I’m going to make an argument that will likely seem strange to you, at least at first.
It applies to our current situation as a species on this planet, specifically to our apparent disorientation and confusion when it comes to knowing how to live and get along. Add to this a chronic frustration over so many things getting in the way of what we really want, and you have a very unstable and volatile situation indeed.
My argument is that we do in fact know how to get along but for some reason feel unable to access this wisdom. For that is the correct and proper name for this kind of knowledge, as the know-how we need to flourish and find fulfillment in life. Wisdom is not a mere catalog of epistemic propositions about reality but rather a set of truths that align our thoughts, feelings, and actions to reality.
Using the analogy of gravity, we disregard or “forget” the truths of wisdom to our own detriment. Because wisdom reveals to us the nature of reality, which also includes our own human nature, living by its light carries at least the implied promise that life will be easier, more enjoyable, more meaningful and fulfilling when we intentionally put ourselves in accord with the way things are.
Living in discord with reality leads inevitably to suffering.
In fact, the wisdom truths that could save us from an impending catastrophe are already known. We don’t need experts to tell us what they are because we already know them. As a species we have been carrying these truths in our collective superconscious for hundreds, even thousands of years.
Upon the original discovery of each truth, it was instantly “uploaded” to this superconscious – in another post I name it the “stream of wisdom,” coursing through history and over our heads, figuratively speaking – and henceforth available, just as instantly, for download by all humans everywhere.
When I tell you what these wisdom truths are, you are likely to have an “aha” experience, not because you are learning of them for the first time, but as if you are being reminded of something you already know. And that, of course, is what I am arguing.
Three truths of wisdom in particular have given inspiration and guidance to humans over these many centuries. Who knows, but their discovery may go back even millions of years to our prehuman ancestors, as it seems that even the “lower” animals have a robust intuition of how to live in accord with reality.
At any rate, I have organized these three truths of wisdom by a logic of the obvious, starting with an evident truth, reaching deeper to an essential truth, and then ascending outward to an encompassing truth.
Directing our attention to what is most obvious, we can see that every existing thing (including ourselves) is or occurs in a relational field, not just in proximity to other things around it but connected to them by a web of relations or network of forces. Quantum, atomic, magnetic, molecular, gravitational, barometric, thermal and other environmental forces move through, around, and between things, creating currents and lines of influence that codetermine their very character – and in the case of living things, their survival.
The evident truth of wisdom states that “Everything is connected.” The very nature of reality is such that each and every thing is connected, by both visible and invisible forces, to all other things. What this means is that our existence, as Buddhists say, “co-arises” with that of everything else – locally and globally.
The fabric of our common field not only supports us individually but is also affected by our actions, perhaps even by our emotions, attitudes, and intentions.
An only apparently empty space between us and others is in reality (or really) energized by countless outgoing, incoming, and ambient exchanges throughout a complex web of relations.
This much is, as we should all agree, evident. Even if we can’t see the web in all its frequencies and dimensions, certain strands or lines of force connecting us to others and the reality around us are too obvious to deny. We have only to consult our sciences to validate this first principle of wisdom: nothing exists in absolute isolation, but as connected and involved with other things – ultimately all other things.
Whereas Western science had once assumed reality could be analyzed into isolated particles, that curtain of illusion was decisively ripped from its rings with the discoveries of quantum mechanics (or high-energy physics).
The real challenge, however, is more psychological than strictly scientific. In our personal development, each of us gradually comes to the sense of ourselves as a separate individual, existing in our own unique “ego space.” Even though personal identity presumes a social context of roles and role-plays (persona refers to an onstage actor’s mask), we still can fall into the delusion of our independence and, as the delusion further envelops us, of our absolute transcendence as to our context, its conditions, and all the others coexisting in our relational field.
We have only opened up the evident truth of wisdom and we can already see how much of the current crisis can be pinned on this illusion of our separate ego. It’s not the illusion per se but the captivating delusion – that is, our convicted belief in the truth of this illusion – that has pushed us apart and away from reality, causing us to contract into ourselves in defense against what we are projecting as a threat to our security.
The deeper enthralled in this delusion we get, the more erroneous our judgments and destructive our behavior becomes.
Once we can break free of our prison of ignórance (willful ignorance) and conviction, and complete a fresh download of this evident truth of wisdom, its other two come along quite naturally. As all things coexist and co-arise in a web of relational forces, each thing is itself a manifestation of reality. In other words, that field is also a ground, calling our attention from the radial lines of connection between things, to the “inner being” (as distinct from the web’s “inter-being”) of each existing thing.
As a manifestation of reality, each thing is a formal expression of its quantum, material, organic, sentient, egoic, and communal nature, occupying a niche somewhere on this continuum of being. A rock, for instance, occupies the material niche, manifesting matter and energy in its form, yet is beneath the niche of organic existence. A plant is organic, with a deeper nature of matter and energy, but while it may possess some sentient capacity in its ability to sense, feel, and adapt to its environment, it is beneath the niche of egoic (self-conscious) existence.
Humans are perhaps uniquely egoic, as well as (going deeper down and within) sentient, organic, material, and energetic manifestations of reality. However, we characteristically fall beneath a fully communal (spiritual, transpersonal) existence.
Our depth-exploration of reality and the discovery of the grounding mystery in each thing that both anchors its existence and finds expression in its distinct form, introduces (or reminds us of) a second truth of wisdom. This essential truth states that “All is One” – not all of it together, which is the focus of wisdom’s third truth, but All through each and deeper into the ground of Being itself: to the One manifesting “upwards” as the rock, the plant, and as each of us.
The essential truth of wisdom is neither abstract nor esoteric, except in the literal sense of what is “deep within” (esoteros). What is more obvious, though not as much as “everything is connected,” than the fact that each and every thing, in being real, is a manifestation of reality or the power of Being (be-ing) itself? We may not be used to speaking this way, but it should be beyond dispute to say that something is real because it is grounded in The Real (or reality) and is a manifestation of Being.
So, because “Everything is connected” and “All is One,” a third and final truth logically follows, which is that “We’re all in this together.” This is wisdom’s encompassing truth. Each existing thing is a manifestation of the One reality; it co-exists with everything else in a connecting web of relations; and along with everything else, it belongs to, participates in, and is encompassed by a transcendent unity or higher wholeness.
If the web is a metaphor of our connectedness, terms that indicate an upward shift to higher wholeness include universe, integral order, ecosystem, and community.
It should be clear that while it may take some time for us to become aware of the higher wholeness encompassing all things, “we’re all in this together” whether we consciously know it (and own it) or remain stuck in our prisons of ignórance and conviction.
As long as we remain captives of our delusional separation from others and the larger reality to which we belong (partnerships, communities, and ecosystems), our choices, judgments, and actions will collide with the way things are. The predictable consequences of our foolish egoism will be the degradation of living systems, the loss of community, chronic conflict, widespread suffering, and our own miserable extinction.
Or we can choose a brighter destiny and start living by what we already know.