical wisdom of our ancestors – the stories of old, with a contemporary scientific understanding of our place in space time – stories that are new and still unfolding.
Thomas Berry’s Ecozoic is hopefully a time and place of the future when the human race has returned to a more wholistic relationship with self, other and all that is, a time when all the living and non living components of the Earth community are activated as one again: as it was for Anangu during the Tjukurpa… only next time around it will need to have learned from millennia of trial and error and thereby the gaining of hard won wisdom.
For the whole human race to have cultivated a suitably integrated structure of consciousness capable of manifesting anything like Berry’sEcozoic era, socio-economic forms of governance and productivity would have to undergo either an instantaneous worldwide revolutionary change – which now seems unlikely, or a more gradual yet equally radical political morphing – which now seems more likely; out of global capitalism into a form of world socialism whereby the social and cultural needs of all peoples throughout the entire planet are given greater priority than that of the accumulation of privately owned wealth – as is now the case. Globalised capitalism is what has the vast majority of the human race bogged down in Jean Gebser’s so called ‘mental structure’ of human consciousness. Such global political and social change is unpredictable with no guarantee that it will ever happen, but for those of us who have been fortunate enough to be able to deliberately cultivate a more integrated consciousness at the personal level, we know from our own life experience that it is also possible at the species level.
My political consciousness has been much influenced by two revolutionary thinkers, both of whom come at the subject of politics through very different cosmologies, but both of whom remained true to their respective cosmologies and personal values: –
“Once he (sic) has done with the anarchic forces of his own society, man will set to work on himself, in the pestle and the retort of the chemist. For the first time man will regard itself as raw material, or at best as a physical and psychic semi-finished product. Socialism will mean a leap from the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom in this sense also, that the man of today, with all his contradictions and lack of harmony, will open the road for a new and happier race..” (Leon Trotsky – ‘In Defence of the October Revolution’ 1932).
‘The only meaningful political direction left now is synonymous with the only meaningful spiritual direction left now: towards the conscious re-fusion of the spirit and the flesh… This time it will be a global consciousness of our global oneness, and it will realise itself on a very sophisticated technological stage; with perhaps a total merger of psychic and electronic activity.” (Barbara Mor – ‘The Great Cosmic Mother’ 1987).
Trotsky and Mor both, knew all too well what was and what has yet to be done. Berry’s journey toward a future Ecozoic era like Gebser give us hope by suggesting that we progress by returning to an earlier more integrated indigenous consciousness –
What must be sought for in the new hermeneutics is the recovery, through critical processes, of a second naivete, an earlier experience of a harmonious and luminous universe, associated by the Chinese with the ‘lost mind of the child’. (Thomas Berry – ‘The Sacred Universe’ 2009).
Another interpretation of the Chinese ‘lost mind of the child’ is my own ‘childhood Cynefin’, my Welsh understanding and storying of the same cultural and social dynamic of having to learn the dirty devices of this world and the subsequent unlearning and loss of one’s earlier childhood consciousness of habitat, heritage and kinship, then (if one is fortunate enough) later in life the relearning, or in my case eventually being re-minded of such relatedness to self other and all-that-is, by my Central Austrlaian Indigenous Anangu teachers.
I want to end my storying of personal and human consciousness on a promising note. Over the past few decades I have been much inspired by the emerging collective consciousness of an ethnically diverse People’s Republic of China (PRC), which as it happens is a place and people that also much inspired Thomas Berry and Jean Gebser during their earlier years of research. The contemporary PRC is a promising example to the whole human race of what can be achieved when a relatively massive and diverse population of 1.4> billion, is united and governed by a political party that gives their social and cultural needs an appropriately high priority. The following quote is indicative of why I now confidently story China as having morphed from being a much troubled Middle Kingdom into being a much less troubled Middle Kin-dom, a more integrated, safer and happier people, a nation state that is deliberately rejuvenating itself and thereby well advanced along the road toward a future Ecozoic era; or at least something like it: –
‘The world has once again reached a crossroads, and humanity faces a choice between two paths. One advances into brightness; the other retreats into darkness. The profound changes we face, on a scale unseen in a century, and the raging Covid-19 pandemic are interlinked. Cold War thinking and the zero-sum game mindset are resurgent. Unilateralism, hegemony and power politics are on the rise. Economic globalization is battling against headwinds. The global arms race is escalating. Conventional and non-conventional security issues, such as climate change, terrorism, cyber-attacks, biosecurity challenges, and major infectious diseases, together pose a severe threat to global and regional security. The beautiful planet on which all humans live is experiencing a tremendous crisis, one caused by humanity itself. Confronted by this level of change, and other difficulties and problems hindering development and governance, there is an urgent need for human society to seek out a new philosophy and make the international system and order fairer and more reasonable. The CPC has proposed building a global community of shared future, with the goal of creating an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity‘. (The Communist Party of China ‘Mission and Contributions’ 2021)