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Meditations: Cartoons and Collective Consciousness

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

Cartoons and Collective Consciousness

The last yellow light of an opaque afternoon sun reflects off the massive slabs of volcanic stone that form the sheer sides of the little canyon within the big canyon of Upper Park.

Every crack and crevice stands out vividly, evoking beauty and mystery beyond words. The light reveals the living quality in stone of which one is rarely conscious, and for a moment, the overwhelming beauty of the earth leaves one transfixed.

Far below, the raging river (a creek most of the year) fans out, washing over the rocks 100 meters down. Due to the sheer walls of the small gorge, the sound reverberates loudly up to the precipice where I stand. Its clarity, combined with the slight feeling of vertigo, obliterates separation in space.

The mind, which is already deeply quiet from a sitting beside a relatively placid section of the stream, soars with the grandeur of the place. A feeling of flight comes over one, and I have a fleeting sense of dropping off the cliff and gliding above the watercourse, just like the hawks.

A few steps down the trail, and I come across the first wildflower of the year, a delicate violet thing growing between jagged rocks on the descending path. Back on the gravel road, I hear the honking of a large flock of Canadian geese, the last rays of a sun now below the horizon glinting rhythmically off their wings.

There is no method to meditation. When one simply learns how to observe one’s thoughts and emotions without division, the mind slows down, and one’s thoughts become a trickle. Then the heart is cleansed of hurt and anger, fear and sorrow, and it expands to include all of humanity, which is contained within each of us.

Extraneous and recurring thought patterns (including beliefs and traditions), which give rise to hidden and accumulated emotional patterns (in individual and collective consciousness), are the root of the nightmare man has made of the world. One cannot bring about a transformation within oneself through effort and will, since effort and will are products of thought.

Freedom arises from understanding, and understanding begins and ends with self-knowing. To understand oneself is to understand the movement of thought and emotion as it actually occurs within oneself. (I make a distinction between emotion, which is of the past, and feeling, which is of the present.)

With right observation, the infinite stream of life absorbs thought and emotion as they arise, leaving space for beauty, mystery, insight, love, and God.

We like to think we are individuals, especially in the West. Indeed, it’s an unquestioned ideology. And the plague of individualism is growing rampantly. It is the new religion, much more insidiously destructive of the old ways and values than colonialism ever was.

Of course, we are not individuals, in the sense of being our own separate person with our own independent will. The word ‘individual’ literally means ‘not divided,’ exactly the opposite of the usual meaning of the word.

The justifiable fear of the corrupting power of individualism is certainly one of the main subconscious currents that Muslims all over the world are rioting against after the publication of the cartoons in Denmark. The insignificance of the trigger demonstrates the depth of the resentment and anger in people in the Muslim world, who rightfully feel under attack on all levels by the West.

The collective mentality of the Muslim world scares the bejesus out of people in the West. But the Western mind, in its extreme and unexamined individualism, is as conformist as the rioters torching embassies and calling for the deaths of cartoonists and editors. Such people are scary, but it is incumbent on Westerners to ask why they are so afraid of us.

The Western world has eviscerated its own traditions, and, by the sheer momentum of its material success, would destroy all traditions. That is one aspect of the ‘insult’ Muslim people rail against.

To my mind, the “clash of civilizations” comes down to those who still live within traditions, railing against those who have eroded their traditions, and who are mindlessly mowing down everyone and everything in the world.

In that light, to talk about the unconditioned mind seems absurdly irrelevant. But it’s all the same polluted stream of human consciousness. Letting go and stepping out of the stream is the true revolution, if humankind is to survive and flower as a species.


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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