Reunion with Reality
Historically, our separateness is also a result of tribalism, in both the narrow and broader sense of the term. The modern equivalent of tribalism is nationalism. By tribalism and nationalism, I mean the mental state that draws a line of distinction, or separation, between one cultural or political unit and another. By globalism, I mean the erasure of those distinctions.
The term globalism used in economic terms, refers to what is a mixed bag of effects caused by international commerce in which dominate players often exploit, often in the name of progress, less economically powerful people. I would like to use the term globalism to refer to a process of redefining our citizenship from the limitations of a national identity to a global one, in the sense that we are all citizens of the world.
In traditional cultures, there can be unity among a band or family of individuals who share common bonds with themselves and their environment. They may know each other and their land so deeply and fundamentally that they know they are one. They feel connected. They may even think as one and know each other’s thoughts. They are unified.
But often when they step off their piece of land or confront individuals of other bands or tribes, they might find this sense of unity dissipates. They may feel they are confronting “the other” or find themselves strangers in a strange land. On the other hand, while there are many examples of fighting and enmity between neighboring tribes (even chronic warfare), there are many examples of kinship and cooperation. Intermarriage and trade are two main avenues of interdependence.
My point is that in traditional cultures, the sense of unity is limited by social and territorial boundaries. Within those boundaries there may be a deep connection between people, nature and the divine; outside them the world is somewhat unknown.
In the modern world, where tribes, bands and families have largely fragmented, this sense of unity, of belonging, often dissolves. We find ourselves in a world of individuals of which we are one. A sense of unity is a distant memory. We suffer from Einstein’s optical delusion. We feel alone. Many are alienated from each other and the divine.
Nationalist movements in modern cultures can be attempts to recreate the unity or cohesion of earlier cultures, by establishing national identities that bring people together. In times of crises, natural and manmade, this can have positive aspects, but often, because it draws lines of distinction between one national group and others, it either creates conflict or separates the interests of one national group from that of others.
In the global view, in the context of our current global dilemma, we could view all crises and conflicts as problems that must have win-win-win solutions that look to everyone’s interest. We can think “All wars are civil wars,” as Adlai Stevenson put it. In this context, we can turn to nonviolence. More about that later.
Modern, institutionalized religions have often failed in this context. Just look at the wars of the last several centuries, arising in cultures once deeply religious and but then led by religious institutions more secular than sacred. Religions based in the head, not in the heart, more concerned with doctrine, ceremonies, rituals, and various versions of similar stories, than with people and their lives, do not lead us to unity with life, They are often the wedges that fracture that unity.
Institutionalized religions may have done as much to fragment humanity than unify it. Yet, at the core of most religions is the experience of the unity of life. Mystical experience and the spiritual disciplines that lead to it, may appear in different forms according to their religious and cultural contexts, but their substance is the same.
The purpose of these disciplines is to train the mind by stripping away conditioning and extraneous thought to achieve a mental state that is still and clear. When the mind is calm and clear, we experience reality as it is. That is the universal mystical experience that leads to conscious awareness of the unity of life.
Human beings can achieve this awareness, and we have a deep responsibility to do just that. It is the role we are meant to play. It is that which is left undone on the scale that it needs doing, and without which the experiment called Earth might well fail.
In order to achieve this goal on this scale, we must arise above tribalism and nationalism to what I would call globalism. Globalism is recognition of our planetary community, composed of distinct individuals and diverse cultures, which are fundamental to the richness of life on Earth. Ideally, individuals and cultures not only recognize the value of other individuals and cultures and respect them, they feel a deep connection with them.
Individuals and cultures not only can respect one another, they can also be aware that in the deepest realms of awareness, there is no separation between individuals and cultures. The separation we perceive is only on the surface of consciousness. At the seabed of consciousness, the divine ground of existence, we are all one.
If all are one, then we all deserve respect. We all have at our core that divine spark that mystics have discovered experientially.
We may not respect and honor the behavior of every person, but we can be aware that beneath that undesirable behavior, the divine spark remains untouched and pure.
I do not claim to have achieved this mystical experience, but I can say I have had a glimpse. I am convinced of this reality having been in the presence of mystics who have achieved it and testify to its veracity.
The mystics are scouts. They are our guides to the experience we long for. In modern civilization, we have too often sought fulfillment outside in the material world. Ultimately, it can be found inside, in the depths of consciousness. If we engage in this interior search as a collective, we can create a peaceful, sustainable world for future generations.
Copyright 2017 James Phoenix