The term “New Age”, in use in Metaphysical circles since the late 19th Century, came to be applied as a label for a major paradigm shift that occurred in our culture beginning in the 1970’s. About the only generalization that one can make about the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of different groups, practices and belief systems lumped together under the label “New Age”, is that they are all involved in what is typically referred to as a “new consciousness revolution”.
In the early years of this new facet of the culture, I saw a potential for those who were fully engaged to accrue the same benefits as those commonly attained by followers of the teachings of the early Oriental Occultism Schools of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, in the face of the many vicissitudes that life can throw at one, individuals who faithfully adhered to these early practices and exercises often displayed a level of serenity not typically displayed by the general population. It became apparent to me within just a few years though, that the potential was, for the most part, to remain unrealized.
While beneficial practices such as meditation became so widespread as part of the movement as to become mainstream, I was surprised to observe in many of the individuals who frequented our shoppe, an increase in intensity rather than serenity. Tolerance for alternative spiritual paths, other than the one chosen by that specific individual seemed to decrease, often to the point of expressed hostility (what I came to refer to as the “my guru can whip your guru” attitude). And, aggression justified as “activism” became the norm for many. It got to the point that all one had to do to disrupt “my sense of serenity” was to utter two words, “SAVE THE”. It didn’t matter what was to be saved, if you were not in complete agreement with the call to action (activism) then you must be at the very least unspiritual, and most likely, even evil.
How and why did a movement based on spiritual practices, many of which have been around for millennia, come to create such a shift in attitude, in such a large segment of our population, in so short a time?
In the study and practice of Metaphysics, or Oriental Occultism, as it was identified during the turn of the last century (19th to 20th), it was thought that the advancement of mankind as a whole, socially and spiritually, could be hastened through the efforts of individuals who worked first and foremost on their own personal advancement. Or, to put it another way, the overall culture would advance if there were enough individuals who became accomplished at the use of tools and skills acquired through personal study and meditative practices that changed for the better the way the individual lived their lives, the way they interfaced with their fellow-man, etc.
A major component of this path was the acceptance of personal responsibility. Even when outside forces resulted in a negative impact on the individual, they were held to be totally responsible, not for the event, but for how they responded to it. The emphasis was on a life lived by doing what was perceived as spiritually right, not on what was considered as either socially acceptable or desirable. It was believed that by providing a real world example to follow, the practitioner of Oriental Occultism would surely inspire others to engage in similar work, plus they would incrementally help raise the level of consciousness of the entire race.
There were shared spiritual objectives to aspire to, to be sure, but the act of reaching them was strictly a personal quest. There were advantages to working within groups that shared common goals, but the attainment of personal advancement was held to be only possible as the result of individual effort. The raising of consciousness of the human race was not expected to be a short-term process, but rather required a lifetime commitment, and any significant influence on the culture might require generations to take effect. The study of Metaphysics, or Oriental Occultism, took a tremendous amount of personal commitment and was viewed as anything but a part-time occupation.
During the Twentieth Century both the stated goals and the means of reaching those goals evolved, producing a significantly different approach. The overall emphasis of the current Twenty First Century form of the New Age Movement focuses on pretty much the same goals of cultural, social, and spiritual advancement, and share the same concerns for the welfare of our fellow-man as did the earlier Oriental Occultism Movements, but the goals are now most often presented in the context of humanity as a whole. The individual’s personal growth and development of Occult abilities, (as they were defined in the late 1800’s) receives less emphasis than the goal of bringing about global change for the “greater good” through group effort and group thought.
People are still expected to work on themselves, but the methods employed are frequently not intended to develop people as individuals, but seem designed instead to bring about a diminishing of their individuality in such as way as to bring them into alignment with the overall philosophy of the movement. In other words, to de-emphasize the individual aspects of the personality, molding the person in such a way that they become a synergistic component of a “Consciousness of Oneness” .
A recurring theme, the Consciousness of Oneness is usually portrayed in terms indicating that we are all interrelated, that what affects one affects all. Personal responsibility no longer refers to responsibility for one’s own actions and choices, but to a responsibility for the events and conditions that affect the welfare of others, producing a shared responsibility for all that happens in the world at large and placing upon the individual an obligation to help those who are perceived to be in need of economic and social assistance.
The justification for advancing the development of a Consciousness of Oneness is that if enough individuals hold the same view (think the same way) with respect to “spirituality”, and now “social systems”, a critical mass will eventually be reached and suddenly, the whole world will experience a significant positive shift in consciousness that will solve many of the world’s problems. There are several assumptions that go with using this approach that, in my opinion, are not based in reality and can result in negative consequences for the race as a whole.
A big one is the assumption that all humans are the same. That human consciousness differs only because of the influence of the cultural environment the person grew up in. There is both a certain arrogance and a level of naivety involved in believing that everyone else’s view of what constitutes spirituality would be the same as that embraced by the Consciousness of Oneness Movement, if only they could be brought to understand just how much they are really loved. This hypothesis assumes that the only stumbling block to the development of a worldwide Consciousness of Oneness is that less spiritual beings and organizations in the world are resisting it for their own greedy purposes.
The reality is that there are people in the world today that, no matter how much you express your love for them, still will want to terminate your existence just because you don’t fit the mold for what they consider to be the correct form of spirituality, or the correct social system to live within. It is their understanding of reality and their chosen path, and they believe it just as strongly as those who seek to bring about a Consciousness of Oneness. Not a criticism or an endorsement, just an observed fact.
Within the parameters of the Science of Metaphysical and Occult Philosophy, what is happening here and what are the possible effects and projected ultimate outcome of a movement towards a Consciousness of Oneness? In some branches of Oriental Occultism there is a tradition of a sharing of consciousness between members of a species, a Group Soul as it is sometimes called. That does not mean for example, that all dogs of the same species share one consciousness or soul, rather that there is a continuous connection between these consciousness’s (souls), that allows the sharing of experiences. That is how a fawn, just minutes out of the womb, knows to freeze and remain hidden if the mother indicates danger is near.
Group consciousness is what I believe Rupert Sheldrake, the English biochemist and plant physiologist is describing in his theory of morphogenesis as the morphogenic field. This sharing of experiences and information is similar in many respects to a modern computer network in which all data acquired by any one computer on the net is instantaneously and continuously available to all of the computers on the network in real-time.
The human body too is that of an animal, and displays many of the traits associated with having a group soul, or to use Sheldrake’s terminology, possessing access to the human morphogenic field. For instance, research has found that a newborn baby knows to hold its breath and attempt to swim to the surface when they find themselves in water, a reflex reaction that is equivalent to the pre-programmed at birth response of the newborn fawn in the example above.
But with humans, there is a difference. In addition to the group soul, there is what I call the Discrete Human Consciousness, discrete because it is separate from other Human consciousness; there is no sharing of information other than through direct communication utilizing both physical and non-physical means (e.g. esp). In Eastern traditions it is the Discrete Consciousness that reincarnates, that carries the memories of its past lives, but not of the lives of other Discrete Consciousness’s, past or present, as occurs in the Group Soul. In Western traditions, it is referred to simply as the Soul. How we came to be different is the subject of much ancient mythology and is too extensive a topic to go into here.
It is this Human Triad, consisting of an Organic Body, a Group Soul, and a Discrete Human Consciousness (Soul) that creates many of the personal challenges we face in life.
The Group Soul is the computer program for what we generally refer to as our “animal nature”, and has a great deal, but not all, of its processing capacity taken up by the maintenance and operation of the organic body. It’s how a person can be in a coma with no hint of the personality present, yet the body can continue to function, so long as it has liquids and nourishment artificially supplied. But it does much more that just provide operational control for the organic body. Keep in mind that in all other animals the Group Souls not only share information and experiences, but is the source for each animal in the species’ cognitive abilities as well. The Human Group Soul retains, and will continue to attempt to exercise its cognitive function, if not restrained or regulated by the Discreet Human Consciousness.
It is the Human Group Soul that Jung called the “Collective Unconscious”, that part of the unconscious that possesses the shared experiences of the entire human race. He also put forward that there was a “Personal Unconscious”, which possessed only those experiences that had been accumulated by the individual. In the language of the Human Triad Model the Personal Unconscious would be called the Discrete Human Consciousness.
The challenge we face is in ensuring that the dominant force in our lives is the Discrete Human Consciousness, not the Group Soul. The Human Group Soul, in addition to acting as the equivalent of a computer’s operating system, enhances our survival prospects by being able to make use of the accumulated experience of the race, but by its very nature its decisions are going to be shaped by its perception of what’s best for the survival of the organic body and of the species as a whole. At least some of its commonly shared data comes not from direct experience, but from beliefs that a significant portion of the Group Soul has come to accept with respect to social systems. The basis for some of these beliefs may not necessarily be founded on anything other than “everyone else is doing it”.
The Discrete Human Consciousness on the other hand, is the part of us that is intended to be the one engaged in intellectual pursuits; social, scientific and spiritual. It is an independent process riding on top of the Group Soul process. It is in the Discrete Consciousness where we theoretically make those decisions that help us rise above our animal nature, that allows us to engage in cooperative efforts that would appear to not be of an immediate direct benefit to ourselves, such as providing disaster relief to a country and a population thousands of miles from us, rather than restricting all of our efforts to just that which would enhance the survival of those in our immediate circle. It is here too that we should be intellectually analyzing the issues that we encounter on a daily basis relating to the social, political and spiritual aspects of our lives.
But what happens if we allow the Group Soul to dominate our Discrete Consciousness? In my research I have found that many people who hold passionate positions, especially with respect to social issues, when pressed for the justification for their position, can only repeat the buzzwords and the popularly expressed statements consistent with the commonly held beliefs of the movement they are passionate about. They are unable to come up with a personal justification, or examples of cause and effect, that could account for the strong emotions they experience. I want to make clear that these are people who, in all other respects, are kind, caring, intelligent individuals, sincerely working on following a spiritual path, which makes a statement delivered on their part with great passion, such as “I hate _____” really stand out as seeming to be out of character.
After a time, I came to realize that many people hold opinions based on one of two very different sources, The Human Group Soul aspect of their being, or their Discrete Human Consciousness. For the individuals referenced above, what became apparent was that some of their strongest opinions were based on a “well known truth” in the overall Group Soul Consciousness of a specific social, spiritual, or political movement, not from their own Discrete Human Consciousness.
What I often recommend to people when (1) they find themselves possessing a really strong opinion about an area of which they have very little personal experience, or (2) are not sure as to why it is that they hold a particular opinion, is that they stop and ask themselves the question:
Do I think what I think,
Because I think it?
Or, do I think what I think,
Just because I think,
That I think it?
A rather silly little limerick I know, but a good reminder that we should always be prepared to question, not the beliefs of others, but the beliefs and truths that we ourselves hold to be self-evident. Some things that we know or hold to be true may not be based on personal experience or knowledge, but are simply articles of faith. Nothing wrong with that, so long as we recognize the things we know by personal experience, and the things that we know on faith, and remember that there is a difference. If, on the other hand, you cannot find in your own mind a basis for an opinion, or a truth, not even as an article of faith, it may well be that it is an opinion, or a truth, that is not your own.
And this is the concern that I have for the development of a Consciousness of Oneness, if it is accomplished through the conditioning of its adherents to accept the group consensus without having done any critical analysis of issues at hand. If individuals begin to surrender the use of their intellect (Discreet Consciousness) to the rule of the Consciousness of Oneness as propagated through the Human Group Soul, one would expect to see just what I have observed in much of both the New Age Movement, and in the social/political arena today. The dominant driving force appears to be emotion, rather than intellect.
 A Consciousness of Oneness was described as the projected ultimate outcome of human evolution in the article; “Toward a Consciousness of Oneness” by Robert Atkinson, PhD in the Institute of Noetic Sciences’ April Issue of their “Noetic Now” Ezine at: http://www.noetic.org/noetic/issue-nine-april/toward-oneness/, an excellent article that presents a somewhat different view of this topic.