By Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, April 2019
Chapter 3 from Including the Earth in Our Prayers: A Global Dimension to Spiritual Practice
And now we stare astonished at the sea,
And a miraculous strange bird shrieks at us.
W. B. Yeats 1
THE FAULT LINE
Collectively we are walking along a fault line. There are vast pressures building up under our feet, primal powers in the depths which have been moving for centuries. We feel tensions in the air around us, the threat to the ecosystem, the conflicts of terrorism. But within the ground, greater forces are building, forces that belong to the future and not the present. Mostly we walk unknowingly, sensing something but having little knowledge of these vaster forces that are shaping our collective destiny.
The fault line on which we are walking is the place where two eras meet. When one era ends and another begins, forces of a whole different magnitude collide. Because these energies move so slowly, constellating over centuries, we do not recognize the enormous scale of what is taking place.
A physical earthquake occurs when two geological plates collide. The fault line is where the plates meet and the pressure erupts, breaking through the fragile surface of the Earth that up to that moment seemed so immovable. A different earthquake could come as the forces of the inner world break through the surface structures of our lives. The inner forces of our individual and collective unconscious are as powerful and as hidden as the physical forces that create continents. In our personal psyche they can break through into our conscious self, triggered by an event, causing an emotional or psychological crisis. Sometimes they erupt in the collective psyche in wars and migrations, shaping our collective destiny. They can cause immense suffering, as in the recent civil wars in South Sudan and Syria; or bring freedom, as in the sudden fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism in Europe, or the Arab Spring—though this was sadly followed by violent government repression and conflict, leading to what has been called the Arab Winter.
What will happen when such an earthquake comes? How will we respond? We know that our present patterns of response are inadequate. We have experienced our reactions to the disturbances in our world: how we contract around our fear and cling to our possessions in order to protect our “way of life.” How we project our fears onto “the other.” The global crisis of climate change and environmental collapse, despite its vast implications, for many evokes a strange apathy, a collective denial. Even the term “sustainability” now refers to sustaining our present energy-intensive materialistic culture, rather than real sustainability for all of life.
But what if the very earth that we stand on, on which we have built our lives, begins to move? Will we be able to find more adequate, more productive ways of responding? Many talk of a new story, a new era of global consciousness. But few understand the magnitude and power of the changes taking place. Mostly we notice
the surface changes—increased economic and political divisiveness, fear of terrorism or refugees, the spread of fake news. But these are just symptoms of something deeper, like the changing patterns of birds in flight before a storm.
In fact there are real signs around us, but they are written in a language we mostly have forgotten. And we cannot imagine what they are telling us, because the shifts that are taking place have not happened for so long that we do not have the images in our collective memory, except in myths of when the gods walked among us. Sometimes a poet may glimpse a truth and use his craft to translate the signs, as Yeats did when he wrote,
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.…
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand….
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?2
Yeats sensed that something was falling apart and something was waiting to be born. But he had only the images of the past to translate his vision. And the past is not what is happening. What is falling apart is the very fabric of our civilization, but what is to be born comes from the core of creation, from a new dimension of being. That is why we find it so difficult to read the signs that are all around us. We can feel the pressure that is building, the fault line in the midst of our consumer culture. But we have lived on the surface of life for so long that we have no sense of the real intensity of power that is building up beneath the surface, and no knowledge of the purpose of this power.
When one era ends and another begins, power is generated to bring the new era into being. The power is needed to help dissolve the images and structures of the past, to destroy what is old and help the new to be born.
Collectively, we must let go of many patterns and ways of relating if we are to embrace an entirely new way of being and living together. For example, we will have to move beyond the sense of security we have tied to material prosperity. Attachments around money, material goods, and property will have to give way to a deeper source of safety and well-being if we are to move with the changes that are coming.
Our outdated patterns are already losing their value for us. Many sense this, and are feeling a deep anxiety around issues of security, around fear of not being in control. But are we looking closely at the source of this anxiety? Do we recognize the changes that are possible? Are we allowing the old to fall apart, to reveal the new?
Despite deep fears of economic instability, terrorism, or being overrun by migrants, the anxiety that is present in our culture does not come from any outside force. We fear that we are losing our way of life, and in that we are correct. But not in the way we understand or react to. The danger of climate change is real, but in the depths of our psyche we are sensing that something in our foundation no longer holds. This is the deep reason for our collective unease, which we project onto outer forces that appear to threaten us.
It is time to look closely at what is really happening. The mystic and spiritual practitioner has always known that in order to find the cause of any effect we have to turn our attention inward—to look at the inner patterns. We look to the hints in our dreams; we read the images of our psyche that are not censored by our conscious conditioning. When Joseph interpreted the dreams of the seven years of plenty and the seven lean years, Egypt was saved from a catastrophe.
And yet we have rejected the images of the inner as belonging to a mythological past or the psychiatrist’s couch. Instead, we listen to the voices of the outer experts. But with so many newscasters, political and economic analysts, and even spiritual teachers, how do we know whom and what to trust? And do we even know how to listen?
If we look carefully, we can find a thread that links it all together—links our dreams and the stories on the news, links the trivial, the mundane, and the sensational. There is a thread that is our collective destiny, and it is inside each of us, as well as in the world around us.
This thread is so simple it is overlooked. It is so ordinary we pass it by. It is in our hope, in our need to be loved, in the warmth of a handshake or the touch of a kiss. It can be found in empathy, the most basic connection between human beings, not the words we say but in feelings and the very nature of communication. It is in the simple fact that we all live together on this planet—the primal knowing that we are one.
Because we live at the end of an era, life has apparently become more complex. This is one of the signs of things falling apart. With our computer-generated models we look for complex answers to our problems.
The signs of the emerging culture are not complex. They are in patterns that unify, that bring things together, rather than destroy and break things into myriad pieces. The danger arises when we turn away from what is offered, through either ignorance or arrogance—when we stick to our models of ever-increasing complexity rather than recognize the simple human values that belong to our being.
We do not have to save or protect our culture. We do not have the power to resist the dynamics of change, even though we are collectively experiencing many forces of regression. Nor do we have to create a new culture. We have neither the energy nor the knowledge for such an undertaking.
But we do have a responsibility: to listen, to love and be loved, and to become aware of what is really happening. We have to accept that we cannot save the Earth, just as we cannot defeat the forces of corruption. Enough battles have been fought, and the Earth is a living being that can heal itself, with our love and cooperation.
What we always seem to overlook is the simple wonder of being human, which means to be divine. We are the meeting of the two worlds, the place where miracles can happen and the Divine come alive in a new way. We are the light at the end of the tunnel. We are the warmth and the care and the compassion, as much as we carry the scars of our cruelty and anger.
This coming change is so fundamental—it is a return to what is simple and essential, what is basic to life. And yet it is not easy to live. Many forces push us outwards towards complexity. These are the forces that take away our joy and demand that we work harder and harder. They drive us into conflicts we do not need and always try to obscure the simple joy of life, of being together and valuing our companionship. Fast food and mega-movies may glitter and catch our collective attention, but we know in our hearts that something fundamental is being overlooked. We do not need to drown in prosperity. Nor do we need to impose any beliefs on others. We have simply to recognize what is real and live this in our own lives. What is real has the energy and light to free us from so many imposed beliefs. If we allow it, this light and energy can even free us from the belief in consumerism, which feeds the greed that is destroying our planet.
In the simplicity of our human values—love and joy and hope, care for each other, care for the Earth—we are all connected together. But we can only discover this connection when we return to this simple core of being. Otherwise we will fall apart along with a world that has lost its center, a world that believes in its own advertising slogans. When we return to this potential of the heart, we will see what is being born, how a linking together of individuals, groups, and communities is taking place, how patterns of relationship are growing—and how life energy is flowing through these patterns. Once again humanity is recreating itself, creating a new civilization in the midst of the old.
In our focus on complexity we have overlooked the rule that the more complex something becomes, the more its energy becomes scattered and fragmented. Human beings have a unique role as the microcosm of the whole, which means that we can carry the whole multiplicity of creation within the simplicity of our essential nature. In this simplicity we carry life’s oneness, and when we relate with love we relate to all of life.
When a human being is not scattered in the “ten thousand things,” she is very powerful. This is a part of the purpose of spiritual practice: as we return to our essence we become more focused and able to claim our own power.
In the simple core of our being we carry the imprint of the Divine in all its miraculous nature. Because “God is a simple essence,” life’s divinity is able to express itself more directly in our love and joy and hope and other simple qualities. Reconnecting with these qualities, we reconnect with the divine within us and with the power of the Divine. When we live these qualities, we bring the power of the Divine into life. This power or energy can move through the patterns of relationship that are currently being created and can flow into life. In this simple way, life can regenerate itself.
The signs of this regeneration are all around us, in the way people are coming together. The internet and social media are an essential part of this process because they can connect people regardless of the barriers of physical location, race, background, nationality, or life experience. Different people in all parts of the world are linking together, forming networks of shared interests. Despite the dark drive to collect, manipulate, misuse our individual data, spread fake news, many of these communities are outside the control of any hierarchy or government. They belong to life itself.
New and diverse patterns of relationship are forming. We have yet to fully recognize that these patterns of relationship are so essential, that they are a real response to the problems and complexity of the times. They are not just for conveying information. They are creating a new, fast-changing, organic interrelationship of individuals and groups. Something is coming alive in a new way.
People are making connections on many different levels. We are linking together through global trade, travel, communication, conferences, and other forms of gatherings. In the last century the migration of spiritual paths and traditions from the East to the West worked at a deeper level to make a global connection, a merging of East and West, creating a light that is “neither of the East nor of the West.”
We have yet to realize that this is all a part of the organism of life recreating itself on the pattern of oneness. We see these changes with the eyes of individuality and fragmentation that focus on the individual parts, still caught in the complex images of a decaying culture. The real picture is an emerging wholeness that is a life force in itself. Life is reconnecting itself in order to survive and evolve.
In these organic, non-hierarchical patterns of reconnection a new life force is flowing. This life force has the urgency that is needed if it is to survive and change at this time of crisis. It also has the power of oneness, and the simplicity of bringing people together. It is about sharing rather than possessiveness and isolation. It is the deep joy of knowing that we are one life. And it carries the imprint of divine oneness, which is stronger than any pattern of resistance.
PREPARING FOR THE STORM
How does the simplicity of life’s new forms relate to the powerful shifts that are happening under the surface, the seismic dimension of outer changes? There is a beautiful balance in the way the organic patterns of life are complementing the changes in the depths, how human life on the surface is generating new forms to balance the inner shift.
These emerging patterns of interrelationship also serve a practical purpose. They are creating a container for new energy that is coming into life. This new life force is already surfacing through small fissures and cracks in the veneer of our civilization. It is generating new ideas, creating alternative ways of living.
But when new energy does not flow into new forms, it can constellate into conflict, in the old patterns of duality expressed in the outbreaks of terrorism and the power dynamics of repression. We are witnessing increased divisiveness, tribalism, different groups shouting that they are right. Social media that brings us together is also a megaphone for animosity and discord. Tragically, social media, and especially Facebook, was “weaponized” to fuel the systematic disinformation and persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar, contributing to ethnic cleansing. What we are facing now is the emergence of a new archetypal energy, an energy that can create wonders, or take us into deeper suffering.
The archetypal world is a dimension of undifferentiated primal power. It can create great civilizations and terrible wars. An archetype that suddenly erupts into life can be devastating. Historically there have been examples of such moments, as when the wild force of Genghis Khan and his warriors destroyed the civilizations of the East. Genghis Khan constellated a powerful archetypal energy that initially manifested through violence and destruction.3 But there are always signs that point to such dynamic shifts, signs that help humanity to go with the flow rather than resist the changes. Many families, like that of Rûmî the Sufi poet, migrated west before the Mongol hoards attacked.
The danger arises when we do not notice the signs. If we are too identified with the old ways and our position or identity within them, we will miss the chance to pack up a few possessions and move on. Resisting an emerging archetype will only lead to disaster. It may appear for a few years or decades that one can hold back the tide, clinging to one’s old values and images of security, but a life based on denial of the real forces at work is often haunted by a sense of unreality, as must have been experienced in the last dying days of the Roman Empire. There is also an instinctual unease, a primal insecurity, which no amount of protection can dispel.
Much of our present insecurity comes from a deep knowing that our governments and cultures are planning for a future that will never happen. They may talk about economic expansion and increased prosperity, but we sense that these are just sand castles as the tide comes in. Human beings have an instinctual wisdom deeper than our conscious minds. We know that we are being lied to, but collectively we continue with our buying and selling, knowing no other way of life—even when our dreams are pointing to a different reality:
A great storm is coming, the sky is darkening, a great wind tears the firmament apart with lightning and thunder. I wonder what is approaching. Am I watching people on a ship about to be tossed in a great sea and at the mercy of this storm?
Many people today have dreams of storms, tidal waves, and great devastation, and yet when we look around us at the shopping malls and well-stocked supermarkets, we see no cause for this fear. What do we do with our fear? What do we do with the part of us that is awakening to the possibilities and dangers that are coming?
The only response is to continue our daily life, because there is nowhere else to go, nothing else to do. In our global era there is no “safe place.” This coming change will happen to the whole planet.
And yet we can be prepared; we can work to welcome the change. There is no point in stockpiling provisions or becoming self-sufficient. These are protectionist responses emanating from and perpetuating old patterns. Instead we can create a space within us so that the deep, instinctual knowing that belongs to our essential nature and to the Earth to which we are connected, can come to the surface. We can listen to our dreams and welcome a future that we do not yet know.
Mystics are prepared for this. We are used to standing on the edge of what is known and welcoming the unknown, the unknowable. We are trained to respond from a place within us deeper than any cultural conditioning—a place that belongs to the Divine. We try not to be imprisoned by any form or belief, and always allow our attachments to be swept aside by the greater power that comes from within. And we know that behind any apparent misfortune lie the love and care of our Beloved.
This attitude allows us to stand in the very axis of change, on the edge of the fault line, where we can help the new energy come into being. We are not frightened of devastation because we have already been destroyed by love. We are used to power greater than we can comprehend. And rather than being caught in outer dramas, in patterns of action and reaction, we have learned to rest in presence and stillness.
In the simplicity of our ordinary selves, living our ordinary lives, with our prayers and devotions we create a container that can help humanity make this transition. Rooted in the depth of our being we link together the inner and outer worlds so that the energy can flow more freely into the outer. And we do this not out of fear, which would contract us, but with love and joy to be of service, knowing that another cycle of revelation, another chapter in the story of our world, is unfolding.
FORCES OF TRANSFORMATION
That we live in unsure times is not just a cliché. Forces that have not been in our world for millennia are now present. Some of these forces, specifically oriented towards change and transformation, are here to help in this transition; there are energies, sparks of consciousness that have created the ideas behind some of the new technologies that have revolutionized our world, like the world wide web, the smartphone, solar panels. There are also new technologies, new ways of healing, waiting to be created, ideas that belong to the next era. The balance is always to bring them into the world without their true intention being devoured by the darkness of greed and worldly power.
Other forces are creating the foundations of the new age, working deep in the unconscious, constellating archetypal and spiritual patterns that will form the basis for the values and beliefs of the future, creating the sacred and healing symbols of the coming age. Still other forces are designed to disturb and destroy the present structures, those that belong to our hierarchical, patriarchal culture. Although these forces are necessary to clear away the past, they are less apparently beneficial and bring an energy of chaos and destruction. And then there are the forces of reaction and resistance, which are only too evident at this time, energies that draw our attention away from love, compassion, kindness, our basic human empathy.
Mostly we are unconscious of these forces; we feel their effects without knowing their true origin. We sense that something is changing, but often we react out of our fear or insecurity. Or we may become over-enthusiastic and in our excitement lose our center. Our groundlessness leaves us ineffective, and only makes matters worse.
We need both common sense and also a certain cunning to guide us. The ancient Greeks had a word for this quality of cunning: metis.4 Metis was essential for sailors who needed to find their way through uncharted waters, and also for those who journeyed inward into the underworld. The forefathers of our Western culture regarded metis as a vital means for finding one’s way in the unknown and the dark, for discovering the truth in a world of deception. We see cunning as a negative quality, as a means by which we cheat and are cheated. But surrounded, almost drowning in all the illusions of today, a quality of cunning can be a helpful quality.
Many illusions will come to the surface and be blown away. One of the primal illusions to resist is that of saving the world. The lover is here in service to her Beloved. We do not know what species need to survive, just as we do not know what new species will be born. We do not know what part of our civilization needs to be destroyed and what should be redeemed. We do not know what is a relic from the past, what belongs only to this time of transition, and what is part of the future. We do not know the purpose of this stage in our shared evolution. It is arrogance to think that we do.
We need to acknowledge that something is happening beyond our control. One of the features of our patriarchal culture is a desire to control our environment, and as a result we are fearful of what we cannot control. We are terrified of chaos, although anyone who has experienced real transformation knows that chaos is a necessary ingredient of true creativity. Without an element of chaos life stagnates.
Amidst these powerful forces that are reconstellating our life there are other, more minor energies awaking. They have a magical quality, and while some are beneficial, others are mischievous, not abiding by the rules of the status quo. They are a foretaste of the coming era when life’s magical nature will resurface, as many of the barriers that separate the inner and outer worlds will fall away or be dissolved. We have forgotten or dismissed the magical nature of creation, but gradually the blinkers that have shielded us from this dimension of life will be removed.5 We will find that our rational perception is quite inadequate to explain everything that is happening, and we will discover that we are part of a world full of the unexpected and unbelievable. Our present world seems so substantial and defined, but particle physics has shown it to be patterns of interrelating energies, as shamans have long understood.
Forces belonging to another dimension are also affecting us. These are forces that relate to our place within the cosmos. The evolutionary shift that is taking place concerns not just our planet in isolation. We are a part of an immense pattern of interrelated energies we call our galaxy. As we step into an awareness of oneness and the interrelationship of all of life here in this world, our perspective will begin to include the cosmos as a whole.
How these cosmic forces affect us is unknown, as it has been many millennia since we have experienced the direct impact of such transformative, evolutionary energies. But patterns of relationship are being created that stretch far beyond our individual planet.
We see only too easily the surface conflicts of our present time, and much work is needed to heal the wounds of our divided and abusive culture. But sadly our collective consciousness is very limited, aware of only a very small spectrum of the vastness in which we really live. There is a need to hold an awareness of what is beneath the surface, to sense, even if not to fully understand, the deeper forces at play. It is these forces and our response to them that determine our collective destiny. As I have mentioned, the changes we are beginning to experience have been building up for centuries, both the outer ecological crisis and the inner shift. We need to become pioneers of consciousness who can stand between the worlds, welcoming the energies of change. We may not get to fully experience these changes in our own short life, but we are working for seven or more generations.
For all those who care for the Earth and for their children, grandchildren, and souls yet to be conceived, this is work that is worthwhile, a real contribution. Many storms may come, both hurricanes that shake our physical world, and inner violence that can tear at the fabric of our civilization. Those who belong to love are prepared to travel light, to navigate these currents of the known and the unknown. Like the sailors who had only the stars and metis to guide them, we learn to read the signs in the world around us and in our dreams. In our practice and our presence we become part of these changes. We also bring a quality of love and consciousness to these inner energies, and in a subtle way help them to constellate into patterns that belong to the unfolding oneness.
This all may seem like a dream, a mirage in the desert of today’s wasteland. But sometimes all we have is a dream to follow, a sign on the horizon, a hint within the heart.
- 1. “Her Triumph,” Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, p. 310.
- 2. “The Second Coming,” Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, p. 210.
- 3. Later, the empire founded by Ghengis Khan created an environment that encouraged trade, the exchange of ideas, and religious tolerance.
- 4. See Peter Kingsley, Reality, for a fuller exploration of metis in the teaching of the ancient Greeks.
- 5. The popularity of the Harry Potter series points to our longing for a world not restricted by the blindness of the “muggles.”