Every day is a Winding Road
“I’m just wondering why I feel so all alone
Why I’m a stranger in my own life

Every day is a faded sign
I get a little bit closer to feeling fine

I’ve been wondering if all the things I’ve seen
Were ever real, were ever really happening.”

(Excerpts from song by Sheryl Crowe)

What is the human spirit’s role in shifting the consciousness of a culture?

We have misunderstood the significance of spirituality. The activity of the human spirit is not just about what happens in privacy to individuals. Those who thought they were cultural elites have taught us to see it simply as some kind of New Age personal disposition, which seems a bit airy-fairy. This is probably why the man we used to know as Cat Stevens was not inspired by it. Most of the Millennials (born between early 1980’s and early 2000’s) are wanting a dynamic vision that can show how their life can make a difference. We have forgotten that the strongest drive inside most adolescents is to make a difference by their existence.

Young people who are willing to lay down their lives

The Western world has been shocked by the number of sensitive young men who have been willing to blow themselves up to assure themselves of both a sense of significance and a place in heaven. At the very time Western Christianity seems be losing its confidence in the public square there is a rising tide of spiritual hunger. The Millennials are looking elsewhere.

Those who are studying approaches to de-radicalisation recognize the adolescents’ deep need for purpose and community as the key. Perhaps this underlies the current attraction to radical Islam for many young people, which bewilders an older generation, most of whom grew up believing spirituality and religion was just one of the many hobbies and interests of the leisured class. We confused religious ideology with spiritual belief. However the spirit, without our recognition, has been at work all around us, bringing into focus our yearnings for completeness.

Rising from within is our spirit’s quest for completion and meaning.

Looking back at the past 30 to 50 years it is now clear that we in the 21st century are in the midst of a profound shift of consciousness. The human spirit has been powerfully at work in ways that are invisible to most of us. Things that once seemed unthinkable have become law. While many of the older generation see most of these changes as a bewildering shift of morality, others – for good or ill – see them as a shift in human consciousness.

How did it happen?

Author Steve McIntosh is a leader in the integral philosophy movement. He is an honours graduate of the University of Virginia Law School and the University of Southern California Business School. In his book Integral Consciousness he attempts to show the flow of change in a culture and society. He likens it to the gentle, almost imperceptible flow of an incoming tide. Today’s cultural shifts are however, quite unlike anything seen before in human history. For those who can see, change is more like a raging tsunami than the gentle ebb and flow of what would have been expected in the past. A new consciousness is threatening to burst the banks of institutions and social arrangements that have in the past given us some kind of certainty and cohesion. According to McIntosh the raging tide of change is threatening to sweep away the structured certainties of our communal existence.

When the scaffolding goes will the building be strong enough to stand?

Respect for the social arrangements of marriage, family, church, government, law, and almost all internal and external authorities, is fading. The arrangements that had us limit our behaviour for the sake of others are now being questioned, often in the name of personal freedom. It seems to be uncharted territory.

Where have we come from? Is this where we really want to go?

McIntosh references one of the most influential philosophers in the Western intellectual tradition, Georg W.F Hegel (1770-1831), who believed – in direct contrast to the left brained mechanists of the Enlightenment – the human spirit is more engaged than most of his contemporary philosopher
s or our cultural elites would want to acknowledge.
Hegel sensed that God and spirit were invisibly and powerfully at work, having significant influence in shifting human consciousness and shaping the emerging culture. Those able to perceive what he called “the dialectical process at work in the development of history,” saw the unfolding of a fascinating story.

Most people are blind to the most important aspects of developing culture.

Hegel believed that most people cannot discern the meaning of significant events in their moment of history – that it is only in hindsight that understanding dawns. He showed that when wars and catastrophes come, would-be leaders react to their perceived situation, yet few of them are able understand the full meaning of their time, in their time.

Hegel’s understandings born out

How many leaders really got beyond their ego to see clearly the factors in play that produced the catastrophic 1st and 2nd World Wars? Even now the truth of the so called weapons of mass destruction that triggered the Gulf War and all that followed, is still unfolding.
Clarity and wisdom only come on reflection, often years after the events. In Hegel’s view, a shift of consciousness can provide a rare opportunity for a durable kind of wisdom to rise if people are helped to go beyond their cultural horizon and prejudices.

The search for durable wisdom

McIntosh believes that while this historical phenomenon is true, there is something of a unique spiritual process at work in our own time. This quiet but profound revolution has been at work while we were thinking about other things. And Hegel shows that it is a process has changed the way we see ourselves personally, collectively and internationally.

We have a limited field of vision.

It all happened while we focused on hot and cold wars, missiles, bombs, technological advances and social threats like television, computers and telecommunications. The threatened wars between communism and capitalism and the so-called wars on drugs and terror diverted us, so we missed seeing the real threat of economic and social melt-down that eventually took the world to the brink and has left us there.

Have we emerged with a new level of human consciousness?

McIntosh calls it the rise of integral consciousness and subtitles his book, How the Integral World View is Transforming Politics, Culture and Spirituality.
After the collapse of the Berlin wall, along with atheistic Communism, spirituality was free to come out of the closet. Even Albania, the most atheistic country the world had ever seen, was able to bask in its new found spiritual freedom.
The only place where spirituality is viewed with hostility and is under attack, is in Western Universities where the so called cultural elites, have conveniently tucked it away on the fairy tale shelf, labelled religion. They think they know, and feel they have grown beyond what they view as the source of Western spirituality – Christianity. These so-called educators are woefully ignorant about the dramatic shift in spiritual consciousness that is sweeping the world. They have as noted in the previous chapter, been left behind.