Honoring every experience as an opportunity for learning and growth.
In all of mankind’s history, we have been seeking greater perspective of this thing we call life. Our sight was bound to the earth, so we placed our temples and holy places on the tops of mountains, thinking that a greater view of creation would expand our consciousness as it had expanded our view. And so it did. As humankind grew and developed, we began to recognize our place within the natural order of things. We worshiped the Earth, for it was our Mother, and within her we saw ourselves. Animals, too, were worshiped for their wisdom, and because we saw ourselves in them as well. Plants have even gained our respect and devotion, for they too hold the wisdom of Nature. Those who are not blinded by their earthly lives can look upon the creation of Life and see how it is all connected, how it is all wise, how it is all beautiful.
Now we have entered a time when our perspective has shifted to its ultimate level – that of space. For the first time in all of our planet’s history, it has been regarded from a vantage point that allows us to see it as it really is: a single oasis of life in the vast desert-like emptiness of space. It is beautiful. It is magnificent. It is ours. Perhaps it is not us that are seeing the Earth, but through our eyes it is, in fact, seeing itself. Like the cells in our bodies do the living things on our great sphere not function to produce the very life that sustains us? Do we not work together, in harmony, to ensure the life of all things? Could it now be said, with the proper perspective, that the Earth is nothing more (and nothing less) than a cosmic entity of which we are but a small part?
What effect then does this new perspective have on the myths and meaning we have survived on for all our many years? What of our religions, that teach of a Heaven above, of death and Resurrection? What of the prophets who have walked this earth and taught its children how to live moral, just, spiritually fulfilling lives?
The truth, if it can be called truth, is that mankind must shift away from the separate ideologies of the past and embrace the new perspective given to us. At one time in our existence it was necessary for us to believe that our ideas were the only ‘true’ way, and that all others were subversive. In our new age of global awareness, such isolationist tendencies will only work to divide and petrify our thinking. The moment humankind beheld itself from the surface of the moon, it forever broke the illusion that we are separate. One look at that image and we can no longer deny that we are one.
As Joseph Campbell said in his classic book “Myths to Live By”,
“The laws of earth and of our own minds have been extended to incorporate what formerly were the ranges and the powers of the gods, now recognized as of ourselves. Hence, the whole imagined support of the Monumental Order has been withdrawn from ‘out there,’ found centered in ourselves, and a new world age projected, which is to be global, ‘materialistic’, comparable in spirit to the spirit of old age in its disillusioned wisdom and concern for the physical body, concentrating rather on fulfillments in the present than on any distant future. The residence of the spirit now is experienced as centered not in fire, in the animal and plant worlds, or aloft among the planets and beyond, but in men, right here on earth…”
The teachings of the past have sought to find the location of divinity, of spirit, of the Source of all things. We began by pointing down to the planet that berthed us, but began searching beyond this simple truth for something greater. What we have found, as we ventured further and further into the vast reality we have discovered, is that the Source of all things lies within us. Is it not mankind that has sought, in our infinite curiosity and wonder, the meanings of the universe? Is it not from our imagination that all the meanings of all the things that have ever been beheld or imagined not spring from our own creativity? Our science is finding now, more than ever, that the act of observation by any ‘conscious’ being has a measurable effect on the object being observed. One day our technology will once again give us the perspective we need to understand that we were not ‘put here’ by some distant being, but instead we came from the Earth, like children. And if can be called intelligent beings, and we were born of this Earth, isn’t it natural to say that the Earth too is intelligent? If we are the natural extension of the Earth, are we not simply fragments of a larger awareness seeking only to understand itself?
So we come back to myth, to meaning, to understanding. The future of our species depends on the functioning of our myth, for it is how we come to understand all things. So what is the answer, then, if our new perspective has shown us just how out of date our mythologies really are? The answer, as Campbell argues, is not to do away with the myths themselves because at their core are teachings that transcend time and space. The answer is to strip the myths of their false ‘historical’ trappings, to remove any pretense of reference to supposed or actual historical events, and to embrace them for the bearers of our collective understanding that they are. Is the power of the Death and Resurrection made less by acknowledging that such a story exists in half a dozen different mythologies across our planet? Must one God be supreme over all others, when any comparative religion scholar will tell you that he, she, it and they are all, in their essence, the same? Our mythologies must flex, and bend, and shape themselves to the new structure of human perception and thought.
Humanity is entering an age of unity, of global awareness, and such a unity will not come without its conflicts. The course our species takes will depend in large part on how we adjust to this new realization, and what choices we make because of it. Otherwise, we doom ourselves to using our consciousness and freedom to destroy ourselves.