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Collective Darkness, The Undivided Individual, And The Whole Of Humanity

An op-ed in the Guardian begins by stating, “Everything is weird and everyone is wrecked.” It’s certainly true that everything seems very strange, but is everyone wrecked? Don’t we have to speak for ourselves, and not presume that because I’m “exhausted and brittle” everyone is?

American culture, if you can call it that, has gone global, from its hyper-individualism and consumerism to its pop and political cults. That’s obvious, though perhaps not as thorough as it appears from the belly of the beast.

It’s true “our political catastrophes are inseparable from widespread psychic devastation.” But America is not the center of the world -- despite what most Americans and even many commentators continue to believe.

Besides, psychic devastation goes further than the bromide, “public life has private impact.” The tendency to externalize the multi-faceted collapse of human civilization, and view ecological and societal breakdowns in terms of impinging on our private worlds, is very strong and very wrong.

The causes of “everyone is exhausted and brittle” are not merely the “the stresses, atrocities, divisions and divergences from norms of recent years.” And the reason there’s so much “incoherence and meaninglessness” is not that “the most powerful people in the country say and do whatever they want mostly without consequences.”

Superficial diagnoses produce superficial prescriptions, which contribute to incoherence and meaninglessness.

It’s difficult to not take things that aren not personal personally, but we can be aware of our personal reactions, and thereby lessen our reactions.

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Therefore "talking about how personal the impact is of this chaotic new era” just reinforces taking things personally. Personal orientations and reactions don’t matter; making them primary doesn't help.

It bears repeating: there’s no such thing as “my consciousness.” We don’t each have our own separate consciousnesses. The content and conditioning of the human past, through the family and its lineage, as well as the content and bedlam of the present, through many means, make up our shared, collective consciousness.

Moreover, consciousness isn’t delineated by different societies, with their diminishing cultural differences. The net and AI have made all of us flies trapped in the web. The question is, can we free ourselves?

Consciousness as we know it is its content. The content has become incoherent and meaningless not just because of “divergences from norms in recent years,” but because beliefs and traditions that formed and gave meaning to the world are irrelevant now. Indeed, beliefs and traditions haven’t just become irrelevant, but increasingly, sources of chaos and meaninglessness.

For example, Christian or Islamic fundamentalist reactionaries want to make America, Russia or Iran great again, and their wretched leaders capitalize on the underlying chaos they then catalyze. They would cut off the legs of anyone who dares to stand against them to cram the present back into their tiny Procrustean beds.

We have to face not only the incoherence and meaninglessness of belief and tradition, but the fact that consciousness as we’ve known it for tens of thousands of years has become the source of increasing disorder.

“Lost in a sea of unprecedenteds,” we find ourselves alone. But alone does not mean separate and isolated; its root meaning is “all one.” 

To insist that the remedy is to “be kind to one another” is not just shallow; it's utterly inadequate. It is to sympathize with a drowning person because we’ve already drowned ourselves.

The age-old prescription of nosce te ipsum – know thyself – applies now more than ever. However, self-knowing doesn’t just mean, “be aware of your strengths and limitations,” or accumulating knowledge about oneself from experience. It means being aware of one’s reactions, behaviors, emotions and thoughts in the present, and taking responsibility for everything within one.

The essence of the consciousness of humanity is enfolded within each of us. Therefore when we truly take responsibility for understanding and bringing light into the darkness within us, we are taking responsibility for human consciousness as a whole as well.

Because the whole is enfolded within the individual does not mean the self is the only thing that matters however. That is solipsism, the idea that the self is all that can be known. The “self-inquiry” trend in retreat circles is often as self-centered as mindless consumerism.

There are individuals with intelligence all over the world, but as far as I can see there is no such thing as “collective intelligence."

That’s because man the social and political animal is no longer viable. Inwardly dead humans can and must be superseded by vital human beings who can stand alone. We have nothing to lose but collective darkness taken personally.

We are never more isolated than when we’re absorbed in the mass and the mob; and we are never more whole than when we embrace solitude and stand alone.

Quieting and emptying the content of consciousness is what we must do alone; questioning and igniting insight is what we must do together.

That is what will transmute the collective darkness of the mass and mob, and awaken the latent intelligence of humanity.

Love does not flow from our social being, but from our solitary being.

Martin LeFevre
lefevremartin77 at gmail

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