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EnlightenNext Editors’ Blog

Integral Civic Consciousness (Think About This)

by Ross Robertson

John BunzlJohn Bunzl is a successful UK businessman with a simple yet powerful idea for how to practically address difficult international issues like climate change. It’s called Simultaneous Policy (“Simpol” for short), “a peaceful political strategy to democratically drive all the world’s nations to apply global solutions to global problems.” Sound interesting? It did to us, too. So after meeting Bunzl at EnlightenNext’s Midsummer Renaissance Festival in London this past July, we began to explore some of his fascinating “integral” critiques of progressive politics and the controversial idea of global governance.

According to Bunzl, even people whose lives are deeply informed by “world-centric” values, and who are already familiar with things like integral philosophy and an evolutionary worldview, tend to approach issues of global politics from more limited “nation-centric” points of view. In other words, our “civic consciousness,” as he puts it, often lags behind our perspective on things like economics and technology, whose global forces and dynamics we more easily appreciate. Because of this lack of “integral civic consciousness,” Bunzl explains, many of us typically fail to recognize the deeper systemic nature of seemingly intractable global problems, and therefore misplace our efforts to change things—or simply fall into debilitating cynicism and despair: Continue reading…

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In Search of True Scenius: 5. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris

by Elizabeth Debold

Over the weekend I had the delightful experience of seeing Woody Allen’s latest: Midnight in Paris. Now, Woody Allen and I go way back—to the early stuff, like Bananas (1971), or even Take the Money and Run (1969). But when Allen moved on from Love and Death toward Crimes and Misdemeanors, I moved on from Woody Allen. It’s only been recently, spurred on by my editor-in-chief Andrew Cohen’s enthusiastic endorsement, that I’ve begun to watch him again. Midnight in Paris is charming and funny—Allen at his lightest, enthralled by the luminosity and history of Paris. And of course, the painfully hilarious dialogue that reveals the viscera of his characters in a few deft lines. But it’s not just a charming movie. Allen is ruminating on the relationship between the past and present—why is it, he is asking, that we so often romanticize the past, believing that there was a time when human life was so much better than now? Why do we create these ideas of a Golden Age where everything was more and better than the present?

It’s an interesting question. Allen, to a great extent, implicates the present in his query about our fondness for temps perdu. (WARNING: This post is going to be something of a spoiler—so you might want to watch the movie first.) The present, says his protagonist Gil Pender (played by the adorable Owen Wilson), is where the mundane happens. His character’s nostalgia for a better, more creative and romantic life, sets his heart on the past. But Allen’s character, of course, isn’t the first to be mesmerized by a fantastic past. The idea that the past is better than the present is a notion that harkens back to the Greeks. They imagined a Golden Age followed by periods of increasing decline—from Silver to Bronze, Iron, and the unnamed but grim present. The Hindus also spoke of a similar decline, landing us in the horrible Kali Yuga, where we are now. (And the Brahma Kumaris, a contemporary spiritual group building on Hindu ideas, also has a similar belief system.) Moreover, the entire myth of Eden is about a perfect world that we lost in our fall from grace. This notion of a past Golden Age has been a striking feature of most cultural worldviews that understand life as an immense cycle beginning in heavenly perfection and passing through increasing periods of decline.

Freud wondered if our sense that there was a time of perfect happiness that we’d lost came from the experience of exiting the womb. In some dim but definite imprint, the transition from floating in bliss in utero to the abrupt assault of the birth canal and ultimate abandonment left us in mourning for the loss of something that we couldn’t ever quite name. Golden age ideals may also serve another function: they may be a way that humanity has made sense of evil. The belief is that once we were good, pure, and lived in peace and harmony…and that gradually we have lost touch with that perfection. From a spiritual standpoint, this is not untrue. The development of self-identity creates the illusion of separation from All, the primordial unity of all things, the ground of Being.

We create Golden Ages out of our deepest longings, our idealistic hopes for what life should be based in what we feel we are missing in the present. In the context of a world of endless conflict, violence, brutality, and strife—which has been the case for most of human existence—the ideal of a paradise of peace makes sense. Or, to use another example, no wonder, then, that feminists have painted pretty pictures of equality onto prehistoric cultures that have left behind little more than lumpen female figurines. Desiring equality in the present, we find it in the past.

But Gil Pender, a wealthy hack writer who wants to write a great novel, doesn’t want to go back to some blissful Golden Age. He wants to go to where the action was/is: Continue reading…

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Worldviews in Dialogue 1. Superman Explores His Sensitive Side

by Carter Phipps

In this new series, Worldviews in Dialogue, we want to explore the interior nature of different historical worldviews, comparing and contrasting the values, perspective, and the quality of consciousness intrinsic to different types of worldviews both in contemporary, and sometimes ancient, culture. We hope to use art, literature, pop culture, media and just about every other form of cultural expression to illustrate the ever-fascinating differences between these deep underlying structures of consciousness that have informed the evolution of human culture.

Modernism and Postmodernism. We use these words a lot on this blog to talk about the difference between two worldviews, two fundamentally different sets of values, two historically different ways in which human beings have constructed the world around them and made meaning. And whether we’re talking about Spiral Dynamics, Integral Philosophy, developmental psychology, or some other school of thought or research that identifies the critical importance of worldviews in the evolution of consciousness and culture, it is important to have a deep understanding of exactly what makes up the differences between these two stages of culture.

Of course, when we’re talking about such broad yet fundamental distinctions, the differences express themselves in myriad ways but are not always exact or perfectly clear cut. Yet as culture has changed over the last hundreds of years we know that there are certainly real differences between the values and perspective of a modern worldview that emerged on the cultural scene in the European Enlightenment and the values and perspective of a postmodern one that has been on the mainstream cultural stage since the 60s.

Modernism calls to mind things like scientific insight, reason and rationality, nation-states, industrialization, democracy, Newtonian physics, etc. The postmodern worldview calls to mind environmentalism, political correctness, pluralism and equality, respect for marginalized peoples and indigenous cultures, the breakdown of hierarchy, self-awareness and self-exploration, etc. Continue reading…

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The Scale of the Universe

by Tom Huston

A few years ago, I discovered one of the coolest corporate promotional tools ever to strike the web — Nikon’s “Universcale,” an exquisitely rendered interactive Flash animation conveying epic orders of cosmic magnitude, from subatomic particles on the left to the entire known universe on the right. But this illustrated implementation of the same basic concept, created by a user of the site Newgrounds named Fotoshop, is definitely my new favorite:

Check it out >>

(You can scroll with the mouse cursor or more slowly using the keyboard arrow keys, and the animation can be made larger using the controls in the top right corner.) Which do you think is better? Nikon’s Universcale or Fotoshop’s Scale of the Universe?

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A Modest Proposal (Think About This)

by Tom Huston

In anticipation of her appearance at the EnlightenNext Midsummer Renaissance Festival in London on July 30-31, 2011, Dr. Elizabeth Debold, senior editor of EnlightenNext magazine, wrote a short, provocative piece for The Guardian that began, somewhat pointedly and rather tongue-in-cheek, with her proposal that women are at risk of turning back the clock by participating in a dangerous trend—the refusal to take leadership and actively engage in creating cultural change:

Sometimes I wonder if, 20 years hence, we as a society will decide that it doesn’t make sense to grant women coveted spots in advanced programmes in business, law, science or medicine. Because, by then, it will be obvious that the vast majority of women who are eligible for such positions—women who are extremely bright and talented—aren’t really interested in following through on their professions and taking up the responsibilities of leadership. Because it will be clear that, after receiving the benefits of 10 to 15 years of training, most women opt out, leave their responsibilities and seek fulfilment within the traditional roles of wife and mother. In the future, we collectively might shrug our shoulders and say, well, it just isn’t working to try to get women on corporate boards or as half the elected officials in government or at the top of any profession. Because women have proven, through their choices, that they would rather not.

A torrent of responses followed (read the full piece and the responses here). Rather than advocating for women’s right to leadership or for more family-friendly policies to support women at work and home, most of the responses argued for women being in the home—which is exactly the dangerous trend that Dr. Debold’s article points to.

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Women Creating the Future — Live in London

by Elizabeth Debold

“Women are to blame for the ills of society!” “The UK doesn’t need a Minister for Women!” These provocative, ever-so-slightly “man bites dog” statements are the titles of Lee Chalmers’s recent blog entries on the new HuffPost UK. No wonder Arianna Huffington and her crew invited Lee as one of the kick off bloggers for their new venture across the pond. Lee is smart, edgy, knowledge-able, insightful, courageous and did I say “smart”? Now, if you know Lee, you realize that her eye-catching headlines are not the expression of a right wing misogynist, but the canny appeal of a clear-sighted visionary who has a passion for women stepping up to the plate and making a difference. As she writes in her “Women are to blame” post about conservatives’ view that women should stay home to protect men’s jobs:

New research shows that 43% of educated western Gen X women (aged between 33 and 46) have opted to be childfree. In a world that gives very little status and absolutely no financial reward to having children, this is a rational choice for a person to make. Rational when viewed from the level of the individual, the level we value in western culture, but utterly catastrophic for the species.

The political right understand this. They see that the writing is on the wall for humanity if women are not willing to assume their place as the mothers of us all. And this is problematic because women are not going to quietly go back to this life of unpaid, low status, grindingly hard work. Society cannot go back, we can only go forward. We evolve or die.
Rather than wishing for what has come before we need to ask hard questions of ourselves and create something new. What structures do we need to create that allow women to contribute to society with their brains as well as their wombs? If the majority of our graduates are now women and we want that talent in our businesses and political parties, are we willing to change how we work in order to allow them to contribute whilst ensuring that we still have enough children? These are not just questions for women, these are questions for all of us.

Faced with the complexity of these challenges it’s understandably easier to say ‘let the women stay at home and raise children.’ Easier to wish for what worked so well for society before. And this is not about men dictating the terms, it’s easier for women to say this too. It’s been our role for so long that we are compelled to it. We often unthinkingly slide into this function and then lead lives of confused desperation because we haven’t yet figured out how to do it differently.

Women are capable of more than childrearing, difficult and valuable as that is, and culture needs us to give more, it needs our intellectual contribution as truly equal partners to men. The challenges we face in the future such as peak oil, population aging, water shortages, require the best minds of our generation and those may be sitting in female bodies. Do we really want to ignore that potential contribution and encourage women to go back home? I think quite the opposite, we should be encouraging women to take their place in business and politics and solve the problem of making life more family friendly, so both men and women can share life in both the private and the public worlds.

How we move into the future–not just a future that’s a direct line from the past but one that takes us into a very different way of living and relating–will be the topic of the interview that Lee will be doing with me on July 30th at EnlightenNext London’s Midsummer Renaissance Festival. I’m privileged and excited to have such an accomplished, thoughtful and provocative person asking the questions and engaging with me in the all-important topic of “Women Creating the Future.” If you are in London, don’t miss it. If not, stay tuned because we’ll be posting video and audios from the event in the coming weeks.

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Egoless Relatedness

by Andrew Cohen

When two or more people meet who have awakened to the evolutionary impulse, there is the potential for egoless relatedness. And that is what those of us at the leading edge who want to push the boundaries of our own spiritual development need to discover. We have to find a way to meet one another in a place we’ve never been before, in a higher state of consciousness and a higher stage of development that are unhindered by the influence of the narcissistic ego and the less enlightened values of our modern and postmodern culture. Anyone can experience egoless consciousness in the stillness and solitude of deep meditation. It is easy to be egoless when there’s no relationship. But if we want to catalyze evolution in consciousness and culture, in the world of time and space, we need to make the heroic effort to go beyond ego not only when we are sitting quietly but, most importantly, while we are creatively interacting with one another, in the midst of all the complexity of human life.

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The Power of Evolutionary Spirituality with Ursula King — Live in London

by Elizabeth Debold

EnlightenNext London has created a summer festival that is going to be a flat out celebration of philosophy, dance, music, and Spirit–a tantalizing and uplifting combination designed to make the spirit soar. It’s the Midsummer Renaissance Festival on July 30-31. Most of the EnlightenNext editorial team will be there to engage in dialogue and interviews with some extremely fascinating people. On July 30, I will be interviewed by Lee ChalmersLee is both a business consultant, a champion for women (check out her latest post in HuffPo UK), and is edging her way into politics. We’re calling the talk “Women Creating the Future.

On July 31, I’ll be in dialogue with University of Bristol theologian Dr. Ursula King. Ursula has an expertise in the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin–a Jesuit priest and paleontologist who was one of the 20th C.’s most authentic and powerful voices of a new, evolutionary spirituality. Ursula always transmits a palpable enthusiasm–which literally means divine inspiration–for humanity’s spiritual evolution. Our dialogue takes for its title a line echoing Teilhard: “Discovering Fire for the Second Time.” The “fire” that Tielhard refers to is a particular kind of love, or Eros, that burns from the Divine into Creation. In fact, in the audio below, Ursula recites Teilhard’s quote in an interview that I did with her in 2009 about her book, The Search for Spirituality where we speak together about the evolutionary fire that has brought us to where we are today.

Ursula King abrev. audio 5 min (click here)

What I particularly appreciate about Ursula is her impatience with retro ideas of spirituality–trying to take the deep wisdom from the past and stick it, unchanged, into the present. She’s not against the great religious traditions, but sees that they have to be updated for our times. And I completely agree with her about the need for a world-embracing spirituality that is not at all divorced from life and that calls us to evolve our humanity. I hope that our dialogue on July 31st points us in that direction!

Well, that’s just a taste of what’s to come. If you are in the UK at the end of July, please come and say hello, and check out this vibrant midsummer scene!

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The Future of Green – Live in London

by Ross Robertson

For those of you who are within striking distance, EnlightenNext is going to be putting on a fantastic celebration called the Midsummer Renaissance Festival at our London center on the weekend of July 30-31. The editorial/creative team will all be traveling over to participate in the festivities, an intriguing blend of dialogues and performances with a variety of distinguished guests, all exploring the emerging cultural power and relevance of what we call the evolutionary worldview.

I’m busy preparing for a live dialogue with one of my favorite environmental thinkers, Hardin Tibbs, a self-described “eco-spiritual futurist” whom I interviewed for our last issue of EnlightenNext magazine. Here’s a few paragraphs from that piece to give you a sense of who he is:

I met Mr. Tibbs in Washington, DC, last June at the awards ceremony for the Buckminster Fuller Institute’s Buckminster Fuller Challenge – an annual $100,000 design prize for which he served as head of this year’s jury – and was immediately impressed. CEO of the UK-based management consulting firm Synthesys Strategic Consulting, Tibbs is many things – an accomplished futurist and scenario planner, a business analyst, and an expert in sustainability strategy and design. Early in his career, he’d helped pioneer the application of ecological principles to the processes of industry, a discipline known as “industrial ecology” that later grew popular through books like Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce and William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s Cradle to Cradle. He’d also been deeply influenced by Buckminster Fuller himself, whose writings introduced him to ideas of an order he’d never considered before.
Continue reading…

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Spiritual Maturity

by Andrew Cohen

Spiritual maturity is not a matter of how long you have lived or even how much life experience you have. The important question is: how much does any of us actually learn from our life experience? Those people who are more spiritually developed are people who have been deeply paying attention, who are sensitive and awake enough to truly learn, and grow, and significantly evolve as a result of the life experience that they have.

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