History as the Evolution of Identity

First of all, I'd like to welcome you to Bring4th. What we're trying to do here is nothing less, but nothing more, than simply reach one individual at a time in a variety of forms with the goal of engendering worldwide change. In order for us to have a clear vision and proper perspective about that mission and what it entails, it is appropriate for us to look at the state of the world, identify the problems we can, and propose solutions to move events in a more positive direction.

In the context of the global dilemma that the human race faces, the solution of reaching one individual at a time may seem naive. The purpose of this article is to lay out the theoretical and practical basis for this particular method of promoting progress on Earth. Much of it is my personal opinion, but Bring4th is a diverse team of individuals, and the organization is bound by common ideas and principles, not common specific mythologies. Therefore, my case for change on this planet, while perhaps different, is fundamentally grounded in the same spirit. Indeed, a significant thesis of this article is to discuss the variable nature of mythologies, and how understanding their variability is the key to transcending the outmoded myths that are leading humanity to what sometimes seems to be a dark tomorrow.

Let us take a look at what is happening on Earth today in the context of history, for if a larger trend is at work, it must be apparent in our past. In many ways, the materialistic globalization proponents are right: humanity is connected to one another like never before by trade, information, politics, and culture. Compared to most of the race's known existence, humanity is generally freer and more prosperous than ever before. After all, before the twentieth century conflicts were only locally significant and generally accepted as normal. Most of humanity had lived in a state of relative poverty and ignorance since the known beginning. In fact, studies have shown that the mean IQ of humans has risen over the past 100 years, prompting the authors of the test to change it every so often.

Overall, religious practice by the general population has become more compassionate and less restrictive or dogmatic; by and large, its adherents have largely come to accept, or at least act as if they accept, the unity of human spirituality and dignity to a greater degree than ever before (whether or not they care to admit it). An explosion in technology and trade has allowed for a higher standard of living to a significant segment of the world's population.

In spite of the materialistic credo pushed by the priests of the emerging monoculture, those who posit the ultimate unity of human consciousness and spirituality appear to have the sum force of history on their side. In fact, it is precisely this evolving consciousness of unity, now defined by widespread access to education and global information, which highlights the problems the planet faces in a way that is unprecedented in the human experience. It is those very positive forces connecting humanity that are making it conscious of the problems at hand. More importantly, the context in which we perceive these problems has developed from one of local, tribal, or national identity to a sense of global collective responsibility and destiny. To ignore the progress across the board is nothing less than poisonously myopic - if you insist on a materialistic point of view, doom must surely seem close at hand.

Because of the scale and nature of this historically fresh awareness, we perceive and feel the pain and suffering of those many parts of the world that have mostly existed in a state of abject toil, suffering, or chaos for some time. Whether at the local, regional, national, or global level, humans are becoming more and more aware of the ways in which humans have been wronged in the past and continue to endure injustice. Violence permeates not only individuals' homes and neighborhoods, but whole nations fear for their lives, whether from the iron hand of the political establishment or war resulting from its instability or absence.

Additionally, there are huge economic disparities between the first and third worlds, and the globalized economic and political order often seems to maintain that inequality rather than work to correct it. And for all the consciousness of humanity's interconnectedness, we still seem poised to bring about an environmental catastrophe of global proportions rivaling even the prehistoric episodes of mass extinction. I would certainly argue that this sense of emergent collectivism sometimes appears to be a key liability of our race, so adept are the economic and political powers-that-be at manipulating the global information stream in their obvious favor. Were it not for the previously mentioned historical context, I would argue that collectivism is the root problem and that its rise should be fought tooth and nail by humanity.

Indeed, there is a dark side to collectivism (such as the practice of totalitarian communism), just as there is a negative aspect to any quality a human can possess. Certainly the delusional self-importance of individualism (often criticized in capitalism) has exacted its share of strife on the planet. Part of the intrigue of this growing worldwide awareness lies in the promise that somehow we can identify this dark side and work together to shed light on those areas that need illumination, thereby transmuting misunderstood and negatively expressed qualities as positive strengths.

However, where do we seek that light source? It often seems that the more interconnected we get, the more centralized power, wealth, and authority becomes, which inevitably leads to conflict and suffering. Is the trend towards worldwide unity moving us forward or backward? How do we reconcile the apparently opposed philosophies of individualism and collectivism? Is there a way for each human to be happy and responsible both individually and as a meaningful part of an emergent collective without sacrificing his or her dignity and self-determination?

Answering this question requires genuine philosophic inquiry, I believe - a striving towards our own highest concept of truth. In many cases, the trend towards greater education and widespread intellectual pursuit has promoted this personal quest. After all, history has shown that dogmatic, unthinking adherence to any one perspective, philosophy, or ideology brings about the gravest distortions on our planet, whether political, spiritual, economic, or environmental. However, the dichotomy of the individual versus the collective must have a peaceful resolution in each of the aspects I just mentioned. If we believe in an inherent goodness and purposefulness to not only the world, but also the narrative in which it has participated, then one realizes that hope can and must be nurtured.

I propose that this hope, this ability to perceive the world in a philosophically and comprehensively positive light, is manifesting itself in our world; furthermore, that it is happening because there is an increasing awareness that hope originates from a source that transcends the individual and the collective. Conversely, the fear of the effects from these very same conceptual forces is grounded in a competing, opposing philosophy that rejects this transcendence and promotes separation wherever possible - separation of individual from individual, separation of group from group, separation of man from nature, separation of life from economic value. Regardless of the mythology or historical maturity of the world's cultures, this theme of positive versus negative, unity versus separation, permeates the story of our race and the planet.

If we accept this thesis - that there is a common strain behind the experiences of man on earth - what do we do about it? First, we can seek that light, that transcendental unity, in whatever mythology to which we cling, while at the same time recognizing the light in others' views and philosophies. This requires some flexibility and compassion. When I talk about mythology, I am referring to any and all of our beliefs and opinions, synthesized into one comprehensive ideation, a sort of default approach to life. Moreover, I am suggesting that a general sense of identity is involved here, a concept concerning where that sense of "I" fits into all that which we experience as "not me" or "outside me". The first step towards doing this is identifying and articulating our individual view of life and experience.

As Socrates once said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Those words established the beginning of an entire western philosophical tradition - the idea that to know and understand the self results in both a meaningful individual contribution to the world as well as a context for integrating the experiences of life within. A transcending of the individual and the collective - amounting to an almost eastern, Taoist approach - seems implied there. Of course, such introspection also requires one to make a place for oneself in the greater outside world, especially with the people out there.

Consequently, this means that we take our place in the collective on the basis of who and what we think we are. Identity is the key to the experience of both the individual and the collective. If we embrace the positive philosophy of unity, we find that our self interest is not that far removed from the common interest of everybody else, once who we are is appropriately defined. Finding separation and opposition at every level, however, the negative philosophy seeks out competition, scarcity, and a zero sum game where domination of all that which is "not me" becomes the primary goal. Both approaches hinge upon the individual's conception of self. Looking back on the story of humanity and the corresponding ideas, is it too large of a leap to say that the fulcrum of this back-and-forth between the historical forces of unity and separation rests on the concept of identity?

It is identity that has ultimately ruled modern philosophy since Descartes decided that thought is proof of existence, and that therefore identity is actually both real and relevant. Whether the focus was on how we know ourselves, or on whether we can know ourselves, or on the more complicated subtleties of its experience, this area of inquiry has arguably been the source of the quest for the heart of western philosophy. Accordingly, the individual concept of selfhood will continue to be the battleground of the struggle between the world views of unity and separation.

If we want to promote a unified awareness of humanity's common interests that will allow every individual's personal agenda to be realized within the collective in a harmonious fashion, we must first adequately define who and what the self is. As a consequence of that definition, we can then define what our interests are, and finally act in the outside world to manifest that understanding. This is an absolutely imperative prerequisite to effecting genuine progressive change in our society. A close examination of the influence of the world's negatively oriented powers will yield the realization that group and individual identities - at odds with each other, competing with one another, destroying or enslaving one another - are the types of selfhood they wish us to embrace.

Yet they cannot force us to accept this view of self and others (though they can use fear to attempt to influence us). For all their power, wealth, and control, they cannot change the location of that fulcrum of identity from its only resting place: within the individual. If we have hope for humanity and let that hope guide our actions and thoughts, we can cast off the weight of fear that threatens to drown us in an insoluble quagmire of manipulation and disempowerment and instead think in creative terms. All it requires is a conscious decision about who we are and therefore what are our interests, for then the motivations behind our actions are made plain.

With the context of experience explicit, one's life proceeds in a manner consistent with one's values. The result is a person in touch with his or her self, and therefore in touch with the emerging collective consciousness. We can promote this philosophy of unity one person at a time, directly through our words and indirectly through our actions. In fact, from looking both at the past and into the future, it appears that the only way to realize continued progress towards a positive collective consciousness on planet Earth is through the individual. The alternative is the experience of the emergent collective as a weakness of the easily manipulatable majority, made possible by the irresponsibility and ignorance of the individual, and exploited by an elite, self-serving minority. Anytime collectivism is promoted as a release of the individual from responsibility and self-determination (they are really both the same idea), the signs of negativity may be seen.

Vastly more may be said about the transcendence of the individual and collective levels of experience and identity by the philosophy of unity, and I intend to explore it with you in the times ahead. This essay is only one perspective on that evolution in which humanity is engaged and actively participating, whether each person knows it or not. At the collective and individual levels, even within the individualÕs many psychological layers of thought and self, the choice to act from a concept of unity or separation is presented in each and every moment.

This is why we here at Bring4th see our mission as anything but naive - to us, every visitor is a potential turning point in the story of the world. There is an historical force bigger than any of us shaping events in our lives, but each of us must choose to consciously participate in its manifestation. It starts within you. Only you can know what must be done - but you must first come to peace with which philosophical identity you wish to express. Subsequently, the decision on whether and how to participate can then occur within that context.

Without that philosophical basis, you will never realize your interests and the world's interests as one, and consequently your actions will continue to exist out of sync with the emergent collective. This sense of collectivism has been exploited by the philosophy of separation many times before, and it can happen again unless each individual takes responsibility for the self in a meaningful and comprehensive manner.

If the whole is really greater than the sum of its parts, it is only because each part is realized to be more than previously estimated. That is why each individual's personal journey though these issues is so vital. The evolution of our consciousness and identity, as individuals and as a planet, has always been occurring whether or not we were ready; but only the individual can latch on to this evolutionary momentum and start making his or her irreplaceable voice heard in the emergent collective. By assuming our authentic identities and letting them bring about the new order that is obviously at hand, the potential exists to leap forward, individually and as a planet, into a brand new and fundamentally advanced stage of experience.

written by Jeremy Weiland on February 17, 2006 with these tags: spirituality, metaphysics, identity, politics, history