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by Carolyn Baker uses the analogy of a train, and the article
by Paul Chefurka uses the analogy of climbing a ladder to
help us understand this journey of awakening to the dire emergency
of how devastaing the destruction is to our life support system,
this planet and the web of OUR life.
have boarded the train believing that you were on a journey
through literal time and space, encountering the dissolution
of the external landscape. In fact, when you boarded the train,
you embarked on a journey in quite the opposite direction
which Rumi describes brilliantly:
lack a foot to travel?
Then journey into yourself
And like a mine of rubies
receive the sunbeam’s print
of yourself such a journey
will lead you to your self,
It leads to transformation
of dust into pure gold!
On The Journey Of Consciousness: Staying On The Train, By
By carolyn, on January 13th, 2014
The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his
own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to
reach the innermost shrine at the end.
every day I speak with people who are confused, bewildered,
disoriented, or conversely, extraordinarily clear about what
is happening to them. A few years, months, or weeks earlier,
they began waking up to the predicament of earth and its plethora
of species. I often ask them to tell me their story—not
so much their personal story, but the story of their awakening
to the collapse of industrial civilization or peak oil or
catastrophic climate change. As they unpack their story, we
often begin speaking of it as a journey—a journey of
epiphany, of awakening, of coming to consciousness.
invariably recognize in my own journey of awakening and theirs
is that once any human being allows certain realities to penetrate
a few layers of denial, they have embarked on a journey from
which there is no return. The unconscious mind in concert
with the denial mechanisms, some of which are innate and some
of which we have been inculcated with, tend to work overtime
to ensure that specific realities will be almost immediately
excluded from our awareness. Nevertheless, as hard as the
defense mechanisms may exert themselves, occasionally, and
for the most part for reasons we cannot yet ascertain, some
disturbing facts take root in the brain and nervous system.
This triggers certain bodily and emotional responses whereby
one has the choice to ignore, rationalize, minimize, or unequivocally
reject the facts, or on the other hand, ask more questions,
delve deeper, and risk receiving even more disturbing information.
often ask me: Why is that some people wake up, and others
don’t? I can’t answer that question. What I do
know with certainty, however, is that once one has allowed
certain facts to implant themselves in consciousness, there
is no turning back. Often, without consciously realizing it,
we “sign up” for a journey from which there is
no return and which will alter everything in our lives, including
and especially, ourselves.
The Ladder of Awareness
Paul Chefurka . October 19, 2012
it comes to our understanding of the unfolding global crisis,
each of us seems to fit somewhere along a continuum of awareness
that can be roughly divided into five stages.
asleep. At this stage there seem to be no fundamental
problems, just some shortcomings in human organization,
behaviour and morality that can be fixed with the proper
attention to rule-making. People at this stage tend to
live their lives happily, with occasional outbursts of
annoyance around election times or the quarterly corporate
of one fundamental problem. Whether it's Climate
Change, overpopulation, Peak Oil, chemical pollution,
oceanic over-fishing, biodiversity loss, corporatism,
economic instability or sociopolitical injustice, one
problem seems to engage the attention completely. People
at this stage tend to become ardent activists for their
chosen cause. They tend to be very vocal about their personal
issue, and blind to any others.
of many problems. As people let in more evidence
from different domains, the awareness of complexity begins
to grow. At this point a person worries about the prioritization
of problems in terms of their immediacy and degree of
impact. People at this stage may become reluctant to acknowledge
new problems - for example, someone who is committed to
fighting for social justice and against climate change
may not recognize the problem of resource depletion. They
may feel that the problem space is already complex enough,
and the addition of any new concerns will only dilute
the effort that needs to be focused on solving the "highest
of the interconnections between the many problems.
The realization that a solution in one domain may worsen
a problem in another marks the beginning of large-scale
system-level thinking. It also marks the transition from
thinking of the situation in terms of a set of problems
to thinking of it in terms of a predicament.
this point the possibility that there may not be a solution
begins to raise its head.People who arrive at this stage
tend to withdraw into tight circles of like-minded individuals
in order to trade insights and deepen their understanding
of what's going on. These circles are necessarily small,
both because personal dialogue is essential for this depth
of exploration, and because there just aren't very many
people who have arrived at this level of understanding.
that the predicament encompasses all aspects of life.
This includes everything we do, how we do it, our relationships
with each other, as well as our treatment of the rest
of the biosphere and the physical planet. With this realization,
the floodgates open, and no problem is exempt from consideration
or acceptance. The very concept of a "Solution"
is seen through, and cast aside as a waste of effort.
For those who arrive at Stage 5 there is a real risk that
depression will set in. After all, we've learned throughout
our lives that our hope for tomorrow lies in our ability
to solve problems today. When no amount of human cleverness
appears able to solve our predicament the possibility
of hope can vanish like a the light of a candle flame,
to be replaced by the suffocating darkness of despair.
people cope with despair is of course deeply personal, but
it seems to me there are two general routes people take
to reconcile themselves with the situation. These are not
mutually exclusive, and most of us will operate out of some
mix of the two. I identify them here as general tendencies,
because people seem to be drawn more to one or the other.
I call them the outer path and the inner path.
one is inclined to choose the outer path, concerns about
adaptation and local resilience move into the foreground,
as exemplified by the Transition
Network and Permaculture
Movement. To those on the outer path, community-building
and local sustainability initiatives will have great appeal.
Organized party politics seems to be less attractive to
people at this stage, however. Perhaps politics is seen
as part of the problem, or perhaps it's just seen as a waste
of effort when the real action will take place at the local
one is disinclined to choose the outer path either because
of temperament or circumstance, the inner path offers its
own set of attractions.
the inner path involves re-framing the whole thing in terms
of consciousness, self-awareness and/or some form of transcendent
perception. For someone on this path it is seen as an attempt
to manifest Gandhi's message, "Become the change you
wish to see in the world," on the most profoundly personal
level. This message is similarly expressed in the ancient
Hermetic saying, "As above, so below." Or in plain
language, "In order to heal the world, first begin
by healing yourself."
the inner path does not imply a "retreat into religion".
Most of the people I've met who have chosen an inner path
have as little use for traditional religion as their counterparts
on the outer path have for traditional politics. Organized
religion is usually seen as part of the predicament rather
than a valid response to it. Those who have arrived at this
point have no interest in hiding from or easing the painful
truth, rather they wish to create a coherent personal context
for it. Personal spirituality of one sort or another often
works for this, but organized religion rarely does.
worth mentioning that there is also the possibility of a
serious personal difficulty at this point. If someone cannot
choose an outer path for whatever reasons, and is also resistant
to the idea of inner growth or spirituality as a response
the the crisis of an entire planet, then they are truly
in a bind. There are few other doorways out of this depth
of despair. If one remains stuck here for an extended period
of time, life can begin to seem awfully bleak, and violence
against either the world or oneself may begin begin to seem
like a reasonable option. Please keep a watchful eye on
your own progress, and if you encounter someone else who
may be in this state, please offer them a supportive ear.
my observations, each successive stage contains roughly
a tenth of the number people as the one before it. So while
perhaps 90% of humanity is in Stage 1, less than one person
in ten thousand will be at Stage 5 (and none of them are
likely to be politicians). The number of those who have
chosen the inner path in Stage 5 also seems to be an order
of magnitude smaller than the number who are on the outer
happen to have chosen an inner path as my response to a
Stage 5 awareness. It works well for me, but navigating
this imminent (transition, shift, metamorphosis - call it
what you will), will require all of us - no matter what
our chosen paths - to cooperate on making wise decisions
in difficult times.
wishes for a long, exciting and fulfilling journey.