This essay was motivated while thinking on how not to blame any human for their actions or lack of action, no matter how heinous (serial killers and Hitler, for example). It is not that I believe everything is determined, as I believe reality involves both randomness and spontaneous creativity. Individuals can play some role in contributing to “who they become/are”, but the primary determinants in their development are an intricate mix of “nature/nurture”, or their genetic heritage and their environments at every moment.
Responses to stimuli are strongly determined by the biological state of an organism at the moment of stimulation. However, all human behavior is not a response to stimuli. What one does after sitting silent for a few minutes is not determined by their environment at the moment. Their actions (and thoughts) are very closely linked to ongoing brain activity. A (reductionist) regression to past causes has no empirical foundation.
Strong evidence points to the case that so-called conscious decisions (will-power) are an illusion. Research demonstrates they are mental events associated with decisions made by the whole brain a short moment before being aware of “making the decision”. This does not imply that humans don’t choose, or make decisions; only that the process is holistic. Consciousness has no agency; but our whole being can have agency. A major domain for human agency is learning; specifically meta decisions to learn and to change.
There are strong limits to how much an individual human person can “will” themselves to change, without the assistance of others. Thus, even the agency to change is dependent on one’s human environment. Human persons lack the agency to control who they become, and are thus not morally responsible for what they do. Those who resist temptation do so because their life path has equipped them with the ability to resist temptation.
Today, many humans are acting in ways that are very dangerous for both humankind and Gaia – and are unlikely to change while their environment reinforces their behavior. Things must be done resulting in their ceasing their destructive behavior, but in a way that leaves humankind able to move forward towards a better Humanity. To believe others are fundamentally evil and not only stop them, but desire to punish them will leave scars that will damage our future. Experimentation with reconciliation is a first step.
“God is on our side” implies a belief in spiritual intervention. Even those who don’t believe in a divine entity with agency may believe in a metaphysical domain that works for the “good”. When things get rough people may become dependent on spiritual intervention; if only not to risk fully as if they were truly alone and no intervention was possible. I believe this is the context for many positive focused change agents today. Actions taken are focused on attracting spiritual intervention or to believe there is some deeper, metaphysical/spiritual force “joining us together in co-creative action”.
For some, like Barbara Marx Hubbard, it is very explicit. http://barbaramarxhubbard.com/ . I have no objection to person’s engaging in such practices, as I have done so myself. I am concerned when they believe/act as if that is all they can/should do and that they need not learn in new domains. These silos of “conscious awakening” are no more or less problematic as other silos (storytelling, art & music, new economies or new money, re-localization, commons, community, new energy, technocratic, new languages, peace and non-violence, etc.). Are the barriers between silos actually breaking down and a coming-together (“conspiring” re Marilyn Ferguson or “thriving” re Jean Russell), or is that wishful thinking by activists in silos? So long as we believe (without evidence) that synergy/collaboration is actually emerging more and more, we won’t learn/act to do what extra is needed to seaf it actually manifest.
It is not that I don’t believe in such “metaphysical forces” or human propensities “to be more than biological”. Indeed, there is ample empirical evidence that a materialist, reductionist universe is insufficient (psychic phenomena, crop circles, “consciousness”). An external spiritual intervention to save humankind from itself is aesthetically unpleasant to me – and I know I can’t let this feeling dictate my decisions. I can’t accept that humankind as a puppet to be manipulated. I speculate that intervention may occur AFTER we have created our own resolution to our self created difficulties. Once humankind intentionally begins bootstrap uplifting, that may “open the gate” to unknown forces that will assist in the multi-millennial emergence of Humanity.
The intervention may be subtle, such as opening “gateways” to new insights. If humankind “makes it”, it will occur as new patterns of human activity with new experientials. A few will begin to think/act in new ways that include explicitly assisting others (not depending on promotion by osmosis). Where the emergence ignites waves of synergy will not be the sole creation of those initially involved; as their insights and actions rest “on the shoulders of giants” and the whole of humankind. One might imagine the intervention coming from the “soul of Humanity-to-Be”, not some external agency. It may even be the “soul of Gaia”.
There is no evidence that the phenomenon of swarming can result in changes as complex (in their temporal unfolding) as required given the scope and magnitude of our Crisis-of-Crises and our very short time frame. Swarming, as beautiful as it is to observe, is a simple process not involving creative intelligence of swarmers and can be replicated by computer algorithms. IMO it is naive to expect humankind to swarm itself out of our dangers and lead us to creating a viable, sustainable, resilient, just, loving global Humanity. An intricate mix between personal and collective will be needed.
It is not popular (in the USA) to believe in a spiritual dark side, of EVIL forces or spirits as well as GOOD forces or spirits. Fantasy can project human conflict into the metaphysical realm. The trends today towards excessive human dysfunction bodes for the success of evil over good; from the greed of the wealthy/powerful to the mad violence by individual persons believing themselves wronged and driven to act out.
These trends (and our long history of human greed and violence) does not imply: (1) the existence of fundamental evil, or (2) that the human species if critically flawed. The distribution of persons into categories rated “good” or “bad” would only be circumstances of the moment. One can imagine many different distributions.
The early success of humankind has led to structural imbalance as evidenced in the default mode of human societal organization we call “civilization”. This mode was successful in advancing material wealth and artistic creativity, the former is destroying much of Gaia and the latter has provided an “escape from responsibility” for many who might have constrained the excesses of civilization. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with technology and artistic creativity; they became warped by circumstances in the same way persons have been warped. Civilization is the default mode when the formation of societal structures is done with little useful knowledge about how to avoid the pitfalls that arise in civilizations. Today, we either have the requisite knowledge to avoid such pitfalls, or we know how to get it. Our difficulty is that contemporary societal systems block any significant use of this knowledge.
This blocking is both direct and indirect. Blocking is direct through elite control of media and education, and deliberate use of propaganda and other mind-influencing techniques to manufacture consent. This direct blocking involves contributions from very intelligent and creative persons and teams, as these traits can be independent of morals and ethics. The blocking is indirect by the ways transformational change can be achieved in “the system”, and that motivated change agents (wanting to change “the system”) must still use parts of “the system” that (indirectly) limits their activity. Most were educated within “the system”, and even though they came to oppose it, they were indoctrinated in more subtle ways so as to believe that “the system” can only be changed by transforming it. That it is quite possible for them to create a new, alternative system to replace the old system – analogous to metamorphosis – lies in the blindspot of nearly everyone. They are locked-into believing transformation being the only process of change.
I speculate that the blindspot is maintained, in part, by the belief by most in either spiritual intervention or technological innovative intervention. The blindspot may also be systemic. Individual humans may require special developmental systems and protocols to acquire competencies to comprehend conceptual schemes of the complexity/scope required. A few persons (because of unique mixes of heredity and developmental environments) may comprehend this limitation; but it will probably require special teams (or cybercrews) as the basic components of the emergence of Humanity. Systemic factors may also limit communication between persons (e.g., in contemporary social media) to co-develop in needed and relevant ways. Unfortunately, these issues also appear to fall in the blindspot.
This essay make no claim as to the existence or non-existence of metaphysical domains. There is no inter-subjective evidence for potential intervention from metaphysical domains, although it is the subjective belief of some. Although I sometimes have a feeling of being part of “something more”, it is only a feeling and not taken as information from beyond. I know of and accept the reports of others whose experience is of contact with “something more”. If some want to practice in ways to attract spiritual intervention, I have no objection – so long as they don’t work to convince all persons to so believe. Would they be successful, the world would certainly change – but there is no inter-subjective, observable, evidence that they can be successful in converting most of humankind. Some might claim that spiritual intervention will assist in converting others, but I cannot risk the future of Humanity/Gaia on unsubstantiated belief (no matter how deeply felt by others).
What may be troublesome is that the elites of civilization may create their own metaphysics and use it to divert the majority from taking relevant action by involving them in organized appeals to a new God to support their “leaders”. We see this today in the warped, extremist sects of all major religions. Belief in a beneficial spirituality that may intervene is more subtle, but could divert those who might actually build synergy and apply the knowledge we now have to create a Humanity that is Beyond Civilization by learning “what it takes to learn what we should learn — and learn it”. This contributes to the belief of activists that their necessary actions are also sufficient, when this may be an illusion.