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Consciousness, Psychedelics, & Reality: Graham Hancock’s Discourse Against Materialist Science & Monotheism

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Graham Hancock asserts material science is missing the big picture in regards to consciousness.

Graham Hancock asserts material science is missing the big picture in regards to consciousness.

Graham Hancock is no stranger to modern discourse on the nature of consciousness. Since his early scholarly days he has challenged materialist science with alternative theories addressing mysteries of ancient civilizations, extra-terrestrials, psychedelics, and consciousness. In a recent lecture at the National Arts Club Art and Technology Committee, Hancock continued his controversial examination of the aforementioned topics.

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He opened his lecture with a question addressed to famous evolutionist, atheist, and author, Richard Dawkins, probing him on one of atheism’s most imperative conjectures, “How do you prepare for life in a world where there is no God?”

Hancock went on to recite Dawkins’s answer, “You prepare for it by knowing that life is what we have and so you better make it a life to the fullest”. Although he asserted that he couldn’t agree more with the notion of living one’s life to the fullest, Hancock didn’t accept Dawkins’s materialist view which states that consciousness is only a product of electro-chemical brain activity. He believes there is a lot more to consciousness than that expressed from the empty reductionist view point.

“What science is this [opinion] based on? What has [Dawkins] done to prove that there is nothing after death?”

Hancock argues Dawkins’s statement with a bold case, expressing that he is merely stating his “very narrow and very limited ‘religious’ belief”. Dawkins’s belief is just that, an act of faith, because there is no scientific evidence to back up his claim. But nevertheless, a large majority of people still buy into these scientists’ beliefs based on their university credentials.

Last year, Hancock released a TEDx Talk that was subsequently banned due to the subject matter discussed. Hancock elaborated on the reason in his lecture,

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“Certainly the brain is involved in consciousness in some vital way, but it’s unclear exactly how and this is the first area that I got into trouble with TED for my brief TEDx Talk which was on their website for a couple of weeks before they took it off. I couldn’t understand why they took it off, but it later became clear that there is a faction of scientists who advised TED who belong to what is called the materialist/reductionist tendency, and they believe that all phenomena can be reduced to matter, and that there is nothing that exists outside of the material realm if it cannot be measured or counted.”

Does the brain create consciousness like a generator produces electricity? Material scientists believe that consciousness is an epi-phenomenon or a miracle or sorts. They understand its development in relation to the Darwinian concept of ‘survival of the fittest’, that our brains evolved to have this consciousness as an advantage over other species. They state that once we’re dead, consciousness no longer exists, and we are simply reduced to matter. “What about near-death-experiences or out-of-body-experiences?” Hancock asks.

To refute this model, Hancock uses the analogy of a TV and its antenna. “The relationship of the brain and consciousness might be more like a TV set and the TV signal. And again, I got into trouble with TED even for suggesting this, but they will say ‘I know consciousness is localized to the brain because when I shut off this area of the brain , this or that area of your consciousness will blink out, and therefore that proves that your brain makes that bit of your consciousness’. But isn’t that true with the TV analogy? If you damage the TV screen, the picture won’t be so good, but that doesn’t mean the signal isn’t there still.”

To get a clearer understanding of consciousness and life after death, Hancock suggests looking back at ancient civilizations, particularly the ancient Egyptians, who possessed a remarkable model of the afterlife. By studying the intricate and numerous hieroglyphs in the pyramid walls (transcribed today in what is known as the Book of The Dead), one quickly realizes the Egyptians honoured death even more so than life as a large majority of their lives were based around the preparation for death, and that when this time came a soul would face Anubis in a review of their life. The consequences of a person’s life choices were something to reflect on deeply according to the Egyptians. Likewise, the Ancient Egyptians believed in reincarnation – after each life a soul would review lessons learned in the previous life to ensure that they would not repeat them in the next.

The Egyptians held strong beliefs about life after death.

The Egyptians held strong beliefs about life after death.

Interestingly, Hancock also adds an alternative narrative to the Egyptian civilization which may challenge many people’s beliefs. Referencing the Tibetan Book of The Dead, Hancock revealed their belief that love, ethics, and mediation alone cannot bring one enlightenment. He asserts that the Egyptians used psychedelic plants to access higher levels of consciousness. Famous ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna proposes the Tree of Knowledge depicted in engravings was actually a reference to the plant Acacia Nilotica, which contains levels of DMT in its bark. The Egyptians were known alchemists, so this extraction theory should not be considered far-fetched.

Hancock moves his attention to the ancient texts of the Hermetics and the Gnostics, quoting an line from one of the texts, “Man’s duty is not to acquiesce in his merely human state but rather in the strength of his contemplation of things divine to scorn and disguise that mortal part which has been attached to him because it was needful that he should keep and tend the lower world.” This was also a central aspect of the Egyptian texts, that we should not be attached to our material body, that we reach for the ‘heavens’ as a metaphor for our spiritual self.

The Gnostics also were also early opponents of certain sects of Christianity, specifically Catholicism, stating that no ‘God’ would judge another human being, let alone advocate burning someone at the stake. They viewed Christ as a teacher who didn’t actually die for our sins, that we are responsible for our own sins. Another controversial concept from early Gnosticism reveals that the serpent in the story of Adam and Eve was not in fact the devil, for the serpent was trying to tell them about the ‘Tree of knowledge’, and ‘God’ was trying to keep this knowledge away from humans to ensure they wouldn’t attain godly power through this knowledge.  An early Gnostic art piece exposes the Tree of Knowledge for what it actually is, the psychedelic mushroom Amanita Muscaria.

The Gnostics alluded to the 'Tree of Knowledge' being the psychedelic mushroom, Amanita Muscaria.

The Gnostics alluded to the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ being the psychedelic mushroom, Amanita Muscaria.

A faction of the Gnostics called the Cathars who lived in Southern France in the 1100s were surprisingly advanced for their time: they believed in equality for all, influenced the Troubadour music wave, ate mainly vegetarian, promoted universal literacy, and even made their own paper. Unfortunately, anyone who held Cathar/Gnostic beliefs was persecuted by the Roman Catholics in a crusade which took place in the late 1100s. This was largely due to the fact the Cathars saw the Pope as an agent of the devil.

Most monotheistic faiths impose leaders between the people and the divine (i.e., Christianity, Judaism, Islam). These ideological factions talk the talk about peace and love but walk the walk of hatred and suspicion. Hancock makes the daring assertion that it’s these three faiths which are at the root of the world’s problems today.  The state is the next form of segregation which ultimately places the control of our consciousness in the hands of others. States operate on fear, hatred, and suspicion, (war on terror, national security). Hancock addresses the pointlessness of patriotism, asking what its relevance really is. “Why should we be especially attached to someone because they happen to be born on the same piece of land as me? Shouldn’t we be interested in a community of ideas? Shouldn’t we be patriotic to the entire human race? We’ve become a species of amnesia, lulled into a false sense of purpose.”

“There is a war on our consciousness”, Hancock states. It is curious why a natural brain hormone like DMT is a Schedule I drug, yet the ancient Egyptians pegged it as the ‘Tree of Life’.  Shouldn’t we have sovereignty over our own consciousness? Natural mind-expanding plants are categorized as dangerous, yet pharmaceuticals and alcohol kill millions each year. Perhaps Hancock isn’t too far off in his statement.

mckenna

Hancock presents a strong argument against material science. There is a rigidness within this faction of belief that reduces the unlimited to something finite, something Hancock pegs as a dishonour to the miracle that is consciousness. Hancock also advocates to be weary of both modern and timeworn control schemes (i.e., religion, pharmaceuticals, the state) which aim to suppress the evolution of consciousness, a warning which may trigger the defence of many but stands as a crucial wake-up call to the world. Just as the ancients affirmed, psychedelics must be seen as an important tool in exploring and expanding human consciousness. Perhaps these natural tools truly do hold the key to the advancement of mankind’s evolution.

 

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Consciousness

Scientists Discover That The Heart & Brain Respond To Future Events – Before They Happen

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Multiple experiments have shown strong evidence for precognition in several different ways. One of them comes in the form of activity within the heart and the brain responding to events before they even happen.

  • Reflect On:

    Do we have extra human capacities we are unaware of? Perhaps we can learn them, develop them, and use them for good. Perhaps when the human race is ready, we will start learning more.

Is precognition real? There are many examples suggesting that yes, it is. The remote viewing program conducted by the CIA in conjunction with Stanford University was a good example of that.  After its declassification in 1995, or at least partial declassification, the Department of Defense and those involved revealed an exceptionally high success rate:

To summarize, over the years, the back-and-forth criticism of protocols, refinement of methods, and successful replication of this type of remote viewing in independent laboratories has yielded considerable scientific evidence for the reality of the (remote viewing) phenomenon. Adding to the strength of these results was the discovery that a growing number of individuals could be found to demonstrate high-quality remote viewing, often to their own surprise… The development of this capability at SRI has evolved to the point where visiting CIA personnel with no previous exposure to such concepts have performed well under controlled laboratory conditions. (source)

The kicker? Part of remote viewing involves peering into future events as well as events that happened in the past.

It’s not only within the Department of Defense that we find this stuff, but a lot of science is emerging on this subject as well.

For example, a study (meta analysis) published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience titled “Predicting the unpredictable: critical analysis and practical implications of predictive anticipatory activity” examined a number of experiments regarding this phenomenon that were conducted by several different laboratories. These experiments indicate that the human body can actually detect randomly delivered stimuli that occur 1-10 seconds in advance. In other words, the human body seems to know of an event and reacts to the event before it has occurred. What occurs in the human body before these events are physiological changes that are measured regarding the cardiopulmonary, the skin, and the nervous system.

A few years ago, the chief scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Dr. Dean Radin, visited the scientists over at HearthMath Institute and shared the results of one of his studies. Radin is also one of multiple scientists who authored the paper above. These studies, as mentioned above, tracked the autonomic nervous system, physiological changes, etc.

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Scientists at HeartMath Institute (HMI) added more protocols, which included measuring participants’ brain waves (EEG), their hearts’ electrical activity (ECG), and their heart rate variability (HRV).

As HMI explains:

Twenty-six adults experienced in using HeartMath techniques and who could sustain a heart-coherent state completed two rounds of study protocols approximately two weeks apart. Half of the participants completed the protocols after they intentionally achieved a heart-coherent state for 10 minutes. The other half completed the same procedures without first achieving heart coherence. Then they reversed the process for the second round of monitoring, with the first group not becoming heart-coherent before completing the protocols and the second group becoming heart-coherent before. The point was to test whether heart coherence affected the results of the experiment.

Participants were told the study’s purpose was to test stress reactions and were unaware of its actual purpose. (This practice meets institutional-review-board standards.) Each participant sat at a computer and was instructed to click a mouse when ready to begin.

The screen stayed blank for six seconds. The participant’s physiological data was recorded by a special software program, and then, one by one, a series of 45 pictures was displayed on the screen. Each picture, displayed for 3 seconds, evoked either a strong emotional reaction or a calm state. After each picture, the screen went blank for 10 seconds. Participants repeated this process for all 45 pictures, 30 of which were known to evoke a calm response and 15 a strong emotional response.

The Results

The results of the experiment were fascinating to say the least. The participants’ brains and hearts responded to information about the emotional quality of the pictures before the computer flashed them (random selection). This means that the heart and brain were both responding to future events. The results indicated that the responses happened, on average, 4.8 seconds before the computer selected the pictures.

How mind-altering is that?

Even more profound, perhaps, was data showing the heart received information before the brain. “It is first registered from the heart,” Rollin McCraty Ph.D. explained, “then up to the brain (emotional and pre-frontal cortex), where we can logically relate what we are intuiting, then finally down to the gut (or where something stirs).”

Another significant study (meta-analysis) that was published in Journal of Parapsychology by Charles Honorton and Diane C. Ferrari in 1989 examined a number of studies that were published between 1935 and 1987. The studies involved individuals’ attempts to predict “the identity of target stimuli selected randomly over intervals ranging from several hundred million seconds to one year following the individuals responses.” These authors investigated over 300 studies conducted by over 60 authors, using approximately 2 million individual trials by more than 50,000 people. (source)

It concluded that their analysis of precognition experiments “confirms the existence of a small but highly significant precognition effect. The effect appears to be repeatable; significant outcomes are reported by 40 investigators using a variety of methodological paradigms and subject populations. The precognition effect is not merely an unexplained departure from a theoretical chance baseline, but rather is an effect that covaries with factors known to influence more familiar aspects of human performance.” (source)

The Takeaway

“There seems to be a deep concern that the whole field will be tarnished by studying a phenomenon that is tainted by its association with superstition, spiritualism and magic. Protecting against this possibility sometimes seems more important than encouraging scientific exploration or protecting academic freedom. But this may be changing.”
 Cassandra Vieten, PhD and President/CEO at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (source)

We are living in a day and age where new information and evidence are constantly emerging, challenging what we once thought was real or what we think we know about ourselves as human beings.  It’s best to keep an open mind. Perhaps there are aspects of ourselves and our consciousness that have yet to be discovered. Perhaps if we learn and grow from these studies, they can help us better ourselves and others.

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Consciousness

Full Moon In Aries: Change & Renewal

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We are having a Full Moon in Aries which will be exact on October 13th at 9:08pm Universal Time. It will appear the fullest that night for the majority of the world, and on the night of the 12th for those in Hawaii.

This is the peak of the Lunar cycle which began two weeks prior with a New Moon in Libra. The energies of it build up as the Moon increases its light and are strongest in the days before and after. However, it will still be a part of the backdrop over the following two weeks.

Full Moon’s are a period in which we feel a push-pull between two opposing signs, in this case being the Moon in Aries and Sun in Libra. It can reflect either a conflict or integration of both signs.

We can feel this opposition happening individually within us and/or we can also experience it play out around us with some people (or circumstances) expressing the Libra side and others expressing the Aries side. In some cases, Full Moon’s can also reflect/trigger some sort of release or change.

Aries is a fire sign ruled by Mars. It is about individual needs, action, moving forward, pioneering, independence, self-identity, self-orientation, and leadership. It is bold, courageous, and instinctual, yet it can also be aggressive, impulsive, impatient, selfish, and hot-tempered.

Libra is an Air sign ruled by Venus. It is about relating, relationships, partnerships, codependency, consideration, harmony, balance, fairness, art, creativity, and beauty. It is sociable, diplomatic, and intellectual, yet it can also be indecisive, passive aggressive, vain, and even judgemental.

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Full Moon Square Pluto and Trine Jupiter

The Full Moon is in a tight square with Pluto which is near Saturn and the South Node in Capricorn. This can trigger the energy of the previous Lunar Eclipse which had strong themes of purging, letting go, as well as the potential for rebirth and transformation. It may reflect things from the past that need to be resolved or concluded.

The area of life in which this may occur depends on how it was interacting with your natal chart. It could be connected to Capricorn themes such as ambitions, career, control, management, social status, financial areas or potential structures in our lives.

This can also reflect issues pertaining to fears, obsessions, compulsive behavior, shadows, dark drives, manipulation, desires, deeply repressed feelings, jealousy, the underworld, and destruction. Conflicts around power and power struggles may also play out which may be connected to Aries-Libra themes mentioned above. Pluto may increase the potential of intensity and Saturn can reflect obstacles.

Although this configuration can be challenging, this Full Moon is also in a trine with Jupiter in Sagittarius which brings some positive and hopeful energy to it as well. This aspect can be good for expansiveness, exploration, and learning. Themes around morals, faith, beliefs, and perspectives may be a part of the equation. It can be good for addressing issues by looking at the big picture and incorporating a higher understanding.

Mercury In Pre-Retrograde Shadow Period, Sextile Saturn, Pluto and Trine Neptune

Mercury in Scorpio will be going retrograde on October 31st and has begun its pre-retrograde shadow period on October 11th/12th. Some of the developments or thoughts that are occurring now and over the coming weeks will go through a process in November in which there could be adjustments, new realizations, and overall some sort of re-calibration to set things up for the following months or even beyond that. I will be writing a separate article on this retrograde, you can join my mailing list here to ensure that you receive it.

Mercury is in a sextile with Saturn in Capricorn which is strongest during the Full Moon and the following day. This is good for any type of mental effort and using our mind in a realistic, practical, tangible, or essential way. Communications with others can feel solidifying, productive, or have themes around responsibility and commitment.

Mercury is also in a trine with Neptune in Pisces which peaks on October 15th/16th. Our thoughts, communications, or activities can be idealistic, imaginative, inspired, spiritual, creative, compassionate, or sensitive. This can heighten intuition and we can be more tuned in to symbolism. It can also be good for doing anything involving visual media.

Mercury is in a sextile with Pluto in Capricorn which is strongest October 19th/20th. This can reflect wanting to understand or communicate things on a deeper level. We can be more focused, penetrating, strategic, persuasive, and compulsive. In some cases it can also be good for getting a point across to facilitate some sort of change,

Venus and Mars In Each Other’s Signs

Mars (the ruler of the Aries Full Moon) is in Libra which is ruled by Venus while Venus is in Scorpio which is traditionally ruled Mars. Generally these planets are considered to be challenged when in these signs on their own, however, in this case they are assisting each other in what is referred to as a ‘mutual reception’.

The midpoint of both Venus and Mars are aligned with the Sun/Moon opposition, as well as in aspect with Pluto. Considering all of this, it helps to alleviate any of the potential conflict between the Aries-Libra opposition and can also help to unify both sides of the polarity.

In the day prior to this Full Moon, Venus was in an opposition to Uranus which could have reflected some changes, insights, disruptions, or surprises around Venus ruled areas such as relationships, money, pleasures, or values. Following this, it is than moving towards a sextile to Saturn which peaks from October 19th-20th. This can bring a more stabilizing, mature, realistic, and supportive energy around relations or finances.

Things To Consider During This Period

How can you approach individual needs while also being considerate of others? What changes do you need to make to help you grow and expand? What is going on beneath the surface? Are any of the potential challenges happening in your life connected to something that you need to release or transform? How do you feel about everything when you take a step back and look at it from a higher perspective? What is the big picture and how can you incorporate your understandings to help you proceed or resolve any difficulties?

These are just some examples of what could come up during this period; however, there may be other variations of this energy playing out. If you wish to do any sort of intentional release connected to what has come up at this Full Moon, it is best to do so anytime after the peak when as wanes over the following two weeks. The exact moment of this Full Moon is on October 13th at 9:08pm Universal Time. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

Follow me on INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, and YOUTUBE for more astrology related content.

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Looking for astrological insight into what is going on in your life? Or perhaps looking to better understand your life and its potentials? Get a personalized astrology reading with Carmen (author of this article) specific to you based on your exact birth date, time, and location. Click here for more information or to order. 

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Consciousness

Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 8: The Apple Tree)

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The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution. (I would recommend you start with Chapter 1 if you haven’t already read it.) I hope my words are a source of enjoyment and inspiration for you, the reader. If perchance you would like to purchase a signed paperback copy of the book, you can do so on my production company website Pandora’s Box Office.

From the back cover: “Imagine a conversation that centers around possibility—the possibility that we can be more accepting of our own judgments, that we can find unity through our diversity, that we can shed the light of our love on the things we fear most. Imagine a conversation where our greatest polarities are coming together, a meeting place of East and West, of spirituality and materialism, of religion and science, where the stage is being set for a collective leap in consciousness more magnificent than any we have known in our history.

Now imagine that this conversation honors your uniqueness and frees you to speak from your heart, helping you to navigate your way more deliberately along your distinct path. Imagine that this conversation puts you squarely into the seat of creator—of your fortunes, your relationships, your life—thereby putting the fulfillment of your deepest personal desires well within your grasp.

‘Parables for the New Conversation’ is a spellbinding odyssey through metaphor and prose, personal sagas and historic events, where together author and reader explore the proposal that at its most profound level, life is about learning to consciously manifest the experiences we desire–and thus having fun. The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.”

8. The Apple Tree

Every autumn the same argument between the two orchard owners rang through the valley on the island of Allandon. Both claimed rights to the fruits of an apple tree whose roots laid on one’s land but whose trunk leaned drastically into the other’s property. They made their case to a seed planter who worked for both of them.

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“It is on my property that the tree is rooted in the ground,” said the one. “Clearly the fruits belong to me. Is it not so?”

“He is free to pick all the apples he wants,” replied the other, “as long as he keeps his two feet on his land.”

“You know that is not possible. The tree leans over your property.”

“And so the tree, by its growth, has decided that I should have its fruit. What do you say, planter?”

“Come with me,” the seed planter said. He led them up the great mountain in the center of the island, keeping quiet as they continued to bicker. When they reached a lookout point near the top of the mountain, the seed planter spoke to them.

“Now look out onto your vast properties,” he said. “Where is the apple tree?”

“I can’t make out the tree from here,” said the one.

“It’s too small,” echoed the other.

“Exactly,” the seed planter said. “Now perhaps we can talk about this dispute.”

Einstein once said that problems cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness that created them. And yet in our lives we continue to try to do just that: whenever we see something showing up in the world that doesn’t suit us, we immediately try to change the world until it conforms to how we think it should be. But the problem itself does not originate in the outer world—it originates in our inner world where we first interpreted a thing or event as a ‘problem’. Even if we are successful in changing the external world to our liking at a given moment, it will not be long before the same ‘problem’ arises in a different form. This is like the arcade game where you hammer a mole back into its hole and another mole immediately pops up from a different hole ad infinitum. Instead of rushing to change the outer world, lasting solutions to our problems come from our ability to change our inner world by shifting to a higher level of consciousness.

This is not to say that we should never act in the world. It means that it is helpful to step back to take a better look at these ‘problems’ rather than reacting to them. In a society that still puts a premium on doing, the shift we are looking for brings into balance our propensity to act with our ability to reflect. For in reflection our problems can be re-viewed as opportunities, and the actions we take can become the product of choice rather than compulsion, if in fact we conclude that we need to act at all.

All so-called problems are rooted in the limited vision of our Ego Self. Since the Ego Self makes us feel alone, vulnerable, and separate from the abundance of the universe, we tend to be more focused on what we lack than what we have. So we continue to experience not having enough, even if we have more than enough to live happily. It is said that the richest people are not those with the most money, but rather those who most keenly appreciate what they have. So when wealthy corporate executives ruin their lives by breaking laws and going to jail for stealing money from their companies and employees, it naturally begs the question: What would it take to satisfy these millionaires? Certainly no particular ‘thing’ in this world. There is never enough wealth in the world to satisfy those who are solely following the voice of their Ego Self, since it only sees what is missing and cannot stop asking for “more, more, more!”

For a long time I lived my life from this place of scarcity and lack, where an unexpected expense like a parking ticket or a tax reassessment would send me into a fury. I felt that every penny leaving my hand was lost forever, and I really had to stay ready to fight for what I believed was mine. But now I see this is where all the trouble starts. When we are so singularly focused on what is ‘mine’ and what is ‘yours’, there is no wonder that disputes, arguments, wars occur.

Cultivating gratitude for all that we have can go a long way towards easing this kind of conflict. It becomes easier to defuse our self-centeredness when we consider how lucky we actually are, and acknowledge how other people are not as fortunate as us. Over the past few years I have received several reminders of this in my email inbox, like this one that exhorts us to appreciate the things we often take for granted:

We forget how fortunate we really are.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who won’t survive the week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation you are ahead of 20 million people around the world.

If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than almost three billion people in the world.

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all. If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

This kind of message is powerful, and can certainly get us thinking about what we can be thankful for in our lives. I know when I read it I was quite moved by it. When I am willing to take a look at those less fortunate, to really consider what life would be like in their shoes, I cannot help but see my own life in a more positive light. This is the duality of life at play, how we can be touched more keenly by something when we contrast it with its opposite. Do we not most appreciate food when we are most hungry? Do we not revel in the spring after a long winter? Are we not most grateful for our health after a prolonged sickness? Just ask someone who has recently survived cancer if they are happier to be alive than they used to be.

Fine. But we don’t have to be dependent on deprivation or illness to jolt us into gratitude and the feeling of being fully alive. Besides that, I know from my own experience of these phenomena that once things return to normal I start to take things for granted again. And even if I tried to recapture the feeling, the effect would diminish. I learned about this when I was young. The more my mother would tell us to think of the starving children in Africa whenever we would complain that she didn’t make a cheese sauce for our broccoli, the less it really moved us. It may have kept us quiet, but if anything we felt more guilt than gratitude, and it didn’t really help us enjoy our cheese-less broccoli.

Authentic gratitude brings with it a joy that makes us feel connected to each other and to the world. Gratitude based on contrast and comparison rarely has staying power because at a deep level it actually strengthens the Ego Self mindset of division and inequality. It is no wonder that in the face of our disproportionate wealth and opportunity in the world, the message contends that ‘the majority can [truly give thanks], but most do not.’ It is not that we don’t want to hold up our heads with a smile and truly be thankful, it is that our Ego Self cannot see beyond itself. We become restless and start searching for more of what it thinks is missing.

It is only in challenging our Western Ego-Self perspective that we can awaken to a more permanent appreciation of our lives. Chief Seattle gives us a clue as to the character of such gratitude, one that does not focus on the disparities between us but rather what all humans share: life itself and the bounties that it freely offers. When he gives thanks for ‘every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect,’ his gratitude is founded not on have and have-not but on the wholeness of human experience and a celebration of who we are, in the highest and most abundant image that we could have of ourselves.

The holistic wisdom of the East has already begun to penetrate into the fabric of our society. But for many of us who have tasted from its cup, those precious moments of connectedness it brings are hard to maintain, because of our own heritage. We remain hesitant to fully surrender control to a collective sense of self because we take pride in who we are as individuals, and how we have defined our lives. We do not avoid the urge to compare, inherent in a material life, but we seek to no longer be controlled by it. And so we move to and fro, sometimes in fits and starts, between where we have come from and where we think we are going. The ebb and flow of our emerging consciousness is the challenge of our times. And it is the mandate of the new conversation.

The space of the new conversation emulates our connectedness with one another. And so it is not a conversation grounded in debate and comparison, evaluation and judgment. Rather it focuses on building trust, fostering openness and deepening awareness. Our journey of consciousness is not seen as a race or a competition, but rather a shared adventure. It does not measure success or failure, nor concern itself with who is more or less evolved than another. It recognizes that in the circle of life we have all been at times up and down, ahead and behind, and where we are in the moment is precisely where we need to be.

To truly participate in the new conversation is to honor that we are each moving at our own pace and in our own way. It is to recognize that consciousness grows in rhythms, like waves rising and receding on the beach. It is to pledge not only to cheer each other on when we rush forward, but also to break each other’s fall when we tumble backwards.

The rewards of such a venture are not to be understated. Fueled by our shared strength and courage we can make our way up the slope of consciousness, to reach a place where the solution to every problem that exists in our world is in plain view. From this place we can see the forest for the trees, and gain a panoramic sense that we are all one. For it is only in the truth of our unity that we will finally rest in the awareness that we truly have no quarrel with each other. As an old Native American saying goes, ‘No tree is so foolish as to have its branches fight amongst themselves’.

Our work together in the new conversation, like that of climbers whose fates and lives are strung together by ropes and pulleys, will bring us closer to the source of a sustainable gratitude: the incomparable view from the mountaintop of our vast abundance and magnificence.

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