I would like to make a little plug-in before I get into the meat of this topic today. I mentioned Charles Eisenstein’s book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible in my last post. This book has heavily influenced my thinking and understanding. I will be referring to many of his ideas and using much of his language throughout this blog. I do this because I found his book to be incredibly enlightening. If you would like to read his book, I would highly recommend it. I have provided a link to his website at the bottom of this post where you can read the entire book online, or even just a few chapters. I promise you it’s well worth it.
That’s it for the plug, now let’s get to it. In my first post I mentioned the two main stories humans tell about our world. Before I get into the nitty gritty of telling the third story that this blog is about, I find it important to elaborate on the two stories. Today, I’m writing about what I referred to as story #1 in my previous post. I will borrow Charles Eisenstein’s language and refer to it as the Story of Ascension, or the Story of Separation.
So here is the story as I see it, with more detail than before. This time I will write from a more global perspective, the perspective of Humanity itself- at least as I see it. You may notice some problems and inconsistencies within this story, but it has remained the dominant narrative for humanity (in various forms) for millennia:
We are all individual, distinct humans inhabiting a world that is essentially apathetic to us. We live in a world of forces. In fact, that’s all there is. There are objects, and the forces that act upon them. Even science has revealed this to be true. Whenever anything has been examined closely enough, that has been what it comes down too. Matter is nothing but tiny atoms and molecules bouncing around, ricocheting off each other. Thoughts and emotions are nothing but chemical reactions in the brain. Natural ecosystems are nothing but countless individual organisms competing for their own survival. Even free will is nothing but an illusion, the choices we make were compelled by our past experiences. We think we are making choices, but in actuality it is the past that has predestined the choices we make.
Anything that we perceive as meaningful and beautiful is simply a coincidental occurrence. Some people may have heard of miraculous healing from scientifically unproven methods, but those cases are simply coincidence. Since we live in an essentially random and chaotic world, some of these coincidental healings are bound to occur. Some people may have had near death experiences in which they have left their bodies and gone towards a light. That is simply the product of large amounts of chemicals being released in the brain. There is nothing meaningful in that experience. Likewise, any apparent meaning is only our own projection. In reality, the Universe is random and chaotic. It is ruled by random, impersonal forces acting on cold, unconscious matter. Likewise, we are ruled by the same random impersonal forces, and we are nothing but biological machines despite appearances to the contrary.
As such, humans-and other animals as well- are basically selfish creatures. A human is interested solely in maintaining his own survival and satisfying his own desires and urges. For this reason, other humans are not to be trusted. They may treat you well for a while, but only as long as it serves their own amusement or self-interest. As such, the only person one can trust is oneself. One must control as much of the world as one can in order to carve out some place to survive.
Since nature itself is apathetic towards humanity, humanity must control and subdue nature in order to survive as a species. Fortunately for us, humanity-through some stroke of luck- has unique abilities in intelligence, understanding, and creativity. Humans are relentlessly clever. Since we understand the chaos of nature and the cleverness of ourselves, we will be able to one day control and understand all of nature. In fact, science has already essentially figured out how the Universe works. Human engineering and ingenuity is unparalleled. Through science and technology, humanity will eventually transcend nature itself and achieve a new level of being. By controlling everything about our environment and the world around us, we will finally ascend to a level in which we are not the victims of the impersonal forces of nature, but the controllers of these forces. Medicine will progress to the point of overcoming almost all diseases. Social engineering and political control will lead to a world without crime. New industrial farming practices will subdue natural forces to the point that we will never have shortages of food ever again. No matter what challenges we face, we will overcome them by the power of intellect and the ability to control natural forces to our will. That is the only way to overcome them, and we can do it.
So there you have it. That story, in countless different forms, has popped up throughout human history since the earliest civilizations. Probably at this point, you are doubting the truth of this. Do we really tell this story? After all, the end of that story seemed almost Utopian. We clearly don’t live in Utopia. However it still seems that a great number of people still believe that humanity can overcome all our challenges through the process of control. This takes place on all levels.
Take climate change for an example: there are two broad camps of people who seem to be steeped in Separation/Ascension. Either they deny climate change altogether: “Of course there’s not climate issue. The climate has always been random and chaotic. The only people saying the climate is changing are lying in order to gain fame or fortune.” Or they admit that the climate is changing, but believe that it’s not really a problem because humans will overcome it through the brute force of technology: “Sure the climate is changing, but we can handle that. The engineers will surely figure it out for us before it’s too late.” There are, of course, other ways of looking at the issue of climate change that aren’t steeped in separation, but these seem to be two huge components.
On a more microcosmic scale. Even the self is to be overcome and subdued with willpower and self-control. Since humans are basically selfish, that aspect of the self must be willfully controlled in order to behave in a socially acceptable manner. So it’s not only the external world that must be controlled, but the internal world as well.
At this point, your inner cynic may be raving- mine usually does like this: “What nonsense is this, Dan? What kind of crap are you spouting? Are you really saying that all of this is just some story? Look around you! This is reality! The evidence is everywhere. You really think that a hurricane cares if you’re in its way? Do you really think that anyone cares about anyone but themselves? Look at all the wars humanity has conducted for self-centered reasons such as land and resources. This has happened time and time again. This is just how humans work. This is just how the world works. This isn’t just some story. This is life.”
The inner cynic can be much more cutting than that, of course, but you get the idea. But I cannot deny the logic of the inner cynic. The evidence is all around us. This does seem to be the way humanity has always lived: with selfishness and the desire to dominate and control everything. There have been exceptions, but they never last. It would take a profound level of blindness to ignore that. But a little piece of shamanic wisdom comes to mind. It comes through in many different traditions, variating on the theme. The one I like goes something like this: “We dream the world into being.”
Our stories are our dreams. Since the earliest civilizations humans have dreamt that nature was separate from themselves and that it was humanity’s destiny to overcome it. Could it be that this prevailing story has created the very evidence necessary to maintain it? After all, many of the basic structures of society seem to be on the brink of collapse with compounding issues of climate change, social and political unrest, economic disparity and increasing debt, international tension, and government corruption. If reality really was as this story described, would we really be in this precarious position after all the control we’ve exerted? This story seems to have survived this long because it seemed that humanity has been able to overcome every challenge with ingenuity and control. Nowadays, though, it seems that that will no longer work. The dream of ascension is maintaining less and less of a hold on people. The edifice is cracking. This realization could lead very quickly to despair, I know that very well. However, in the death of one world is the birth of a new one. This breakdown is when the new story starts to become apparent through the cracks of the old one. I will elaborate more on the new story in my next post.
Thanks for reading!
The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible by Charles Eisenstein: