Living the New Story at the Turning of the Year
This essay was written at the request of Findhorn New Story hub. Original article
It seems very clear that we are arriving at the end of an era, an era in which humanity was lulled by the illusion that we were living in a world of boundless natural resources in an environment we could exploit without limit and dump our waste just about anywhere except in the neighbour’s yard. In my first economics course at the University of Bern in 1960, dear professor Sieber described nature as “freie güter” – free goods, i.e. up for grabs. A period in which the super rich have been getting richer and richer. A few dozen of them possess as much wealth as the 40-50% poorest of the planet. (To call that the sum of obscenity is the understatement of the year.)
A world in which we Western nations could live the most profligate life styles compared to that of the rest of humanity. (In Dakar, I lived in the seventies for five years in a very modest bungalow between two shanty towns on the beach, one with many Lebou fisherman. The census agent who came to my house told me he had visited a wooden barrack of around 40 square meters (430 square feet) where 30 people, children included, co-existed in three shifts: the first shift slept on the floor of the barrack on the skimpiest mattresses or a simple blanket; the second shift went to work; and the third busied themselves outside or in the few rare spaces in the barrack (e.g. nursing mothers, families eating).
Until now, we lived in a world drenched with advertising messages which preached over and over the same materialistic gospel all round the world: buy our product and live life to the hilt and you will be smiling all your existence. (Have you ever seen a poster promoting a product with a scowling face?) Living this life seemed to be more important than becoming evolved human and spiritual beings. But…
Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall and…crash! Growing masses (not only a few illumined souls in Findhorn) are waking up to the fact that we have a very few decades – according to the top scientific opinions of our time – to put our house in order. This tiny COVID-19 bug is the first very gentle wake-up call to humanity. Yes, really gentle compared to what could be the next one: the latest scientific projections estimate that if temperatures continue rising (with the blessing of the Trumps in charge of many of the economies), at the end of the century the only temperate climates would be a thin wedge of lands spreading from Alaska, via North Canada and across the Northern tip of Finland and above all Northern Siberia, and the tip of South America. (One could possibly add a Greenland totally devoid of ice… but also of topsoil.)
But the New Story we are telling here is one of hope, and as an ontological optimist, I see great hope for our race if we manage to develop a collective wisdom, a shared vision and the courage to implement certain rather tough steps that urgently need to be taken.
So what are the key lessons we could learn if awake enough to hear?
I believe the key lesson is that for the first time in the recorded history of the human race, humanity as one body is having to face a similar challenge and hence, for many, realise our common oneness: we are ALL in this boat together, and not even the super rich multi-billionaires in their underground shelters can be absolutely positive that this creepy little bug, which after all is only 0,0005mm wide, will not manage to squeeze somehow into their underground den. And if this is true for this microscopic bug, it is still a hundred times more true of the economy which is floundering pathetically or the environment over which we have only indirect control through our collective behaviour.
If this tiny little beastie can bring to a quasi screeching halt a world economy, or at least to a slow-down that is making politicians wring their hands in despair, does it not point to that fact that the system we have built is too fragile to continue in its present mode of functioning?
What new evolutionary trajectory must we take to build the kind of new world capable of facing the huge challenges ahead, while at the same time bringing a quality of life which will make the present materialistic model seem utterly empty?
The first new story which recent evolution is teaching us is the oneness of all things, of all forms of life, of existence itself. Our oneness and interdependence not only with the Lebou fisherman in Senegal, the Inuits in the far North or the Berber tribesman of the Sahara, but with every living species, be they also in the animal or plant kingdoms. We are all one beyond what most of us have started imagining. This is because in the non-dual spiritual vision of great mystics like American Joel Goldsmith, creator of the teaching he called The Infinite Way (my main source of spiritual inspiration), absolutely everything happening on Earth is the divine expressing itself.
This vision of oneness (‘You are me and I am you’) is not only a nice poetic vision one expects in New Age articles; it is something that needs to be lived in everyday life. If every single life form on the planet is linked, then my concern for life needs to extend to every single one of my daily activities, including how I shop, how I dress, how I vote, etc. How are the 5-6 year old children in Pakistan or Bangladesh who tied knots with their nimble fingers in my carpets treated? Paid? I sit on the board of an amazing NGO which has brought more than 5,000 children out of mines high up in Bolivia and have seen videos of these 7-8 year-old kids pushing small wheeled trucks full of mineral through tiny tunnels 3,000 feet underground which sometimes cave in and bury them. Are some of these minerals incorporated in my jewellery or mobile phone? Am I aware that the average pair of blue jeans travels 35,000 miles (“and I love wearing that latest fancy model,” says my friend Lucy who has at least 20 pairs at home)? Do I purchase my food in a hurry or do I try to buy local bio produce even if more expensive? Do I have my savings account in a “clean” bank (yes, they exist) or in the nearest branch of a bank whose investment policies are the last thing I’m concerned about? These questions could continue almost endlessly.
In other words, being not only a conscious world citizen but a spiritual seeker with true integrity today also implies being a conscious consumer from morning till night and one who uses their income as something lent to them to use wisely rather than as a personal possession.
Over 2,700 years ago the Hebrew prophet Isaiah proclaimed what I consider one of the most powerful messages in the world spiritual literature. This old story is perhaps the most powerful New Story our world needs. The prophet was opposing the very ritualistic and spiritually rather meaningless fasting of the times to the living spirituality he believed his fellow citizens needed:
Is not this what I require of you as a fast:
to loosen the fetters of injustice,
to untie the knots of the yoke,
to snap every yoke,
and set free those who have been crushed?
Is it not sharing your food with the hungry,
taking the homeless poor into your house,
clothing the naked when you meet them
and never evading a duty to your kinsfolk?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and soon you will grow healthy like a wound newly healed.
(Isaiah 58: 6-8, New English Bible) (Underscoring mine).
Marx wanted a revolution. And got it. Isaiah visualised world healing… and we are essentially still waiting for it.
I have great respect for The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, which was an amazing document when it first appeared, but compared to Isaiah, Marx’s Manifesto seems in comparison like bedside reading for a retired Swiss banker. (I am Swiss and know Swiss bankers have very comfortable retirement plans). And maybe the most important aspect of Isaiah’s vision is that he stresses that our healing depends upon the healing of the world. I will never be whole until you are whole.
Will you join the ranks of those striving for this win-win world that works for all, rather than the win-loose world of today, where the rich are still getting richer while tens of millions have dropped below the level of absolute poverty ($1.85 per day according to the UN) due to COVID-19?
What are the fresh attitudes, modes of behaviour and skills we need as concerned citizens in the North to bring about this world healing which is the great demand of our times for all? They can be summed up in one word:
However, building this win-win world that works for all demands from us much more than just new attitudes (i.e. developing a lived consciousness of one-world citizenship), new modes of behaviour (conscious consumerism, learning and living unconditional love and forgiveness), new skills (multilingualism). Yet already this is a gargantuan task in our divided world.
Above all, it needs a common vision.
“Hitch your chariot to a star,” wrote the writer Emerson many, many years ago. You may not reach the star, but you will always go farther than if you hitch it to your television set or even your local church steeple.
So how do we go about developing this common vision of a win-win world that works for all that I believe is the ONLY vision which meets the demands of the times? (And this ‘for all’ includes of course all of nature.)
The challenge is huge, gargantuan. But it has to be compared to the cost and perils of relative inaction, or of just coasting along, fixing the economy with a few bandaids. Because the next shakedown could be so momentous (e.g. rapidly rising temperatures which could drown hundreds of thousands of miles of coastal areas, with not millions but tens of millions emigrating) one shudders at the very thought.
”Pierre, you called yourself an ‘ontological optimist’. I don’t see much optimism in your somber description.” It all depends on your staring point. I believe we live in an incredibly loving and compassionate universe which uses the exact means that are needed for us to learn. Sometimes we need a very tough spanking – and we are in the middle of the spanking as I write (end November 2020). Sometimes an incredibly loving caress. So I would like to end with the story of the most incredible caress I ever received in my life because I do not believe many people are deeply moved by intellectual arguments, including those reading this article. What touches people and makes them change are true stories or lived examples, which is why a great avatar of 2,000 years ago used parables as one of his favourite modes of communication.
The vision that grounded my life
Many years ago I was attending the board meeting of the largest grassroots peasant-farmer movements in Africa, of which I was a founding member, in Ouhigouya (Burkina-Faso, in the Sahel). The last day of the meeting I contracted dysentery and, as at the time I was following a path of pure spiritual healing (no medicine), I worked on it spiritually. On the plane the next day I was still working on the issue with my spiritual texts, affirmations, prayers and the like. Next to me was an unaccompanied young boy. The stewardess caring for him was incredibly loving. At one moment she spoke to him with such kindness I was suddenly overwhelmed by what I can only describe as a sort of cosmic gratitude which enveloped her and everything.
And suddenly, I was projected into a space beyond material space which was timeless and where I was aware of nothing else but infinite Love. I felt in my very essence that unconditional Love was the only cause, effect, substance, power, being, reality, identity, presence in the universe, that it was literally All-in-all.
The most wonderful thing of the whole experience is that my ego had completely disappeared. I had no sense anymore that anyone called Pierre Pradervand even existed. For an indeterminate period (as I was no longer in time) the divine consciousness WAS my consciousness. This is why this was the most glorious experience of my existence: infinite love manifesting as total freedom. The human mind (intellect, mental reign) had just vanished; all was on the level of this extraordinary feeling of the divine.
And suddenly, I was back in my seat on the plane. I felt something moving in my bowels and in a matter of seconds the dysentery had disappeared. But even that healing, however welcome, was nothing compared to the vision which brought with it a quality of knowing that human words just cannot describe – because it was far beyond normal human experience. I now feel with such a depth of certainty, of spiritual groundedness, that Love is the ultimate reply to all and any problems, be they personal, social or world issues.
And you and I are one with that Love. We are literally welded to Love and nothing will ever be able to change that, even our own doubts and fears. Love is our home, our haven, our springboard and our resting place – for always – because we are literally divine Love expressing itself.
I believe that this Love governs everything – the mouse under your floorboard, the cat on your lap, the volcano in the Philippines, the financial crash in X, Y or Z, the weather… the list is endless, all with the purpose of enabling us as individuals and as a race – to learn the lessons we need to learn. At one moment in my life absolutely everything in my existence came crashing down. And I really mean everything: a fabulous marriage, my amazing health, my energy, my workshops, my income and (the icing on the cake!) my 40 year spiritual path crashed to the ground All in the space of a few months. I was in the “valley of the shadow of death” for three and a half years, even with suicidal thoughts. (“What? That guy who published that book in French Learning to be happy?) And then when the needed inner cleansing was finished, grace smiled at me as on the plane and a person I had never met practicing energy healing in Leeds gave me in Geneva a treatment which pulled me out of my abyss.
And today I say, “Thank you,” for both – the plane and the abyss.
Maybe She knows even better than our world leaders where, how and when is the best means, path and moment for us to get there.