I spend a lot of time pondering what the deeper forces that are shaping world events might be. News stories tell us facts about the world we inhabit. But they often just skim the surface of what’s going on at a deeper level.
We rely on philosophers, cultural commenters, spiritual teachers, and others to help us understand these kinds of truths, but what fascinates me is trying to connect the dots between the two.
While on occasion there are thoughtful articles that break this pattern in the mainstream media, journalists are so busy scrambling to meet deadlines and hold onto their jobs in corporate-dominated media environments that most of the time, they don’t have time to step back and look at the deeper forces shaping our world at this interesting, albeit troubling, time in history.
Academia used to fill this void to some extent, but because university education is increasingly involved in supporting corporate agendas, it seems all too often that we can no longer can rely on it to supply these broader perspectives either.
Between Two Worlds
The narratives we’re presented with about the world and important world events are constructed narratives.
Some may remember Carlos Castaneda, who wrote many books that studied the life and ways of Mexican shaman. His term for this was “consensus reality."
But when there are huge changes taking place in the world picture, consensus reality dissolves because consensus dissolves. Things begin to seem chaotic, unanchored, and impossible to understand because, basically, we’ve lost our map of reality.
While this feels alienating and troubling, the good news is that what’s being experienced isn’t a permanent condition. Rather, it’s just a characteristic of a transition when the old world is dying and the new one is still being born.
The Roles of Tribalism and Spirituality
In this context, we might reflect that history has been described as “the lie commonly agreed upon,” then remember Peguy's famous saying that “What begins in mysticism ends in politics.” This beckons the realization that, to understand changes in the world, we have to peel back the surface of things and look deeper at the powerful forces behind world events including spirituality, religion, and culture.
These are sometimes grouped together under the heading of tribalism. But tribalism can also include other powerful beliefs such as a belief in science and technology as the ultimate arbiter of truth.
We see this most obviously manifested in the increasingly disturbing transhumanist movement, which appears to be an attempt to replace spirituality with science.
Here in the US, what the media presents to us as merely political issues is often underpinned by powerful spiritual or religious themes, and these deeper aspects are rarely discussed or even acknowledged.
Natural Living v. Artificial Living
Another huge underlying theme is the notion of natural v. artificial living. In my opinion, the biggest undercurrent in what we see going on in the world today (especially here in the US) is a kind of tug of war between accepting an artificial but deliberatively constructed reality v. primarily focusing on rebuilding and restoring the natural world.
We’ve been systematically destroying the Web of Life through many decades of living an unsustainable consumer lifestyle coupled with certain out-of-control technologies that serve to accelerate it.
Unfortunately, this is not what we might call a fair fight. This is because those on the side of the technology juggernaut (i.e. powerful corporations) are using immense public relations and media resources to paint this rather ugly reality as something desirable that will benefit humankind. Nothing could be further from the truth.
My own connection to this issue derives from 22 years of studying Tai Chi and Qigong, both very rooted in the need to connect with natural world on a deep level.
There are no Taoist organizations that exist. Rather it’s an oral tradition that goes back thousands of years.
The ancient Taoists valued our connection with nature above all else. And, like yoga, its practices were designed in its deeper manifestations to bring us into harmony with it.
The Transhumanist Movement
In the strange and at times unrecognizable world we see unfolding today, the value of even having this connection is being gravely threatened by the dehumanizing idea that both our core humanity and the natural world that sustains us are deficient in some way and can be “improved” through the use of technology and genetic engineering.
A lot of this thinking can be traced to a Silicon Valley secular philosophy called Transhumanism.
The extremes of transhumanist thinking appear to be a kind of “mad science,” something that writers such as Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, and many science fiction writers have warned us about... warnings that have clearly gone unheeded.
A False Solution
According to these cheerleaders of endless progress and technology as a kind of new but soulless religion, the solution to our existential crisis is to re-engineer the entire planet.
Animal species are dying and going extinct? No worries: with genetic engineering, we can create new ones.
Large factory farms are inhumane to animals and creating unhealthy food? No problem: we’ll use genetic engineering to create artificial meat in huge vats.
Ecological catastrophe is threatening the planet and its ability to sustain 8 billion people? No worries, we’ll colonize Mars and the moon.
It’s a horrendous form of abandonment of the natural world.
While much of the technology we’ve invented can be beneficial, Western culture especially has generally not learned how to use it wisely.
And rather than acknowledging how we’ve brought on this existential world crisis by not fully considering the unintended consequences of our consumer-driven lifestyle, the solution being offered by governments and corporations now working together is simply to do more of the same under a different framing and naming.
Just because the word “sustainable” is used in conjunction with some initiative doesn’t mean that it’s beneficial or desirable.
An Alternative Path
Instead of buying into the false narrative of transhumanism and its plans to re-engineer reality to suit the vision of elites who have their hands on the levers of technological power, the real work ahead is to reconnect with the natural world and the Web of Life.
I don’t believe that it’s too late. We need to resist how technocratic leaders with increasing control over government are forcing the use of very harmful technology systems concerning which we’ll have no choice and no say.
We need to restore Planet Earth and in the words of cultural historian Morris Berman, “reenchant the world”.
This is the real work ahead of us.