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Let Us Not Talk About the Climate Crisis Any Longer (Part Two)

Updated: May 10

"No problem can be solved from the consciousness that created that problem."

Albert Einstein

"The current convergence of crises -in the areas of money, energy, education, health, water, soil, climate, politics, the environment and more- is a birth crisis, driving us from the old world to a new one."

Charles Eisenstein

"Climate change is not just about climate. It is ‘everything-change’”

Margaret Atwood

"Another world is not only possible, it is on its way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing."

Arundhati Roy

Afternoon light over Bergsfjorden, island of Senja, northern Norway. Photo: Filip Van Kerckhoven

In the first part of this essay, I started out with the proposition that the term ‘climate crisis’ is a misnomer for the convergence of ecological and other crises we are in the midst of. This term leaves out, for example, the biodiversity crisis, or the massive dying of the fabric of life on our planet. At the same time, I also tried to point out why both the term ‘climate crisis’ and the term ‘biodiversity crisis’ represent actually in themselves a form of dissociation, of not wanting to feel or experience what is really going on with that living fabric on our planet, the biosphere. And I suggested that this ‘not wanting to feel’ is really at the heart of the matter, literally and figuratively speaking.

In this second part of the essay, I will elaborate further on the reasons why even this expanded view of the converging ecological crises is still too limited, and I will attempt to clarify why that presents us with nothing less than a magnificent challenge, one that we now in a sense need very much in order to evolve. And the changes in perspective this will bring promise to be far-reaching: to give you an idea of how far this new perspective is likely to take us, I will conclude by talking about some awe-inspiring new insights in science and systems theory regarding our consciousness and the nature of reality. And finally, I will give a brief introduction to what I call an ‘ecology in consciousness’, which each of us can practice. Our consciousness and the outside world are essentially two aspects of the same reality, as quantum physics teaches us, and that understanding also opens up surprising perspectives and a whole new and hopeful outlook on activism and personal growth and development. What we change in our own consciousness can therefore have a direct consequence in the ‘outside world’, which inspired physicist Amit Goswami to introduce the term ‘quantum activism’.

I will do this in twelve short chapters:

1 'Good news and bad news'

2 'Nothing is what it seems'

3 'The perfect storm'

4 'The root of the matter (and of every matter)'

5 'Birth'

6 'From below'

7 'A deep transformation'

8 ‘Trauma’

9 ‘Cynicism, beliefs and hope'

10 ‘A wondrous new panorama'

11 ’An ecology in consciousness'

12 ‘Good news'.

The chapters in themselves are not that long, but the whole essay of course is. Although I delve into all these ideas only in a succinct way in this essay, it has become a long text because the whole panorama to be seen is inevitably complex. Perhaps we would prefer a simple answer to these existential questions, but the more I learn about them the more I experience how everything is connected to everything else in this regard. At the same time, there is also simplicity: ultimately all roads lead to one place, one central subject. I considered dividing this second part of the essay up in two or three parts, but I ultimately chose to keep it as one whole, because the ideas are both diverse but intimately intertwined, and that shows best in keeping it as one whole. Nevertheless, you can choose to read it chapter by chapter, and let each section sink in for a while. The ideas I begin to lay out in this text are not new, and have already been explored extensively by greater minds than myself. One might even argue that some of them are the oldest ideas in our world, and would have been quite recognizable and even self-evident to our ancestors twenty or thirty millennia ago. Contemporary science again meets mankind’s oldest intuitions, and that is a particularly beautiful process. I therefore refer to sites and organizations where you can find further information, and I myself will also return often to everything touched on in the following text in future texts and blog posts. In a way, that constitutes one of the main goals of ‘A Biosphere Project’, and in that sense this essay is an update of my ‘Statement of Intention’ two years ago. It has become a kind of summary of the ideas I intend to share and explore further, and possibly a first outline for a book. It has become a ‘road map’ of sorts, if you will, a kind of map through themes I want to explore in the coming years (or decades, because it looks like I'm going to be at this for a long time), both in the outside world and within myself. A Biosphere Project should ultimately become a travel and photographic documentation project, but from the beginning it was also conceived as an exploration of the ideas and collective beliefs that brought us to this point, and of those ideas that could in turn help us further in our development. Enjoy reading.

Mountain ridge in the Queyras region, border between Italy and France. Photo: Filip Van Kerckhoven

1 - Good news and bad news

First some of the bad news (good news will follow after that, I promise).

I wrote the first part of this essay several months ago, in June of this year. You would think that the two summer months since then must have caused cracks in the beliefs of even the most inveterate climate change deniers. Last summer was one of climate disasters worldwide, of record-breaking heat waves, drought, extreme monsoon rains, hurricanes and floods. Millions of people worldwide were affected in a series of disasters unprecedented in scale and intensity. To name a few: no less than one-third of Pakistan was under water and 33 million residents were displaced by an unprecedented deluge. (At the time I write this, in October and November of 2022, that water in Pakistan has not yet receded. The country is still one-third under water). In Nigeria, more than one million people fled unprecedented floods. All of Europe groaned under heat and drought that shriveled the Rhine and Danube rivers and destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of agricultural crops. In India, the heat waves have seen ground temperatures soar to 60 degrees. Florida is in ruins after the apocalyptic passage of Hurricane Ian. In China, rivers, lakes and reservoirs ran dry in the worst heat waves and drought on record. The southwestern US is running out of water altogether, the Colorado and Rio Grande are only a shadow of the mighty rivers they once were, and forest fires are the new normal even in winter anywhere west of the Rocky Mountains. And then Cuba, Brazil, Korea, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa,...It seems to me that no further enumeration is necessary at this point: the magnitude of the global calamity (in barely two months) is now becoming obvious even to someone who usually looks the other way, and now seems to be prompting even the most reticent and passive mainstream media to do some more reporting on the matter.

However, even now mainstream media coverage still does not do justice to the scale of the crisis, and remains too anecdotal and fragmentary. To get a more realistic picture of what is happening, it is still necessary to consult scientific and independent news sources, files and reports from agencies such as the UN and specialized think-tanks and research centers. If you rely exclusively on our mainstream media for news, I dare say you still have an incomplete picture of the magnitude and urgency of what is already happening now and of what awaits us in the years and decades to come. News about this existential crisis is still drowning in a sea of infotainment and ‘business as usual’. But even in this still deficient media landscape, the image of a disrupted climate becomes more concrete, more real, more frightening every year. So the 'climate crisis' is indeed a reality, and one that poses an existential threat to the survival of our species and many of the species of life we share this planet with.

So why then begin part two of this essay again with the title ‘Let us not talk about the climate crisis any longer’? At a time when this crisis is becoming more and more obvious in scope and threat? Because while what we have experienced in recent decades and certainly last summer is extremely serious, it is still only a part of what we are up against and of what lies ahead. It is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. It is the currently most palpable aspect of a larger process most of which still remains out of most people's sight. The canary in the coal mine. The problems are ultimately far more extensive and critical. Our planet's increasingly unstable climate and the way we are already causing the sixth major extinction wave (see part one of this essay) are, at root, symptoms of a problem that goes much deeper. This deeper problem is what demands our attention, and what will demand the use of all our creative abilities, audacity, and human capacity for imagination and transformation. By continually talking about the ‘climate crisis’, we continue to isolate this phenomenon from everything else going on in the biosphere, and miss much of the essence of what is happening and about to happen.

The good news (for we must always remember that there is always good news in this convergence of crises) is then that if we can go through this crisis and develop a proper global response, it can bring us an infinitely better world, with infinitely more well-being for mankind as a species, and -do I need to add it- infinitely more well-being for just about all the other forms of life with which we share the planet. Just as the drug addict can begin to experience an infinitely better state of being, both mentally and physically, after the process of withdrawal. It will take much more than switching to electric cars or building tens of thousands of wind turbines. There will be no techno-fix that is going to save us, contrary to what ‘eco-modernists’ would like us to believe. But the very severity and magnitude of the crisis leaves us with no way out: there is nothing left but a wholesale transformation of our global society, and in this sense the storm we are passing through is indeed good news: things weren't really going well for us anyway (and that is an understatement), and we are being forced into an extraordinarily radical change. Just as in many cases the addict must first go through a life-threatening crisis in order to truly take the step of transformation and withdrawal.

2 - Nothing is what it seems

Once we have a more complete picture of what our situation actually is, it also becomes clear that we usually do not correctly identify the causes of this confluence of crises.

There is an old story that I find illuminating in this regard. It is a story I first encountered long ago, and so I was very pleased to encounter it again recently in Kingsley L. Dennis' contribution in ‘The Intelligence Of The Cosmos’, Ervin Làszlò's masterful work on the emerging new paradigm in cosmology. It is an old folk tale starring the Oriental character Moela Nasroeddin:

A man is walking home late at night, and sees a nervous Moela Nasroeddin crawling down the street under a street lamp on all fours, frantically searching for something on the ground.

"Moela, what have you lost?" Asks the passerby.

"I am looking for the key to my house" says Nasroeddin worriedly.

"I will help you," says the man and goes to help Moela Nasroeddin search.

So both men are on their knees under the street lamp searching for the lost key.

After a while, the man asks Nasroeddin, "Tell me, Moela, do you remember where exactly you dropped the key?"

Nasroeddin points with his arm backwards, into the dark, and says, "There, in my house. I lost the key in my house..."

Shocked and annoyed, the passerby jumps up and yells at Nasroeddin" Then why are you looking for the key here in the street?"

Because there is more light here than in my house and so I can see better here," Moela Nasroeddin replies nonchalantly.

Like Moela Nasroeddin in this hilarious story, one could argue that we collectively also look for the key to the solution to the ‘climate crisis’ in a place where there is more light at first glance, without any justification for the expectation that the key is really there. Simply the fact that more light shines there 'under the lantern' and us therefor being used to having our attention there, leads us to look for the key there as well. But we must allow for the possibility that the key lies in an entirely different place.

If you were to randomly ask a group of people to identify the causes of the ‘climate crisis’, most would probably answer that it is for all intents and purposes a problem of energy production (fossil fuels) and mobility (cars, air travel, transportation). Once you delve a little further into the essential nature of the processes at play, you see that none of these, usually identified as ‘main culprits’ actually are, and in fact no isolated fact or process in the biosphere can stand up as ‘culprit’.

To give just one example, all the world's air travel combined is responsible for some 2.5 to 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, if all planes in the world were to be grounded from now on (which, by the way, we already had a chance to experience during the corona crisis), no less than 97 percent of the emissions problem would remain intact. So it is difficult to maintain that aviation is one of the major ‘culprits’, as it is so often portrayed. So should we just fly to our hearts' content? No, as with all our energy-consuming and polluting activities, we will collectively have to be much more frugal and judicious about this, but focusing on flying as one of the major drivers of climate change and cultivating ‘shame of flying’ is counterproductive and beside the point.

Another example is the production of energy from burning fossil fuels. At first glance, of course, greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal, petroleum and natural gas really do seem to be the 'climate culprits' par excellence, but if you relate this fact to a broader panorama, it becomes relative: The historical emissions of CO2 would have been less damaging if at the same time we had not cut down a third to half of all forests worldwide, and had not drastically eroded the capacity of other ecosystems to keep the carbon cycle in our biosphere in homeostasis by decimating grasslands, mangroves and wetlands, exterminating countless large land and sea mammals (which also play a role in the climate), the destruction of ecosystems by industrial agricultural practices, and the global expansion of the large-scale monocultures that rely on plowing, fertilizers and pesticides, which have made agriculture the largest global source of greenhouse gases (while regenerative agriculture could absorb a large proportion of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases), and so on and so forth.

There are many other examples of misjudging causes of the convergence of crises in our biosphere. For example, few people are still aware of the ecological devastation caused by global industrial livestock farming, which does infinitely more damage than aviation or even the entire global transportation sector. Or of the disastrous damage caused by the clothing industry and especially ‘fast-fashion’. Or of the apocalypse that industrial fishing causes daily in seas and oceans and how that threatens to change those oceans into vast dead ‘water-deserts’ in the coming decades.

But none of these other factors can be designated as ‘main culprits’ either. (Although, if we had to choose one, industrial livestock farming would surely be the first candidate).

Similarly, many people continue to point to ‘overpopulation’ as the cause of the climate crisis, when in fact there is little or no connection. The vast majority of people on this planet have not contributed to this problem and to historical greenhouse gas emissions and are doing so only to a minimal extent even now. And a significant portion of the world's population has an ‘ecological footprint’ much closer to what our planet can support than inhabitants of the rich industrialized countries. Even food supply is not really a problem for the current population level of this planet (currently one-third of all food produced globally is thrown away), even -and better- if we switched globally to regenerative agriculture and certainly if we stopped industrial livestock farming. A finding that seems counter-intuitive and will seem implausible to many people, although multiple studies and not least a group of 200 experts commissioned by the UN reached this conclusion years ago. Yes, we can feed every inhabitant of the earth with regenerative agriculture in a way that will be much healthier for both people and planet than is currently the case, and without damaging the climate or biodiversity - on the contrary, a global application of regenerative agriculture could capture a large part of our CO2 emissions and store them in the soil, and help restore ecosystems. Agriculture could evolve from the largest source of emissions to the largest ‘carbon sink’ in our biosphere.

Cattle in a field, Somogy province, Hungary. Photo: Filip Van Kerckhoven

3 - The perfect storm

So, collectively, we still don't seem to fully understand what really causes what we usually (and thus incorrectly) call 'the climate crisis'. And we are also collectively missing information about how that 'climate crisis' itself is only part of a larger panorama. Consequently, we focus our attention on only a fraction of the reality at hand, and much of this reality remains outside our field of vision. Like Moela Nasroeddin, we look for the key where there happens to be much light (through the focus of media, institutions and governments, for example), ignoring the data that suggest that that key actually lies elsewhere.

And we have to look even further: from any problem you bring into focus in relation to climate, concentric circles expand almost immediately into other critical problems in just about every sphere of human activity. None can be viewed in isolation from the others, let alone ‘solved’. Hence it can also be argued that our global industrial society, or the ‘Machine’, as the industrial capitalist system is also sometimes called by writers, activists and philosophers such as Paul Kingsnorth, Amitav Gosh or Naomi Klein, that this Machine is faltering and in danger of shutting down. Almost every aspect of the Machine is now up against its limits, a phase that, by the way, was accurately predicted by the Club of Rome report 50 years ago. Many, if not most, of the systems man has created on this planet are also in crisis. And this ‘breakdown’ in the global systems created by man in turn threatens to have a further disastrous impact on natural systems and their synergy in our biosphere.

You may respond to that observation with disbelief. Our technological ‘civilization’ is not doing so badly, is it? Yes, we are running into problems, but aren't we going to solve them with our technological innovations, with economic growth, with scientific progress? The answer to that is no. As the Club of Rome correctly predicted half a century ago, our current systems based on growth and domination of the natural world have come to their end station. The fact that we are already using twice as many ‘resources’ as the planet can support (the phenomenon called ‘global overshoot’), and that the global economy will have to double in the next 25 years to keep the system going, should be enough of an indication that we can only hope for a stay of execution for our current system, but that the verdict can no longer be changed. Having spent several years now doing nothing much else but reading specialized reports, perusing newsletters from university research centers and discussions held in various specialized think-tanks, the conclusion is inevitable: it's game over for the world as we know it. But we have by no means understood that yet. I will elaborate more on that in forthcoming blogposts and refer to sources and authors on the various subjects related to this, but you'll just have to take my word for it for now. One of the intentions with A Biosphere Project is to help spread the information about this, as the lack of information regarding the untenable position of our global industrial system is preventing a response on a large enough scale, and a transformation of our society deep enough to prevent a disastrous outcome.

Without presenting an exhaustive list that can immediately call forth a sense of discouragement, here is a sampling of problem areas that come into focus as soon as you follow the concentric circles outward from the 'climate crisis': first and foremost, of course, energy production, transportation, mobility, large-scale industrial agriculture and industrial fishing, but also, on closer inspection, the entire current system of international trade, the international financial system based on interest and debt, the essential nature of our monetary systems and our arrangements for assigning value, the unsustainability of an economic system based on the need for endless growth in a finite system (the Earth), the essential nature of capitalism and the difference between that system and a free market, the highly problematic relationship of capital to democratic institutions and procedures, the equally highly problematic relationship of capital to international media and press freedom. The fragility, waste and monstrous ecological footprint of global transportation systems and supply lines in the globalized economy, the unsustainability of a global trading system that forces ‘emerging economies’ to monetize every possible ‘natural resource’. And so on and so forth. The list goes on, but I will stop there for now. For each of the above systems and collections of agreements and procedures that we usually call 'civilization', it can be argued that the present way of organizing is unsustainable if we want to make a transition to a planetary society that can truly be called 'sustainable', or if we even want to survive.

As I said you may find it difficult to accept this perspective. Our dominant worldview as expressed in our media, our institutions, our system of education, our governments and our transnational forms of organization still assumes that we will be able to overcome all difficulties with a combination of economic growth and technological progress. The cracks in this perspective remain mostly out of sight of mainstream discourse, even if I think it is fair to say that collectively we no longer really believe in it - the sense of fear and even despair seems to be too widespread in our collective consciousness at the moment. Yet it is very difficult for our current collective identity to let go of the belief that things will turn out okay regardless. We still like to believe that these problems will be overcome by our narrative of ever greater control of nature and ever more technological ‘fixes’ for the mounting concentric waves of systemic failure. This belief is so entrenched in our culture that one of our great challenges will be to let go of precisely this idea of endless control and domination.

The solution proposed by neoliberal economists (more economic growth) is an illusion, as has already been shown by a great deal of research and also ‘in the field’. Economic anthropologist Jason Hickel (among others) convincingly demonstrates in ‘Less Is More’ that the path of economic growth is absolutely unsustainable, and that ‘green growth’ is a pipe dream. The solution that eco-modernists propose (more technology, innovation, and 'green energy') will save us, is likewise an illusion. All of this has long been extensively and carefully quantified. It's all physics and math in the end, and eco-modernists leave an extraordinary amount of hard data out of their considerations. For example, just the amount of raw materials required to build all the wind turbines and solar panels that would be needed to switch to 'renewable energy' globally at unchanged economic growth would further inflate the global ‘overshoot’ (or the degree to which we use more than the Earth can sustain) and be the final death blow for many remaining ecosystems and biodiversity. With more of what our global ‘Machine’ has created so far, we will only catalyze new crises. Charles Eisenstein, in his magnum opus ‘The Ascent Of Humanity’, paints a wide panorama of how our technological ‘fixes’ are creating more and more problems from our continuing obsession with control and domination, and ‘eco-modernism’ appears to be the latest version of that obsession.

Technological innovation will have to be a part of a successful transition, but will not in and of itself be enough to turn the tide.

Going deeper into each of these domains and why they are all headed for systemic failure would make this essay a book, and for now it suffices to note that almost every domain of global human activity has reached a tipping point, a point where the stability of the system is unsustainable and a transition to another phase seems inevitable. As quantum physicist Fritjof Capra puts it, "The more we study the great problems of our time, the more we come to the realization that they cannot be separated. They are systemic problems, which means that they are interconnected and interdependent."

Moreover, if you follow these concentric circles in all directions, it quickly becomes clear that all of these global systems that we consider ‘civilization’ at this point cannot possibly by themselves bring a solution to the crisis we face, because they themselves are the root cause of it. As Albert Einstein put it, "No problem can be solved from the consciousness that created that problem." Or as Audre Lorde put it, "The master's tools will not dismantle the master's house."

So it seems on closer inspection that few, if any, of the major global systems and collective arrangements created by humans can survive in their present form if we are to truly address the convergence of ecological crises, or the biosphere crisis, at its source and allow for a livable future for our posterity and for the other forms of life on this planet.

4 - The root of the matter (and of every matter)

But now we enter other territory: if we conclude that just about all the systems we currently consider to constitute ‘civilization’ are increasingly and fundamentally incompatible with a livable planet, then it may logically be concluded from that observation that something is fundamentally flawed in the way of thinking or even the very nature of the consciousness that created these systems. That something has gone fundamentally wrong in the nature of our mental concepts that determine our relationship with our living world.

A form of life imbued with consciousness that embodies all the factors of cooperation and synergy with the larger system in which it exists (the Earth's biosphere) and expresses these optimally will not develop in a way that destroys that larger system. If one organ in a body develops in a way that is incoherent with that body, it can lead to disease and even death of the body. That happens when something goes fundamentally wrong in any given organ, such as rampant cell division (in which case we speak of cancer). The observation that our consciousness currently puts the wider organism of which it is a part in acute mortal danger indicates that our consciousness is failing at a fundamental level. To state that a consciousness that threatens to destroy itself is not optimally developed is an understatement.

Possibly this form of consciousness that brought us to the current point in our evolution was a necessary stage in our development (as evolutionary and systems philosophers such as Eisenstein, Lent and Laszlo also argue), but given that the systems created by this consciousness are proving to be incompatible with a livable planet on more and more levels, it seems that our consciousness is now in need of a thorough 'update' (or an 'upshift' as Ervin Laszlo calls it), a transformation in the way we situate ourselves in our living world, in the universe, in existence.

But what do I mean by 'consciousness'? What is the difference between 'way of thinking' and 'consciousness'? How is it that there are different forms of consciousness? And how is consciousness a part of the broader system we call biosphere? I also want to explore all those questions further in the blog, in upcoming texts regarding the latest scientific insights into the nature of consciousness, and in the travel project that is to become A Biosphere Project. It will be as much an exploration of the essential nature of our consciousness as a journey into the physical world.

So what we usually call the 'climate crisis' turns out, on closer inspection, to be about everything, as the quote from Margaret Atwood at the beginning of this text indicates. It is not only a crisis of the climate, nor is it only a crisis of biodiversity on our planet. It is also a crisis in just about every system created by our species, Homo Sapiens, in this biosphere to which we are inextricably linked. It is a crisis in our global industrial-capitalist ‘Machine’ and our habit of seeing all natural systems as ‘raw materials’ for this machine, ultimately monetizing the entire natural world. But it is above all a crisis in the relationship of our consciousness to our world and the universe. It is a possible tipping point in our worldview, in our system of conscious and unconscious beliefs, in our self-image at the most fundamental level. And it is (if we dare to really engage in this) a decisive stage in the development of consciousness and in taking the step toward a new form of planetary consciousness.

And as long as we don't see all that, as long as we don't follow the concentric circles to the dark recesses of our consciousness, any approach to what we call the ‘climate crisis’ will fall short and be beside the point. And just as long will we continue to look for the key under the street lamp just because there is more light there, when in fact it is in our house. Again, as Albert Einstein stated, "No problem can be solved from the consciousness that created that problem."

So it will be necessary to develop a new kind of consciousness. Anything less will not do..

Sunset above the Austrian Alps. Photo: Filip Van Kerckhoven

5 - Birth

The development of a new consciousness is what is also needed in every individual life at some point: the child's consciousness must expand and transform into that of an adult, otherwise the individual cannot grow and develop. The child's perspective remains of great importance and is essentially integrated and embodied by a (healthy) adult, but it cannot suffice as a basis for life: an evolution and expansion in consciousness are needed to live a meaningful life as an individual and as part of a society.

And such an evolution is usually accompanied by crises in the individual lives of all of us as well, some of which can be life-threatening. Every major obstacle, trauma or pain in our lives is a challenge to grow and to transform our consciousness, and it is no different with these global existential ‘growing pains’. And not every child makes it in the end: the great storms and tribulations of adolescence are too much for some, and sometimes the story ends in alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, crime, suicide. The needed transformation is too much of a challenge for some.

And so it is for planetary societies. It is to be expected that not every planetary civilization will make it, and that the step into expansion and development of consciousness will not be made by all civilizations. But in any case, I think we can say that growth without obstacles and crises is impossible. And that getting through this crisis we are now facing is conversely impossible without transformation and growth of our consciousness, both individually and collectively.

In that sense, this convergence of crises on a planetary scale is indeed the 'perfect storm' to come to transformation. One can say that we are entering a kind of birth crisis, which can bring us into a new age if we correctly identify the challenge and truly engage the process. But not all births end well either: sometimes something happens during the process that leads to the death of the child who wants to be born, and sometimes the life of the mother is also in danger. That journey through the birth canal is violent, dangerous, and painful, and must seem to the baby a hellish journey through darkness and pervasive pain. If this seems like a description of where we as a planetary society are currently going, it is no accident. Everywhere we look we see calamity, political instability, economic crises, polarization, social unrest, increasing extreme inequality, the erosion of what is left of ‘democracy’ and the rise of authoritarian regimes, and now again the threat of nuclear conflict, locally in Ukraine or globally in nuclear armageddon. We seem to be surrounded by darkness on all sides, and at times it seems as if a demonic force is gripping our human spirit and driving it toward self-destruction, as Paul Levy also states in his masterful ‘Dispelling Wetico’, or as author and philosopher Norman O. Brown pointed out as early as 1959 in his masterful, extravagant and visionary work ‘Life Against Death’.

This darkness is a perfect reflection of the present phase of our consciousness, and is the ultimate consequence of it. The causes of what we call the ‘climate crisis’ and of what we see happening around us in all spheres of human activity are the same. And only if we go deep enough and subject our consciousness (collective and individual) to a thorough examination do we stand a chance of correctly identifying the cause of our problems and of no longer looking for the key in the wrong place like Moela Nasroeddin. And only then do we stand a chance of taking the next step in our development.

6 - From below

The ‘silver lining’ to all the misery the world is currently facing, then, is that if we truly engage in this exploration and transformation, we can create a much BETTER world, one that will be radically different in many ways from the current one. Rather than a planetary society based on separation, competition, exploitation and domination, it will be based on aspects of consciousness that are difficult to express in our current story, but will prove crucial in the next phase of our development: cooperation, synergy, coherence at every level, and balance with our natural environment, the biosphere. To this end, however, virtually every one of our systems will have to be rethought starting from this new consciousness and from the perspective of coherence and synergy, and this will obviously become the great challenge we face. But for this to happen, first the consciousness that has created these systems up to now will have to transform, and that is the if possible even greater challenge we face.

Our current economic system based on endless growth, extraction, and concentration of power and property in an ever smaller group, must be transformed into an economy based on respect, balance and ‘super-cohesion’ with our biosphere. By no means a small task, and the power structures that now want to maintain the status quo will not willingly cooperate in such a process. This will require a movement from below, an upward crystallization and organization of initiatives that will spread from the local to the global. That will be the only possible way to hope for the necessary change, as systems philosophers like Jeremy Lent and Ervin Laszlo have already argued in very far-reaching propositions for creating a new kind of civilization. A ’top-down' process initiated by the current power centers will be extremely unlikely in this, because these centers of economic and political power will by all means try to block this transition. Nor will our political representatives dare to do so as long as their hands are tied by financial and industrial powers, and as long as we do not give them a powerful signal that this is what we (the people, voters, citizens, society, or however you want to define us) want. For that to happen, it is necessary for the essential information about our condition to spread further among the people as soon as possible, and each of us can contribute to that (my blog and these essays are one of the ways I myself try to contribute).

We can conveniently ‘blame’ our political representatives, but why would they embark on unlikely far-reaching transformations in society and economy as long as a majority of the population only wants more of the same? It would be political suicide, which is why even the green parties in Europe in no way address the real challenges we face. As one European politician put it, "We know what it takes to deal with the climate crisis, we just don't know how we can ever get re-elected afterwards”. Not only are our political institutions very much influenced by the powerful lobbies and industries that carry more weight in decision-making than you and I, but they also feel their hands and feet tied by what they believe ‘the population’ wants, and until further notice that population doesn't seem to be as concerned about a coming collapse of climate, ecosystems, and civilization but seems to be preoccupied rather by purchasing power, inflation, and the possibilities of increasing property and consumption. In other words, most people still mostly want more of those things that are unsustainable in their current form, and that makes a political change in direction particularly unlikely at the moment. It would result in social instability and even violence, as the yellow jacket movement or peasant protests indicate.

To help enable a major transformation, there needs to be much, much more collective awareness of the nature of the condition our planet is in and the seriousness of this convergence of ecological crises and the need for profound transformations in all areas of our society. And so there is a need for information about the nature of the crisis we are in to be disseminated by as many people in as many ways as possible. Our house is on fire, yes, but the house is so big (a whole planet), that one person sounding the alarm is not enough. Many more people are needed to help spread the news that an era is ending and that a different way of thinking, feeling, and living is emerging. If we want our grandchildren to still be able to live a life worth living, and our planet to still to be a home for a thriving fabric of ecosystems in a living biosphere, we need to engage and start embodying this drive for societal change from the bottom up .

And just as information will have to be disseminated among the wider population in order to arrive at a ‘popular support’ for far-reaching transformation, new networks and local initiatives will have to develop from the bottom up, gradually unfolding as centers of coherence, first locally and then globally into networks of ‘super-coherence’. New developments in systems theory and quantum physics tell us that this is possible in a shorter time frame than we usually think possible, because of certain properties of dynamic systems and because of the non-local nature of consciousness and 'entanglement' of fields of consciousness. More on that later. But in this regard, literally what each person does matters. Because in the new picture that is developing concerning our consciousness, every individual consciousness is uninterruptedly connected with all other units of 'individual consciousness'. No one can say that the transformation we are going through does not concern him/her. As John Donne put it long ago, "No man is an island," and we must take that ancient wisdom in its most literal sense. It is true in this more than ever, as Ernest Hemingway quoted him: "And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." Each of us is part of the ‘super-organism’ of collective consciousness, and each of us has the capacity to help catalyze a change in this super-organism. That may come across to many of you as 'magical thinking', since we collectively still believe in another story, but it is 'hard science' that tells us there is ultimately actually only one consciousness. More on that in the ninth ‘chapter’ of this text, ‘A wondrous new panorama’. This knowledge that consciousness is not limited to the individual can become a tremendous catalyst for a new belief in the potential for profound transformation of our world, and for the possibility that each of us is a part of it.

That does not mean that everyone must drop everything to become an ‘environmental activist’ (a highly problematic word with which I certainly do not identify myself); it does mean that each of us will be invited to begin to feel and experience our own place in the totality of our biosphere much more fully, to experience being part of the larger system once again (something that was an obvious one for our ancestors), and there the inherent invitation of Rainer Maria Rilke will begin to be heard again: "Du mußt dein Leben ändern" , "you must change your life".

The ways in which each of us can contribute are endless, and I will explore further in the series of blog posts entitled ‘Hope’, which you will also find on this website. But change we must. All of us, not just ‘the system’. After all, the system is the sum total of everything we individually and collectively believe. And by changing what we believe, that 'upward causation' can take place, gradually transforming our society from the bottom up into one that has a chance of survival as an integral and wondrous part of our shared body, the biosphere of this planet.

In other words, it will depend first and foremost on people like you and me (and literally everything we do in our individual consciousness therefore also matters). We are all going to have to roll up our sleeves and not wait for the next climate summit. Change will have to come from the bottom up. And this conclusion is even more important than the conclusion that we should all eat less or no meat or consume less . Yes, we all need to consume less of just about everything: energy, raw materials, space, ... but what matters most at this point is that we can all contribute to the shift in consciousness that needs to happen. Each of us can contribute to the creation of coherent networks that can help spread information and energy in a process of mutual interaction and ‘upward causation’, or transformation of the larger system from the bottom up. Both Ervin Laszlo and Jeremy Lent have already given that impetus to such potential networks of transformation. Learn more at 'The Laszlo Institute' website and Jeremy Lent's website (with link to his 'Deep Transformation Network'). Charles Eisenstein has initiated the 'New And Ancient Story' online platform, which combines ‘reverent communication’ and connecting 'change-makers' worldwide in search of a new 'story' for the new era we are entering.

These new networks are some of the seeds of the developing new ways of self-organization at every level of global society, which can further crystallize into a true movement for deep transformation, not only of society but of consciousness itself. Old systems of organization were usually an expression of some form of competition (the idea of competition is one of the central beliefs in our current state of consciousness). The new systems will aim at coherence and cooperation at every possible level of global society, which is of course diametrically opposed to the current competition between individuals, groups, countries and economic-military power blocs. And which is also diametrically opposed to the needs of an international capitalist system that must necessarily rely on exploitation of both people and resources, and therefore will inevitably continue to make global cooperation and synergy impossible (if we do not replace that capitalist system with something else).

Climate march in Brussels, October 2022. Photo: Filip Van Kerckhoven

7 - A profound transformation

Countless systems will have to change, and if this has to happen from the bottom up, we ourselves will have to change as well, and in a profound way. The name of Jeremy Lent's network ('Deep Transformation Network') already alludes to this. The name of the network founded by Charles Eisenstein ('New And Ancient Story') also refers to the deep transformation in our culture and consciousness that is needed, and to the insight that in the new stories we need to create for this we are going to rediscover the oldest stories of man and reintegrate them into our new consciousness. Transformation is already underway in our world in a myriad ways, many of which stay ‘under the radar’ of our mainstream media. Countless initiatives all over the world unite people like you and me in new networks that are already transforming agriculture, local economic networks, community building, health care, education and so much more. People are engaging in volunteer work, regenerative agriculture, refugee aid, empowerment of minority groups, and countless other forms of society-transforming that thus far fairly unnoticed but are already transforming the world. In addition to these countless grassroots initiatives, there will need to be a transformation of consciousness.

That transformation will have to be deep because the essence of our problems is deep. Even our deepest beliefs (which in themselves are also systems) will have to go through a profound transformation. That will have to happen first or at least simultaenously: if the belief structures that led to the power structures that exist in the world today do not undergo an evolution first, any attempt to transform these power structures will only lead to the same thing in another form - as we have witnessed after almost every revolution in history.

We have built these power structures and economic systems based on domination, extraction and exploitation because that reflects what we believe, and so conversely what we believe about ourselves and our place in the universe almost necessarily had to lead to these structures and processes. And so ultimately these current processes will necessarily lead to the destruction of our environment and ourselves. It is built into the program, as it were. And the program unerringly unwinds to this logical endpoint presently.

THAT is the true signal we are getting from the ‘climate crisis’: we must change our beliefs. It is our beliefs that now determine where we look for the key. If we do not change those beliefs, any kind of or attempt to transition to a ‘green economy’ will have no point or meaning, and the Machine will continue to plod inexorably toward the abyss. If we do, we have a chance for a world that will be unrecognizably better, and can provide an opportunity for all the inhabitants of this planet to live fulfilling lives, in homeostasis and in balance with our shared body, the biosphere.

A change of beliefs, it is easier said than done. Our beliefs are particularly persistent entities. We identify with them, they give us a sense of security and identity, and we may also derive status, position and even a sense of superiority from them. And our collective beliefs, also known as ‘paradigms’, are, if anything, even more unyielding. They have been the cause of wars and mass murder countless times. We often choose to eradicate any opponent of the paradigm we subscribe to. Not only the collective beliefs we call ‘religious’ are such persistent entities, so are the beliefs we consider to be ‘scientific’. Ironically, many of the beliefs we consider 'scientific' are fundamentally religious in nature and not based on data. And partly because of this, even 'scientific' beliefs are extremely difficult to change, even despite conclusive experimental data or empirical evidence. We like to believe that what the mainstream scientific community and the popular scientific press tell us is always consistent with what scientific data indicate, but that is often not true. More on that later, too. For now, suffice it to say that the scientific community will also resist a change of paradigm for as long as possible, a process demonstrated by Thomas S. Kuhn in the classic work ‘The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions’ (1962).

On an individual level, too, it can be a daunting challenge to leave behind a belief or conviction that we have cherished all our lives and from which we have derived certainty and identity. Few things in life present a greater challenge. And as a result, this is the challenge par excellence for anyone who wants to do something for our planet and for global society: allow your beliefs to begin to change, including the most deeply held beliefs about who or what you are, and what the world is. In my 'Biosphere Project' I will try to share as much information as possible about the ways in which we and the world are not what we thought they were, but whether or not that information will reach you will depend on whether and to what extent you can allow the possibility of really changing your beliefs.

What you believe about yourself is at the deepest level and largely unconsciously related to what you believe about the universe and material reality. What you believe about the universe and material reality is largely the result of indoctrination and of copying what people in your environment believe. A prerequisite for allowing the possibility of transformation of belief is the realization that most of what you believe is a result of being pressured from childhood to believe thàt and not something else. And especially the fact that that process of indoctrination has begun at such a young age (kindergarten for most of us, but in some ways from day one by parents as well) makes it so difficult to recognize those indoctrinations: they were part of the need to adapt in order to assure ourselves of parental love and approval by the adults in our lives. And especially those things we have come to believe in order to assure ourselves of parental love (a prerequisite for survival as babies and toddlers) have become a part of everything we consider our identity, and are extremely difficult to change or even question.

One of the reasons there is so much polarization and belief-related violence in the world is the fact that we identify to a particularly intense degree with our beliefs and especially with those beliefs that we had to unconsciously adopt in order to assure ourselves of parental love ( the beliefs I am thinking of in this are both subtle and profound, and will be explored further in future texts and blog posts - religious and philosophical beliefs are certainly among the most important beliefs that are usually indoctrinated from childhood, but so in our secular Western societies also the beliefs that we can call ‘scientific materialism’, which represent another form of religion).

If we can come to the understanding that we never completely coincide with our beliefs but always witness those beliefs from the viewpoint of consciousness (as Buddha and Lao Tzu taught us already many centuries ago), then we will have already come a long way towards the much needed new consciousness, and towards an infinitely better world. Further explorations on what exactly that means will follow in my blog and future project. And rather than trying to start from the beliefs we have held for a lifetime because they have simply been forced upon us, we can try to rebuild all the concepts we have about the world from scratch. As physicist David Bohm put it, "If we want to develop new concepts, we must be like children, forming concepts from scratch. We must not rely on the concepts we have been taught."

That is why the transformation we have to go through will be so wide and so deep: we are going to have to subject all our ideas about the world to a far-reaching examination, and leave behind a lot of those ideas that have been at the center of our collective identity for centuries.

8 - Trauma

But there are obstacles on the road to this deep transformation. Something is holding us back and is making us particularly unwilling to engage in this exploration of the relationship of our beliefs and our consciousness - at least, I think that is true for most of us, myself included. Part of those obstacles are outside of us, in our life circumstances, and partly those obstacles are within ourselves. For many of us, we prefer to be distracted, and we have created an endless variety of distractions. Sitting still for 15 minutes without music, television, internet, newspaper, smartphone, crossword puzzle, or conversation.... it is difficult, let alone an hour or half a day. For many of us, it is a task we studiously avoid. Those who meditate, practice yoga or otherwise have developed a habit of centering themselves away from distractions can attest to the many benefits this brings to body and mind, and the openings it creates in a path of self-development. But this requires dedication, since there have never been so many permanently present opportunities for distraction. As Thich Nhat Hanh put it, we have to make a decision almost every minute of every day not to engage in this or that distraction. However, one of the reasons why so many still prefer those semi-permanent distractions is the fear we collectively harbor of all that we are going to find in an examination of our beliefs, and in the silence of an empty time that leaves an opening for all that lurks beneath the surface of our daily consciousness. Most of us are afraid to face the traumas and wounds, afraid that it will paralyze us or drag us into a downward spiral, afraid of rejection from loved ones in a culture that is terrified of pain, mourning and grief, a culture that is phobic of anything to do with the wound in our consciousness. It was no different for me: it has taken me the better part of a lifetime to begin to confront my own wounds and demons, and to begin to understand how my life was being controlled by those wounds because they were unconscious and unknown.

That there is much pain and sorrow that is collectively unprocessed may be clear from the following observation: depression is now one of the leading causes of disease worldwide. The committee of the World Psychiatric Association, an international research group, describes depression as "one of the leading causes of avoidable suffering and premature death in the world" and labels it a neglected global health crisis. The UN also recently described depression as the greatest global health and well-being challenge. If we then include in addition to depression the many forms of addiction, the astonishing increase in stress-related chronic diseases and autoimmune diseases, which are overwhelmingly related to psychological causes, then a picture looms of a species (humans) that is locked in a destructive struggle with itself. And beneath that chronic pain that seems to be becoming more and more widespread in the world is another layer: that of individual and collective trauma, the largely unexamined wounds that control our collective choices to a considerable extent precisely because they are mostly unconscious.

I think it is fair to say that we are all traumatized to a greater or lesser degree. That we all carry pain and hurt in different ways and in different layers. Trauma and personal pain are inherent in human existence. This seems a redundant observation, yet it is a fact that we collectively still have a very difficult time dealing with in earnest. I think it is safe to say that our culture as a whole is still trauma-phobic, one of the reasons we are so addicted to entertainment and diversion. We tend to shy away from the wounds, individually and collectively. But if we examine and experience the wounds, we can learn from them, let go and continue to grow. Trauma can occur at the level of the individual, but also at the level of societies and cultures. Trauma, by the way, need not always be about dramatic forms of physical or psychological abuse: trauma can take very subtle forms and yet play an almost unnoticed role in how we define our relationship to the world. As author and psychotherapist Resmaa Menakem, author of "My Grandmother’s Hands," put it with brilliant simplicity:

"Trauma in a person, decontextualized over time, looks like personality.

Trauma in a family, decontextualized over time, looks like family traits.

Trauma in a people, decontextualized over time, looks like culture."

The truth expressed in this quote is that we mistakenly see many of our traits at the individual level or at the collective level as traits that naturally belong to us. Many of the traits that "look like personality, family traits or culture" are actually the result of trauma on many levels, and actually get in the way of expressing our essence. But if there is one thing even more difficult than changing deep-seated beliefs, it is confronting trauma within ourselves. Many people spend a lifetime doing their best to avoid their own wounds, building an entire personality around the ways they do so. And we do the same thing on a collective level, from generation to generation.

And so that is what we will have to undertake collectively as well as individually: to seek out the wound and get to know it completely, reconcile with it, feel it fully, and then let go and transform. It is possibly one of the conditions for the much-needed change of collective beliefs that we need to initiate. Trauma on a collective and intergenerational level is a huge topic, which I would also like to explore further in my wanderings in world and in consciousness in the coming years. That the subject is alive and well is evident from the response that the documentary film ‘The Wisdom Of Trauma’ received throughout the world. With this film, Maurizio and Zaya Benazzo, the couple who also founded the platform Science And Nonduality, delivered a much-needed and accessible documentary about the endlessly varied ways in which trauma operates in our lives - and how confronting our wounds can enable just the healing we long for. Rather than continuing to avoid the wound, we must face it and begin to truly feel it again. The film focuses on Gabor Maté, the world-renowned Canadian physician, therapist and trauma expert of Hungarian descent, and his life's journey and life's work with trauma of all degrees and variations. Zaya and Maurizio are traveling the world with their film, and everywhere the screenings attract unexpected crowds of spectators and provoke particularly intense and heartfelt reactions. The time has come for familiarizing ourselves with trauma, on all possible levels, the massive response to this wonderful work around the world makes that clear. For if there is anything that connects all people on earth, in addition to love and humor it is our wounds. But those wounds can also be the exact place where we discover a path to healing, and the true nature of our selves.

As the great author and rediscoverer of myths Michael Meade puts it, "The water of our deepest problems is also the water of our own solution," or "Our greatest gifts and deepest wounds reside in the same area."

Familiarizing ourselves with the wound, rather than avoiding it, is a prerequisite for achieving a better world. This includes the collective and intergenerational traumas that currently often lurk in the blind corner of our collective consciousness. Examining the wound, in other words, is one of the ways we can stop looking for the key in the wrong place just because the lantern happens to be there and more light shines there.

Sunset and moon, Somogy Province, Hungary. Photo: Filip Van Kerckhoven

9 - Cynicism, beliefs and hope

But as I indicated in the first part one of this essay back in June, for many of us the integration or inner acceptance of that possibility of a much better world is just as difficult as truly seeing the sorry state of our planet today. For most of us, the inner cynic is a very powerful being who will not give in so easily. We are so hardened in that cynicism that we don't even recognize it anymore as being just that: cynicism. It has become the normal and ubiquitous modus operandi for our society, something that we can only see when we experience a contrast with another mode of being, such as when we can experience the modus operandi of anòther, less cynical culture (usually a culture where material possessions are a less important factor in human existence). That, by the way, is one of the reasons why travel remains so important in times of biosphere crisis, why we should continue to visit other parts of the world, and why that remains a valuable expenditure of energy even in a world where overall energy consumption will have to be drastically reduced. But the attitude with which we embark on a journey will have to change. More on this will follow in another essay, which will have as title 'Traveling in times of biosphere crisis'.

For many people, the idea of a better world triggers a profound resistance, emanating from a deep-seated belief that things can no longer fundamentally change for the better, and that a fundamentally better world is no longer a possibility. Accusations of being ‘naive’, ‘unworldly’, or ‘unrealistic’ are easily leveled when someone points out the possibility that a more beautiful world awaits us. We collectively have very strong beliefs about the fundamental nature of human beings ('selfish,' 'cruel,'...) that are related to beliefs we hold about the nature of life and the nature of the universe (meaningless, mere chance, a collection of directionless and random interactions between dead material forces, without purpose,...). And these beliefs are part of the belief structures we are going to have to change.

Rutger Bregman, author of ‘Human Kind’, recounts how he met with disbelief, ridicule and resistance everywhere when he told people he wanted to write a book about the fundamentally good nature of human beings. We are more likely to believe in Santa Claus than in the good in humans, or in the possibility that we are more than flesh-robots controlled by selfish genes.

The roots of those beliefs go very deep, and are usually outside our horizon of perception. We like to think that those beliefs are based on science and empirical evidence, but nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, there is much more data pointing toward a humanity that has fundamentally evolved for cooperation and for what we can call the ‘good’.

We generally believe that the universe came into existence purely by chance, without meaning or purpose, and that everything in the universe happens through random interaction between blind forces. However, there is much more data pointing toward a purposeful evolution in the universe (as well as in consciousness) toward ‘super-coherence’, or maximum alignment and harmony between all parts at all levels of organization.

We like to believe that our species is a result of, again, purely accidental coincidences and random chance mutations in the genes of organisms bent solely on survival and self-interest. However, there are many more data that point to a certain direction and purposefulness in evolution that is anything but accidental (and statistically seen cannot even be). And from a systems-theoretical point of view, there is a lot to suggest that our species does not exist without reason and has an important role to play in this evolution towards 'super-coherence', because of the nature and potential of our consciousness (quantum physics teaches us that consciousness is a prerequisite for the existence of any kind of 'reality'. There is no 'outside world' possible without consciousness - more on that later). We do not simply exist for no reason at all.

But to state that out loud is like swearing in the church of our current beliefs about the essential meaninglessness of everything. It is not done these days to even hesitantly suggest that mankind’s existence is no accident, and that we evolved fundamentally for optimal expression of cooperation and synergy and with a purpose in the bigger picture of our universe. It is sacrilege in the church of scientific materialism, the religion we have created that we think rests on scientific ‘evidence’ but in fact does not at all.

And there again we come to that need for deep transformation; the beliefs that permeate us consciously and unconsciously and make us believe that everything is actually meaningless coincidence in a dead universe, those beliefs are in need of change. And as I stated, it is precisely science that will help us do that, because the picture that is beginning to emerge in the latest scientific research is pointing precisely in the direction of everything we do not (dare not) believe now: that both the nature of the universe and the nature of man evolve in a direction and with a purpose. That the miraculous fact that we even exist does matter.

Our (erroneous) beliefs about the nature of man and life are a major obstacle to believing in the possibility of a better world. Most of us believe that the world is an arena where selfish forces compete for self-interest, and where not doing so is a sign of weakness. We often see the future as a perpetual battleground where more and more people will fight for survival in a world that will have less and less to offer. As a result, the struggle promises to become more bitter and brutal, as more and more individuals begin to compete for fewer and fewer resources: energy, food, water, land,...

Consequently, in a world where we can expect the further collapse of ecosystems and the accompanying catastrophic consequences for our societies, there is little reason for hope. A world in which we have little hope for a better future certainly does not invite us to examine the nature and extent of the ecological crisis in which we now find ourselves. On the contrary, if things are pretty hopeless (and ultimately pointless) anyway, why delve into how wrong things are already? It certainly won't get any better, will it? So we are collectively inclined not to think too much about the future, and partly because of that, we are not very inclined to really let the seriousness of the current state of the planet into our awareness.

But the present condition requires an another way of perceiving, a different way of thinking, a different narrative than that of cynicism and despair. Thus, in order to even imagine a better future, we are invited to scrutinize our beliefs, and very often that yields surprising new perspectives.

10 - A wondrous new panorama

The work of transforming our consciousness and developing a new paradigm has already been started by many outstanding thinkers, philosophers, writers, artists, psychologists, therapists, seers, and scientists, from the aforementioned observations about evolution in the universe and in consciousness. All over the world, steps are being taken in developing this new worldview and a new way of thinking and feeling about our relationship with our living world and the universe.

And many of these new perspectives -also in the latest scientific developments- are extraordinarily fascinating, hopeful, and also simply very beautiful in how they begin to cast the nature of our universe and our place in that universe in a new light. I have already mentioned in passing some of these new insights: unexpected and surprising properties of dynamical systems, ‘quantum entanglement’ of both matter and consciousness beyond time-space causality, evidence for evolution toward ‘super-coherence’ at every level of reality from sub-atomic particles through molecules, cells, organisms, species, societies, ecosystems all the way to planetary systems and the cosmos as a whole, the evidence for purposeful leaps in evolution that presuppose an ‘intelligence’ and the mutual influence of environment and organism, the very surprising and fascinating interactions between matter and consciousness, the observation of non-local entanglement of ‘individual’ consciousness and non-local transmission of information, the observation that the universe originated in and is part of something older than the Big Bang and so on. If all this seems rather unfamiliar, improbable or incomprehensible to you, that is not surprising: this information still rarely reaches the place under the lantern where we look for the key. In a forthcoming series of essays, I will elaborate on some of these insights, which form the basis of a new awareness of what the cosmos actually is, and who or what we ourselves actually are (or can be).

As yet, then, few of these new perspectives and scientific breakthroughs find their way into the mainstream media, because these media are ultimately rather conservative, take little intellectual risk, and, above all are themselves part of the systems that need to change.

Our mainstream media are all commercial enterprises that are not unfavorable to the paradigm of competition, economic growth and exploitation. They themselves function in that paradigm, and will rarely fundamentally challenge it. Media that are still publicly owned are mostly forced to operate according to the logic and paradigm of commercial enterprises, and have little room for a fundamentally different approach.

Moreover, our mainstream media originate within a narrative, which we can call the ‘standard consensus reality’. That narrative derives its power and legitimacy from its ubiquity, from the way it is seemingly dominant everywhere, and from the dynamics through which the phenomenon of groupthink constantly reinforces that ‘standard consensus reality’. In this way, the mainstream media often act as an echo chamber in which only those dominant narratives resonate. For a potentially different narrative, or even just elements that dare to question that dominant narrative, you usually have to look elsewhere.

Perspectives that are more embedded in the dominant scientific, cultural and economic paradigms will always resonate more with the ‘corporate media’ and their counterparts in public television and radio stations. This is an observation that is unfortunate because the rapid dissemination of these new insights may well prove central to the transformation we must go through. Which is one of the reasons why I also want to pay close attention to the coming paradigm shifts in this blog: it is my modest contribution to helping spread these new insights that may be the seeds of a new worldview.

So when it comes to changing beliefs, many of our fixed ideas about the nature of reality and the nature of consciousness are in need of profound change. As already mentioned, we like to believe that what traditional scientific models and beliefs tell us is always grounded in empirical scientific ‘evidence’. In many cases, however, this is not so.

In the scientific world, beliefs crystallize initially around data and observation, but from a certain point onwards these beliefs tend to become dogmatic, meaning they can no longer be questioned. The word dogma brings to mind religion, which is true: beliefs in the realm of science can be fundamentally religious in nature.

Once a scientific belief acquires the status of dogma, it becomes extremely difficult for a scientist to have the opportunity to conduct research in a field that appears to conflict with that dogma. Scholarships and publication opportunities are then suddenly out of reach, and the ‘official’ publication channels of the scientific community refuse to publish results that do not fit within the prevailing paradigm, even if these results are based on sound research.

The mainstream media and popular scientific press will almost always follow the line of the 'official' scientific publications, and therefore will almost always be a kind of echo chamber for the dominant beliefs of the time, even if there are strong indications or conclusive evidence for other models. This means that our society as a whole is not well informed about the new ideas and models that are developing about the nature of consciousness and the nature of the universe, even though there are very many institutions and individual researchers who are thus putting forward very surprising new theses about them.

Let's look at some beliefs that we usually assume are ‘proven’ and ‘scientific’, and which few people question. For example, the idea that the universe began with the Big bang and that there was nothing before that: false. The idea that evolution proceeds according to random chance mutations that purely by chance provide a better chance of survival for the organism: false. The idea that our consciousness is a side effect of electrochemical reactions in the brain: false. The idea that consciousness cannot exist outside the brain: false. The idea that a strictly objective observation of ‘reality’ is possible and that scientific experimentation provides a fundamentally objective view of that external reality: false. The idea that ‘natural laws’ are immutable and always the same: false. (When I say ‘false’, I mean that scientifically obtained data convincingly point in a very different direction and toward very different models.)

I will elaborate on all of these aforementioned articles of faith in future texts and blog posts. For those interested in the new insights emerging in cosmology: a good introduction are ‘Science And The Akashic Field’ and ‘The Intelligence Of The Cosmos’, two works by world-renowned founder of systems philosophy and scientist Ervin Laszlo, who was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize and has been working for the United Nations for decades, co-author of the Club Of Rome report, and founder of the ‘Laszlo Institute For New Paradigm research’ and of the Club Of Budapest. Both works provide an accessible introduction to the new insights that are developing worldwide and are gradually transforming our understanding of just about everything.

Not coincidentally, I have cited some of the most deeply held beliefs that strongly shape our current paradigm and worldview. For most people, these are self-evident truths that are hardly questioned, if at all. Articles of faith that are beyond question. How ironic that it is precisely the scientific method itself that is undermining these beliefs. Which does not mean that the scientific community will let this happen without a fight: as Thomas S. Kuhn demonstrated already in 1962 in 'The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions' , his classic study on the subject, the deeply rooted beliefs in the scientific community will resist with all their might before they accept a new understanding of the nature of reality and of consciousness.

Consequently, the changes of perspective that are emerging are far-reaching. The last time a change of perspective and belief occurred in this way and on this scale was the introduction of the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun rather than the other way around. From the first introduction of this idea by Nicholas Copernicus, its further elaboration by (among others) Giordano Bruno, Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei, to its final acceptance by both the scientific and the religious community, several hundred years passed. Bruno ended up being burned at the stake, and Galileo initially withdrew his theory under pressure to avoid a similar fate. The Ptolemaic model that prevailed in the Middle Ages, situating the Earth at the center of the universe, was part of the worldly and religious beliefs that shaped an entire civilization and formed the foundation of medieval society, hierarchical order and worldview. And it is no different today. Today, too, we are immersed in a cluster of beliefs about the nature of the universe and our place in it, which also today help form the basis of our world order, economy, hierarchical models of organization, and unconsciously also our personal sense of and ideas about identity down to the most essential level.

As already mentioned, this contemporary cluster of beliefs, which we call a ‘meta-paradigm’, can also be called essentially religious in nature, although we are thus convinced that they are all purely scientifically proven ‘facts’. Just as in the days of Copernicus and Galileo, the body of evidence is growing that nothing is what we thought so far. And just as in those days, prevailing beliefs will resist the new insights and the upheaval they will cause. Today's ‘heretics’, while no longer condemned to the stake, are often marginalized or silenced in other ways in scientific organizations, hierarchies and scientific publishing channels. But as with the previous paradigm shift of that magnitude, the overwhelming amount of data and observations pointing in a very different direction will eventually inevitably overturn the dominance of our ‘meta-paradigm’. It would just have to happen much faster than last time, because this time our survival depends on it, in the most literal sense of the word.

Beach at low tide, Zeeland, The Netherlands. Photo: Filip Van Kerckhoven

11 - An ecology of consciousness

So these new developments in transforming our consciousness and our belief structures will also be the subject of future blog posts and essays in this series. It is an exploration that is central to my own project. This interest in our beliefs and paradigms is a natural consequence of my work as a visual artist, which also had as its central focus the relationship between our beliefs and our perceptions. And it is also a consequence of my lifelong fascination with both religion, Eastern philosophy, and ‘our’ science, that wonderful but often misunderstood tool of which we have in turn made a religion. It may seem strange that, as what some call an ‘environmental activist’ (a word I don not like and certainly do not identify myself with) I seem to be more concerned with belief systems than with renewable energy, carbon taxes, protests against oil companies, or promoting veganism. These are all extremely important issues, but I (along with many others) am increasingly convinced that the main 'ecological' work must also take place in our own consciousness. And that this 'ecology in consciousness' must precede or at least be simultaneous with any successful transformation of our global society.

Why must we work on an 'ecology in consciousness' first and foremost or at least simultaneously? That is a question that is perhaps at the heart of what I wish to do in the coming years. Why believe that there is no adequate way to meet these planetary ecological challenges without also (and especially) 'working' in our own consciousness? And what does that mean specifically? This is related to what we have already touched on briefly in the previous chapter. In order to understand our situation in the ‘outside world’, we must at the same time see the situation in the ‘inside world’ differently and, above all, get to know it better. Indeed, the 'outside world' and the 'inside world' are one and the same.

The scientific data indicate that there is no fundamental separation between our consciousness and what we perceive as ‘material reality’. Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, we can say for now that our consciousness according to quantum physics is inextricably intertwined with that 'outside world' ('outside world' is thus actually a wrong term but I use it for convenience).

The 'outside world' and our consciousness are both aspects of one essence, one underlying field (which quantum physicist David Bohm called the ‘Implicate Order’ and Ervin Làszlò calls the ‘A-Field’). This means that all processes taking place in the 'outside world' actually represent a reflected process in our own consciousness and vice versa. As long as we begin to isolate certain things in the 'outside world,' develop a judgment on them, and try to change, suppress or eliminate them, without simultaneously recognizing those processes in our own consciousness, any action will fall short or have other equally undesirable consequences.

The ancients knew, ‘As Above, So Below’. And similarly, ‘As Outside, So Inside’. As long as we try, as 'good' climate activists (or as activists in any field), to identify the 'bad guys,' denounce them, and try to 'defeat' them in any way we can, without recognizing that everything these ‘evil’ ones create is also being created in our own consciousness, we will go from one fight into another, and polarization and hatred in our world will only increase.

Quantum physics teaches us that there is only one consciousness (as physicist Erwin Schrödinger, famous for ‘Schrödinger's cat paradox’, put it, "The total number of minds in the universe is one."

Our individual consciousness, insofar as it is individual, can be compared to a fungus that is the above-ground individuation of an infinite underground network or mycelium.

Everything that happens in any form of another individual consciousness in the ‘outside world’ has an aspect that happens in our own personal consciousness as well. We participate in everything that creates consciousness, and our consciousness creates a mirror representation of everything that arises and can arise in that larger consciousness.

There is no phenomenon in consciousness that is not shared by all of us. Therefore, we know that there is also no form of 'evil' that does not also exist in our individual consciousness. Any identification of an ‘evil’ in the outside world, whether it be greedy corporate executives, corrupt politicians or somehow deficient fellow citizens, is an invitation to identify those same deficiencies in ourselves. It is an exercise that constantly protects us from a false sense of superiority, from complacency, fanaticism. It also protects us from any form of dehumanizing the other, no matter how wrong, repugnant or objectionable that other may seem to us.

Moreover, each time recognizing the essential oneness of ourselves and anything or anyone we develop a judgement on is an impetus to our own development and growth, as where condemnation of ‘the other’ without this exercise is more of a brake on that process: we stop examining both the other and ourselves. We barricade ourselves in judgment and rejection. We miss the opportunity for greater integrity in our own being, and for a better understanding of the other person's motivations.

If we truly come to accept that there is only one consciousness or Mind in the universe, as quantum physics suggests, it is an invitation to a new level of empathy, compassion and forgiveness. The realization that every phenomenon in the ‘outside world’ also has an equivalent in our own consciousness, and that every judgment we have on something or someone is essentially the projection of a quality of yourself that you don't want to experience or acknowledge (usually also a wound that has not been fully experienced and has remained largely unconscious - see ‘chapter’ 8) is an extremely powerful compass: it keeps us on course for more communication, harmony, understanding, dialogue, cooperation, and synergy, all things we are going to need very much.

Moreover, there is another aspect to the connection of each individual consciousness with the ‘outside world’ as well as with every other individual consciousness: energy and information can spread non-locally (meaning without any temporal dimension and without the use of classical signals or transfer of electro-chemical energy) from one consciousness to another, and from one group to another, even without communication in this time-space dimension. This phenomenon of quantum entanglement of consciousness has been established experimentally several times in laboratories worldwide.

The phenomenon of non-local transfer of information and energy also means that individuals can contribute to ‘fields of consciousness’ that evolve in a certain direction. More on that too, in future texts. For those who are curious, I would like to refer to the work of scientists such as the already mentioned Ervin Laszlo, Amit Goswami, Rupert Sheldrake or Peter Russell. Non-local fields of consciousness can be influenced by any of us, since there is no distinction between our individual consciousness and the one universal field of consciousness. So the energy and intention you create has an effect in each case, and can help the collective energy field evolve further. That scientifically proven phenomenon is particularly empowering for our sense of purpose and motivation. We are not hopelessly isolated entities in a universe that is an arena for flesh-and-blood robots pursuing only self-interest in a dead universe. We are all sources of energy in the universal field of consciousness, and what each of us does, matters. So whatever you do in your own consciousness can strongly influence the collective field of consciousness and the energy of collective intentions. And it is not necessary for this that you drop everything and become an ‘environmental activist’: you will do what you have to do, and this can take place in another domain than ‘climate activism’. Since all the great problems of our time are systemic problems and interconnected as Fritjof Capra says, your work will serve the purpose.

This ‘ecological work’ in one's own consciousness can take place in many ways. Any personal practice that brings an individual consciousness more into coherence with its own life energy can be a first step, whether that is yoga or meditation or other consciousness work. ‘Yoga for the climate’? That may seem an odd reasoning. But it seems strange only because we have been so thoroughly indoctrinated into a worldview in which there is no connection between consciousness and matter, and between individual consciousness and universal consciousness. A worldview that has thus been shown to be fundamentally flawed and outdated in the most recent scientific developments.

Again: since the phenomenon of ‘quantum entanglement’ proves that our individual consciousness is uninterruptedly and indivisibly connected to the collective consciousness field, and that our collective consciousness and what we usually call ‘material reality’ are both different vibrational frequencies in one and the same field, any change in individual consciousness can affect collective consciousness. From this does not immediately follow that it is enough for everyone to practice yoga or meditation to contribute to a collective evolution in consciousness and society. Although for some that may be the case. But it does follow that any separation we make between self and world is an illusion. What you change in your own consciousness has an effect on the world. And what we judge as ‘wrong’ in the world has an equivalent in ourselves.

What we discover in ourselves as a reflection of what we condemn in the world can initiate a particularly powerful process of transformation, both for yourself and for the world. And this awareness seems to me extremely important, also in order not fall into the trap of ‘good versus evil’, as stated earlier: the ‘good’ environmental activists against the ‘bad’ oil companies, for example. Good-evil oppositions are also embedded in our old belief systems, and do not help us move toward a new understanding of our situation.

To put this into practice, I find the following exercise very helpful. It is an exercise I do almost daily, whenever I notice that I have a judgment on something or someone, or begin to see a particular group or institution as ‘bad’.

The exercise is simple but not easy: whenever I feel such a judgment arising in my consciousness, I try to assume that the process in the outside world that I am judging is also taking place in myself, perhaps on a different level or with a different intensity, but essentially in the same way.

I then take a moment to focus my thoughts and my heart on exactly what it is that my judgment encompasses. What aspect of the person, institution or situation I am judging is the subject of my rejection? On what ground do I reject that aspect?

Next, once I have mapped out the object of my judgment or rejection a little more precisely, I will try to discover in my own consciousness that aspect of myself which acts as or represents substantially the same thing as that which I am condemning. It is then not a question of thinking about it at length: it is rather a question of feeling, of sensing. It is a matter of becoming aware of the energy that the judgment evokes, and becoming aware of the energy in yourself that corresponds to it.

Usually that process doesn't take very long, and I always find something - always. If I perceive that something or someone is corrupt, it means that something in myself is also corrupt. If I think that something or someone has no respect for our environment, it means that on some level I myself also lack respect for our environment. If I perceive that something or someone serves only self-interest or the increase of one's own possessions and power, it means that something in me is still operating on that level of consciousness.

I assure you that there is always a reflected process to be found within yourself that exists in the same way as that what you condemn in the outside world. Even (and perhaps especially) in the case of your worst enemy. Pick your favorite villain (Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Vladimir Putin, anyone on the opposite end of the political spectrum from you, your boss at work, your neighbor,.... ), identify exactly what you condemn the most, and then explore within your own consciousness, intentions, behaviors. Look under the layer of complacency and under the layer of masks you present to the outside world. Of course, this is not about a literal interpretation but about finding a reflection of the intention you have a judgement on. I promise you: you will always discover that at one level or another you are doing just the same thing in your life as the one or those you condemn and reject. Always. How could it be otherwise, if all consciousness is essentially one, as quantum physics teaches us?

This exercise is confrontational, but so valuable: it makes us much more honest people. It is a lesson in humility and authenticity every time, and it protects us from our ego's tendency to see ourselves as better than others.

This observation, by the way, does not mean that we should then just accept everything we perceive as harmful or morally wrong in the world. It does not mean that we cannot take action against pollution, corruption, aggression, and other processes we perceive as harmful. It does mean that we will always have to keep at the center of our attention that what happens outside us also happens inside us. Any work in the outside world also means work in ourselves. The other is essentially no different from yourself, even in the case of another whom we condemn as ‘bad’.

And that too, of course, is a very old wisdom. Rather than focusing on the splinter in another's eye, we are invited to examine the beam in our own eye. ‘He who is free from sin may cast the first stone’.

It remains so important to remember that, because if we forget that when we ‘go to war’ for a better world, the result will always be more polarization and violence, no matter how good our intentions.

So any work in the outside world will have to be preceded by or done in tandem with similar work in one's own consciousness and life. This is what I call ‘ecology in consciousness’, and it is as essential as participating in climate marches or suing oil companies. Our own consciousness is essentially the same as that of anyone we think we can identify as ‘bad’, and this realization of the essential indivisibility of consciousness, and the ultimate connection between each of us (yes, also the corporate executives of companies that extract oil or cut down the Amazon forest) on an essential level must remain the starting point. In this sense, there is also no distinction between ‘improving the world’ and ‘improving yourself’. The distinction between the two belongs to the beliefs of a worldview that is outdated and incorrect. There is only one reality, and both the ‘outer world’ and the ‘inner world’ are two different manifestations of it.

Mountains in Trøms Province, northern Norway. Photo: Filip Van Kerckhoven

12 - Good News

It is an extraordinary experience to have come to the end of a path and to not immediately find another one. The path we were on has brought us to the edge of an abyss, and we now stare into that abyss and see a possible future we wouldn't wish on our worst enemy, let alone our own grandchildren.

Not knowing the way is a very uncomfortable experience. We like to know where we are going and how to get there. We don't like being lost. Nor do we like to admit it since we are still wedded to the stories of the superiority of our civilization, of our technology and of modernity. But there we are: the path dead-ends on a precipice, and continuing on this path is not an option. Retracing our steps does not seem to be possible or desirable either.

Ten thousand years of ‘civilization’ has brought us to this point: we are at the edge of the precipice, and there is no way out - at least, from the perspective of our usual thinking and from within our current beliefs. At least as long as we keep looking for the key under the streetlight.

An exciting and challenging road then begins: the road to a new worldview and a new consciousness. And parallel to that a road to a new form of society. It is truly an interesting time to be alive! We are facing great transformations, which will be no less far-reaching than the insight that helped bring about the end of the Middle Ages: the realization that the Earth revolves around the sun, rather than the other way around.

In this sense, it is all good news. Yes indeed, we are going to face difficult times. But just as the storms of adolescence can lead to maturity, this convergence of crises can finally lead us into a new phase of being human and of developing consciousness and a civilization in harmony with our planet. Hard as it may seem to believe such a thing right now.

To be continued in forthcoming essays on our collective beliefs and paradigms.


Some questions for contemplation:

Are you ever consciously contemplating the nature of the world, the universe, yourself? Do you ever ask yourself questions about that? Does life leave you time to reflect on those big questions? Do you find it important to engage with that? And do you find it frightening or inspiring to think further about the essential nature of your consciousness or reality?

Can you imagine that you could change many of the beliefs you hold now? That you could also begin to question things you now take for granted?

Do you follow the latest developments in science regarding the nature and characteristics of our universe? If so, have they already brought about changes in your beliefs about life? Do you consider it possible that your beliefs about the nature of the universe, life and consciousness will undergo far-reaching shifts?

Can you identify with an exercise in ‘ecology in consciousness’ like the one I just described? Do you consider it possible that you would begin to apply it to yourself on a regular basis?

Do you notice that you have judgments on this text and the propositions it puts forward? Are you willing to apply the above exercise to those judgements?

I wish you all the best,


Road in clouds, French-Italian border in the Queyras. Photo: Filip Van Kerckhoven


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