Into the Crucible

Some of you have, I think, downloaded Duane Elgin’s e-book Awakening Earth: Exploring the Evolution of Human Culture and Consciousness. (If not, you can retrieve it from his website). It is very much influenced by Jean Gebser’s cultural philosophy, and is worthwhile in that respect.

On pages 101 – 103, though, in a section entitled “Planetary Compression and Transformation”, he gives his own description of what I earlier referred to, and speculated about, as “Peak Chaos” or “the crucible of change”. It is, I think, worth quoting in full, because I think it is probably quite accurate about the climax to chaotic transition.

Planetary Compression and Transformation

A painful reality seems to lie at the heart of the evolutionary process: We seem to grow only through the push of dire necessity. If that is so, then the formidable challenges we face in the decades ahead seem designed to provide the crises needed to awaken the capacity for reflective consciousness so that we can employ this capacity to secure our long-term survival as a species. Although each stage of development has been immensely demanding, the coming stage may be the most painful and difficult humanity will ever face. Massive famine, civil unrest, and ecological devastation may be necessary to motivate humanity to genuinely unite in a shared effort to live together cooperatively on the planet. If so, we will not choose a path of sustainability without first looking directly into the abyss of a new dark age of planetary feudalism that reaches into an endless future of suffering and sorrow. Only after humanity comes face‐to‐face with its destructive potentials and divided past will we begin to build a unified future.

We are moving into a time of steel-gripped necessitya time of intense,planetary compression. Within a generation the world will become a superheated pressure cooker in which the human family is crushed by the combined and unrelenting forces of an expanding world population, a dramatically destabilized global climate, dwindling supplies of nonrenewable energy, and mounting environmental pollution. The circle has closed, and there is nowhere to escape. These forces are so unyielding, and the stresses they will place on our world are so extreme, that human civilization will either descend into chaos or ascend in a spiraling process of profound transformation. On the one hand, if humanity is unwilling to work for the advance of all, then the world will collapse into resource wars, and misery, poverty, and calamity will descend on the planet. On the other hand, unprecedented suffering may awaken humanity by burning through the unconscious denial, greed, and fear that now divide us. A new human alloy may emerge from the furnace of these superheated decades. Fiery compression may fuse the human family together with a new sense of identity that is strong enough to support the building of a sustainable global civilization.

It seems only natural that humanity would reach, and then extend beyond, its limits to growth. Because nearly every organism will work to exploit its ecological niche to the fullest extent, overshoot and collapse is a common occurrence in natural systems. Since we have never before had such powerful access to the entire planet as our ecological niche,” we have no experience in exercising restraint as a species and caring for the overall biosphere. We learn through experience, and we have never encountered this situation before; so we should not be surprised if a great tragedy is necessary to awaken the evolutionary intelligence of humanity. Great compassion will be needed to cope with the immense suffering that will result from the combination of our technological powers and our limited experience.

The suffering of the coming era will not be without value or purpose. The immense hardship of these transitional times will liberate humanity from its narrow concerns and restricted sense of community and will generate instead a strong sense of species‐identity. Despite all our good intentions, without this coming era of collective distress and adversity, the human family is unlikely to awaken to its global identity and evolutionary responsibility. It is the immense suffering of millionseven billionsof precious human beings coupled with the widespread destruction of many other life‐forms that will burn through our complacency and isolation. Needless suffering is the psychological and psychic fire that can awaken our compassion and fuse individuals, communities, and nations into a cohesive and consciously organized global civilization. pp. 101-103

-Duane Elgin, Awakening Earth: Exploring the Evolution of Human Culture and Consciousness.

5 responses to “Into the Crucible”

  1. Charles Leiden says :

    I appreciate that quote. I was just reading that section of the book. I had underlined the same passage and noted ‘today’. Awakening Earth was written in 1993 and at that time Worldwatch Institute was putting out there annual State of the World books. One of there ideas that they were talking about was that humans had “a window of opportunity” to decrease global warming and other ecological crises. I like this quote P. 295

    A meaningful reality requires the interaction of both matter and consciousness. Matter is blind in its evolutionary ascent without the knowingness that consciousness provides, and consciousness is blind in its evolutionary ascent without the grounding and aligning potential that matter provides.

    Evolution, then, is a mutually supportive process whereby matter seeks reflective affirmation of its presence through consciousness as much as consciousness seeks clarity of expression through matter. The goal of evolution is not to move from matter to consciousness; rather, it is to integrate matter and consciousness into a co-evolving spiral of mutual refinement that ultimately reveals the generative ground from which both continuously arise.

    • Scott Preston says :

      That’s actually a pretty good segue into my next post on the apparent acting up presently of “the collective unconscious” as Gebser’s “irruption”. Your comment provides a link between this posting and the next (which I’m still planning in my head)

      If I have one criticism of Elgin’s remarks so far, it is that the “archaic consciousness” wasn’t as impoverished or diminished as he describes. Sensuous consciousness, which is what it is, is very highly attuned and sensitive to spectra of energies that escape our dulled senses today, but which we observe still in animal consciousness — the animal’s abilities to sense energies that we don’t, eg cows with their uncanny ability to sense impending earthquakes; dogs and their extraordinary sense of smell, and so on. The archaic consciousness was very rich in its own way.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    This is a pretty significant article on national security and climate change

    However…. no one can speak of climate change and national security without self-contradiction because the problem is not one of national security but of global security. The idea that you can erect walls, razor wire fences, or fortresses against the rising tide of misery and wretchedness, as described here, is delusional. Unless you work for global security rather than narrow national security, this will do nothing to mitigate the very “chaos” mentioned in the article.

  3. abdulmonem says :

    Nothing blind in our well-designed cosmos, nor in humanity if it followed the straight path and stop denying the divine instructions ( the code of values)l and the messengers. Consciousness is the energy that gives meaning. In the divine realm the meanings take forms irrespective of time( before and after) and space ( here and there). In the human realm the set up is different where time and space play a major role in the human creative and destructive processes.This is the difference, the perverted refuses to acknowledge. The natural path is working and the humans are warned from letting themselves be besieged in that path which is given and asked to pursue the spiritual path which guarantees their personal and social growth in the truthful and just manner and guarantees also the betterment of the natural path and its positive reponses. Climate change brings home the planetary nature of humanity because the above knows no boundary, the above that wanted the below to imitate but alas the perverted ones have thrown the earth in bits and pieces. We are living in a decisive time that requires a decisive language,away from the language of indecision, speculation and fictional fantasy, Life is not a funny prank but a serious balanced endeavor. I am hopeful though when I read about the movements Scott mentioned that highlight the return to the code of values. Consciousness is one despite its different expressions, the root of everything.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Thank you for another eloquent comment, abdulmonem. I’m not sure I understood it correctly, but to this point:

      We are living in a decisive time that requires a decisive language,away from the language of indecision, speculation and fictional fantasy

      The spoken and written language are central themes in The Chrysalis. So are the Arts and Humanities. When we listen carefully, we find many of same thoughts, thought patterns and historic parables alluded to or expressed here being expressed in fictional books, film, theatre, video games and other art forms, even in “popular” culture. We’ve covered many of them: The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings and Mass Effect, et al.

      Language takes many forms other than the spoken and written word, including imagery, which tends to get a bad rap. I’ve known a few artists in my time, however, who didn’t communicate very well via speech and nonfictional writing, but spoke volumes by other means, so I’m not sure the languages of speculative fiction and fantasy should be discounted just yet. In fact, they may actually have a better chance of reaching, moving and inspiring hearts and minds than [fill-in-the-blank]-logics, which we are free to roam among without restricting ourselves to any one in particular.

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