Metaconsciousness: Mythology for a Post-Civilized World
Contents | Prologue
What follows is an exploration of what was originally perceived as the human predicament on planet Earth; but which upon further consideration may more aptly be imagined as the normal evolutionary "growing pains" of the human species.
The Author too has experienced "growing pains" during the course of the exploration that follows, and I am not at all certain at the end of it that I remain in complete harmony with everything I myself have written. You, dear Reader, are therefore excused from any obligation for finding perfect accord with what follows. I can recommend the work to you nevertheless, because I believe it does fulfill its purpose as a stimulus to thought – which I consider of incalculably greater value than successfully persuading you to share my peculiar and shifting views. If you wish to "leap to conclusions," and find out in advance where all this is headed – something I myself didn't know when I began – you might initiate your exploration with the concluding section, II.8. The Myths of Life and Death, rather than beginning at the beginning.
At the inception of this project, the image associated with it was one of alarm bordering on panic – such as the feeling one might have upon the realization of being enclosed within a burning theater. Gradually, over the extended course of developing this exploration further, that sense of panic has somewhat softened; and the image of the burning theater has been replaced by the alternative image of an impending birth – as viewed by the fetus.
It is still a highly critical situation, fraught with peril and uncertainty for both Mother and Child, particularly when "things go wrong." Yet it is not an impossible situation; nor is it one, I am beginning speculatively to imagine, that has not arisen many times before in the course of Cosmic History.
The image of an impending birth encompasses its antecedents, wherein it has been observed that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny;" which is a fancy way of saying that the gestation of a developing fetus reproduces in the womb the evolutionary history of the entire species. That is, during the period of gestation, every fetus retraces the entire evolutionary path, from a one-celled organism, through the stages of a multi-cellular colony, a chordate, a vertebrate with rudimentary gills... until it emerges at last, if all goes well, as a healthy infant human, taking her or his first breath of air outside the deserted womb.
For the developing fetus, gestation is a timeless period during which it directly experiences for fleeting moments every stage of the 3½-billion-year evolutionary history of the human race.1 During that time, the inside of the womb constitutes the entire "known universe" for the fetus – which is fully alive and aware the whole time. It can hear and feel sensations originating outside the womb, just as we can gather sensations from relatively remote regions of our surrounding universe; yet of the kind of world that awaits it the fetus can have no accurate conception whatsoever. Beyond its approaching birthday resides an utterly impenetrable mystery.
Meanwhile, the (momentarily) single-cell, multi-cell, growing fetus floats weightlessly in the warm embrace of a comfortable chamber in which its every need is met without effort. If all is well, the Mother nourishes the Child with her own nutrition, and floods it perpetually with thoughts and emotions of love, shelter, and happy anticipation, regardless of the season, weather, or other conditions she herself experiences.
And every minute, every hour, every day, the fetus grows, and passes through consecutive stages of evolutionary development.... Until the comfortable, embracing, sheltering womb gradually becomes less and less roomy, and less and less comfortable, for both Mother and Child. We may imagine that, at some rudimentary level of developing consciousness, the Child becomes aware, perhaps, of a trend which is approaching a limit. "Hay, it's getting crowded in here!" is a thought that may be given some form of conscious expression within the developing fetal mind. And finally, when it may seem that things can hardly get any worse – sure enough, things get worse, and the crowded chamber spasmodically contracts yet further at shortening intervals, as the entire "known universe" begins convulsing and squeezing the helpless infant toward... what?! Toward an unavoidable destiny utterly beyond the infant's conception. There is nothing in the Child's 3½-billion-year experience (as we may imagine the Child reckons time) remotely sufficient to prepare it for what comes next!
Yet if all goes well, what comes next is a bouncing baby boy or girl, snuggled to the breast of an exhausted, deeply contented Mother; and another Child has commenced a fresh adventure, yet only dimly glimpsed – and already utterly beyond the wildest imagination of the unborn fetus of a few moments before.
Birth does not occur without effort, and it is more difficult for some than for others; yet every living being on the planet passes through this universal initiation, and moves on into the many dimensions of that still unfathomable mystery we call Life. It may be that something analogous to the birth of a single organism can take place for an entire species as well. If so, it may be worth speculating that the so-called "human predicament" is in some ways like such an impending birth – for all humanity, and on a global scale. And even for a birth in which "all is going well," the term "predicament" is not entirely inappropriate, either for Child or for Mother. Getting the unborn Child alive and healthy out of the womb is a formidable challenge, even under the best of circumstances; and for the Child being shoved unceremoniously "out the door," it is a crisis without precedent, and may have elements strikingly in common with the "human predicament" faced today by global humanity.
The predicament, or impending birth, faced today by global humanity may be described generally as a condition into which we humans have incrementally backed ourselves over the course of a relatively extended span of time; from which it is evidently very difficult to extricate ourselves gracefully.
We probably got ourselves into this because "we didn't know any better," because like an infant in the womb, we have always had a limited capacity for anticipating what comes next. The eventual play-out of the human predicament appears to be the imminent collapse of contemporary human civilization; and possibly the destruction of the biological life-support system of planet Earth. In the latter eventuality, both Mother and Child die in childbirth. It happens in the lives of individuals, and it may happen in the lives of species and planets; yet it is probably not inevitable.
In any case, it appears that for humanity, "time is running short," and gracefully or awkwardly, we humans are faced by a swiftly closing window of opportunity during which any such "solutions" must be found and acted upon "quickly;" or else the human predicament will run its course without a "solution." This may sound more alarming than it possibly is. Infants in normal childbirth do not appear to have much influence over the course of events either.
The human predicament is complicated by the fact that it is multi-dimensional, non-simultaneous, global, and non-linear, in nature and scope; which precludes the emergence of a single "solution" from any single "source" among humans. In a very real sense, every past, present, and future human resident of this planet either was, is, or will be, "part of the problem," "part of the solution," or a complicated mixture of the two. In a similar sense a birthing infant does influence the course of events – to the extent that all of its various parts are in a condition of health, ill-health, or somewhere between.
The following work constitutes part of my personal contribution to the contemporary dilemma, which I place perpetually at the very top of my list of priorities, so long as a) the human predicament persists, and b) I persist in corporeal form. I do not imagine that I shall procure, or be able to suggest, a comprehensive "solution" to the human predicament; but I do imagine that if such human "solutions" are possible, or have any meaning, I may be able to make potentially valuable contributions to them, in collaboration and cooperation with others similarly motivated. The present work, therefore, is intentionally "open-source" and available for creative adaptation by others, who may wish to collaborate, or unilaterally to take it in multiple potential directions.
On the other hand, it is entirely plausible to me that few of my contemporaries may relish, or enthusiastically welcome the content of the work which follows; for I imagine there are not very many who will welcome the suggestion that the way of life which they and their ancestors have have believed for the past five thousand years to be the only right way to live2 has been fatally flawed from its inception, and was doomed from the start to the eventual failure we are experiencing today as "the human predicament," or "impending birth."
Therefore, more urgently than I wish to address my contemporaries, do I wish to address future generations who I imagine will have survived the "global birthing" we are today experiencing, as yet mostly in anticipation. Perhaps in hindsight what follows may appear more sensible later than it does now in foresight.
For the benefit of both contemporary and future readers, I can now summarize quite succinctly the myth around which the present work orbits – a myth which was not obvious from the start, but has emerged with increasing clarity during the course of unwinding the thread of the following work.
The Principle of Universal Reciprocity
Every life [so this myth goes] – indeed every existence of any kind – is in a profound and far-reaching sense a collaborative, interrelated partnership with all other existences throughout space-time, or "All That Is." This may be called the principle of universal reciprocity. It seems probable that some form of "intuitive understanding" of this principle is "wired in" to the nature of all living things, including "pre-civilized" humans. The nature of "civilization" was from its inception such as to attempt to "break out" of this universal reciprocal relationship, or to exempt "civilization" from its applicability. This cannot be done, for it isn't so, and obstructs the evolutionary progress of any who make the attempt. Any who attempt existence in denial of this universal principle must eventually fail; just as surely as anyone stepping off the edge of a precipice in denial of the principle of universal gravitational attraction must come eventually to an untidy end.
Nevertheless, the attempt was bound to be made; for it is probably an unavoidable stage of human evolution anywhere throughout Cosmos. Only in this way could the principle of universal reciprocity be explicitly learned – as opposed merely to being "instinctively wired." This has been the mission of human "civilization;" that is to learn, by experiencing the consequences of denying it, the universal applicability of the principle of reciprocity.
The mission of "post-civilization," having learned this principle "the hard way," which may practically be "the only way," is to explore the limitless field of human possibility for those who explicitly understand the principle of universal reciprocal partnership, and choose to apply this understanding in the conduct of their lives. This is the challenge, and the potential opportunity, awaiting future generations.
Part I of this work sets out some of the more (or less) obvious aspects of the human predicament, and makes the case that the human predicament springs as a direct consequence from contemporary widespread erroneous human mythologies, or beliefs about the nature of reality. The suggestion is made that any "solution" to the human predicament must therefore include – must indeed begin with alternatives to contemporary "civilized" mythologies.
Part II then presents a number of proposals for alternative "post-civilized" myths which, if widely adopted, might contribute to corresponding alternative beliefs about the nature of reality, and consequently to human behaviors leading to more agreeable destinies than the repetitious crash of successions of fatally flawed human civilizations.
The (relatively) recent expansion of this work, Part III, has been withdrawn from Version 5, pending further adaptation as a separate work. It is included in V 4.1.1, which remains available unchanged here.
I might mention in passing that there are naturally quite a number of ways to read the present work. One way is to begin with this Introduction, and proceed sequentially until you reach the end of Appendix C. Revision History of This Document. Another way – any number of other ways – might involve scanning the table of Contents, and going to any section or subsection that may capture your attention, and reading as much of it as sustains your interest.
Or, as already suggested, you may prefer to begin your exploration with the most recently added – and concluding – section, II.8. The Myths of Life and Death, which articulates observations not anticipated in the earliest sections, and bears numerous cross-referencing links to other sections of the work. The interrelated ideas being expressed here did not all emerge at the same time, and are not even guaranteed to be entirely consistent with one another. Nor was the path of their unwinding anticipated by the Author from the beginning; so the Reader too is hereby encouraged to pilot her or himself through as many of them as sustain interest, along a path of your own choice.
Such, then, is the scope of the work before you, Metaconsciousness: Mythology for a Post-Civilized World. Your collaborative participation in the ongoing exploration it initiates is welcome, and invited.
1. See The Past 245,000,000 Years in section I.8 for partial amplification.
2. See Core Assumptions of Western Civilization in the Prologue.
Metaconsciousness: Mythology for a Post-Civilized World
Contents | Prologue