In and through community lies the salvation of the world.
- M. Scott Peck
- M. Scott Peck
Perhaps you remember when, in 1983, scientist Peter Russell published The Global Brain, a pioneering work on the role of connectedness, community, and social networks to the future of consciousness on planet Earth.
In it, Russell described how the connections of billions of neurons in the human brain led to the emergence of consciousness on the planet-something never before seen in our solar system. He then looked at the growing number of human beings on the planet, and made a startling prediction.
Building on James Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis (the theory that the Earth itself is a living entity, complete with its own rhythms and processes) Russell speculated that, just as the connection of billions of neurons in the frontal lobes of the human brain coincided with the emergence of individual self-awareness on the planet, the intentional connection between billions of human beings would lead to the unfolding of a new consciousness-the awakening of Gaia as a whole.
Now, just two decades later, we're watching his predictions unfold.
Of course, since the 1960s we've seen a growing interest in spiritual, social and environmental awareness. While the growing numbers of those who understand the connection between personal and planetary well-being does represent an ongoing shift in the way we interact with the world, it's still a shift that started decades ago.
Today, however, something else is emerging-something that mirrors this internal shift. What's unique about this current change in our relationship with ourselves and our environment-the shift from an individualistic mindset to one of community, connectedness, and shared understanding-is that it's occurring not just within us, but on the outside as well.
Finally, our very technologies are playing a role in this transformation.
Think of it. Over the past few years, the Internet itself has undergone a drastic change. Once used just to trade information, the online world is transforming into what's known as Web 2.0-the social web. Today, instead of being used to transfer data, technology is being used in service of relationships-to join people around the world, to discover new connections, and to deepen our understanding and care of those on the other side of the globe. This shift-from connections driven by information to networks based in values-is exactly what Russell predicted.
And so the synergy of these two phenomena-that is, the profound internal shift driving the popularity of works such as The Secret and Eckhart Tolle's Stillness Speaks and the emergence of the social web-represents something never before seen. Earlier spiritual movements on the planet moved slowly, spreading from group to group in isolated pockets, or appearing in small pockets in certain nations, but what we're seeing today is an undeniably global phenomenon. Through the miracle of the Internet, we can immediately share not just information, but wisdom, care, concern, and compassion with those around the world.
We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For
It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community…
- Thich Nhat Hanh.
- Thich Nhat Hanh.
Of course, it's not just science that has anticipated this awakening. The venerable Buddhist monk, Thich Nant Hahn, made the same prediction using different language when he wrote that "the next Buddha may be a sangha;" that is, that the next instantiation of an awakened being on the planet may not come as an individual, but in and through community. (And is it any coincidence that here in the United States we have just nominated a 'community organizer,' rather than a CEO or war hero, as our President Elect?)
Unlike science, though, spirituality gives us direction and suggestions for how to help ease this emergence. There are countless new spiritual books, like A New Earth and Conversations with God, that encourage us to look for answers not from some outside authority, but to push into our own hearts and divine our own unique purposes.
Those of us who take up this route frequently come to the shared realization that the call of our hearts and the call of the planet are the same-and that by tapping deeply enough into our deepest desires we'll discover they mesh perfectly with the needs of the world as a whole.
And so this awakening bodes well for our collective future. In any healthy, productive, and peaceful society, the actions of each member are naturally aligned with the needs of the group. This arrangement doesn't need to be planned or coerced. Instead, it's the simple result of a shared perspective among the group members-a perspective that includes a deep understanding of the interdependence between each person and the community as a whole.
It's always been easy to bring this about in small groups, but for the first time ever we're seeing it occur around the world. Something significant is unfolding.
But What Does it Mean? And What Next?
For a cell in our body to survive, it must understand its purpose. Neurons that lack connections with other cells in the brain eventually atrophy, and cells that can't find their place within the greater system whither away.
Similarly, for an organism to survive, it's crucial that each cell that makes it up understands its role. It's important that each connects with the cells around it, and 'understands' its place in the health of the greater system.
And of course, the health of the cell itself depends on the integrity and well-being of the larger organism. The one enhances and depends on the other, and vice versa.
So, it's crucial that each of us discover our own unique and irreplaceable role within Gaia, and that we each understand that we serve an important purpose on the Earth. This answer-which is necessarily as alive and flowing as each of us!-isn't going to come from a book or article, but from exploring the community around you and determining what needs to be done, and delving within yourself to see what you're most called to do. Because your discovery and pursuit of your passion and your path is important not just for your own health and satisfaction, but for the furthering of the whole human process, and for the life of the incredible sphere that we're each so inextricably a part of.
By: Gaia Community