Editor’s Note: In 2016, Andrew Harvey and I published Savage Grace: Living Resiliently In The Dark Night of The Globe. In Chapter 1 of the book, we forecasted essentially what is happening in this moment in terms of the demise of the last vestiges of democracy and human rights on this planet. We chose the image of Kali, the Hindu goddess of creation and destruction as the symbol of our current global predicament. Two years later, we are witnessing a virulent, worldwide embrace of white nationalist, authoritarian rule. Ultimately, Kali seeks to transform the human ego and rational mind and bring us into a more permanent residence in the heart, but the process is often excruciating. Might she also want to transform the image a country or a community has of itself? “This is not who we are.”—Or is it? How shall awake human beings respond? What is our work? What is our calling? How do we reconnect with the authentic sources of meaning in our lives and the web of life itself as totalitarian rule is poised to dominate our consciousness and our countries as we stand on the threshold of the potential extinction of all life on Earth as a result of catastrophic climate change? We will be posting portions of Savage Grace in the coming weeks because it is proving itself to be prescient and empowering in this very dark time.
Kali Takes America: Reconnecting with the Destroyer/Creator
Kali, the Goddess of life and death, of creation and destruction, is the most revered Hindu goddess, beloved in India. But our country hasn’t dealt with Kali at all because we don’t like to think that death is part of life. . . . I mean, if we gave any thought to it at all, we’d know that death leads to new life. I think we have to learn to accept mystery, to accept that the Divine is mysterious and that if we think we know everything, we are grossly deceived.
—Marion Woodman, Dancing in the Flames: The Dark Goddess in the Transformation of Consciousness[i]
Shortly following the 2016 Presidential election in the United States, Harvard educated scholar of comparative religion, Vera de Chalambert, penned her extraordinary article “Kali Takes America: I’m With Her” at the Rebelle Society blog.[ii] Almost instantly becoming viral, this audacious, astute piece pierced like a flaming sword the psyches of countless individuals who had already noticed the astonishing resemblance between Donald Trump and the destructive and chaotic forces he has unleashed and the Hindu goddess, Kali. Kali is destroyer and creator—killer of illusion and champion of liberation. Wearing around her neck a necklace made of skulls, she is infamous for death, sex, and violence on the one hand, yet she is also tender, passionate for justice, compassionate, and burning with an incomprehensible and blissful love. With Kali we are invited into an illusion-less confrontation and embrace of the paradoxes of life and creation. This confrontation and embrace demand nothing less than the death of our individual false selves and of the illusions and fantasies around which our social, economic, and political structures are flimsily constructed.
De Chalambert boldly declares Trump as mirroring the dark side of Kali and explains that whenever she appears, her terrifying presence is necessary because something demands to be urgently transformed. The author challenges our American addiction to “hope” and “optimism” and asserts that Kali is now here in our presence to strip us naked and have her ferocious way with us. “The mystics tell us that we need spiritual crisis,” says De Chalambert. “That we must enter the Cloud of Unknowing, the deepest despair, the most profound darkness within, without hope, in order to grow spiritually. They call such a time of deep crisis, of great uncertainty, the Dark Night of the Soul. There, in our radical desperation, in our absolute abandonment, it is said, the Divine Doctor awaits. Holy Darkness was Her medicine all along.”[iii]
It is, in fact, the darkness that heals us, not our incessant, tenacious grasping for splinters of light and reassurance that everything is going to work out somehow. In fact, the blogger writes, “Darkness heals us without a spoonful of sugar; the wound is the gift, and this election is a good dose.”[iv]
In a time of catastrophic climate change, when it is impossible to have an intelligent discussion of the subject without the “E-word” (Extinction) entering the conversation; in a time when hundreds of species are going extinct daily; when economic inequality is more globally painful and pervasive than it has ever been; when endless war appears to be as normal as eating corn flakes; and when corporations, now considered “persons,” dictate and dominate virtually every aspect of our lives and culture, Donald Trump, agent of Kali, is now Chief Executive of the most powerful nation on Earth.
We are writing some of these words the day following President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. While this Accord is far from perfect and does not address ruthlessly enough the real issues, it is a first step. Symbolically, for the President to withdraw from it at this time sends a terrifying message that only money and corporate profit now matter at all. The survival of the human race is clearly not as important as next week’s stock prices. What clearer image of our moral, spiritual, and political dereliction could we be given?
Kali Yuga Stages and Responses
None of this madness would have surprised the ancient Hindu sages, who predicted the age in which we are now living. For them Kali Yuga represents the collapse of every kind of inner and outer coherence and personal and institutional forms of compassion, concern, and justice. Everything revered in previous ages and all forms of checks and balances within a culture are systematically and terrifyingly undermined and eventually destroyed, leading to the total annihilation of the culture and all of its living beings. In our era the most obvious indicator that Kali is indeed dancing ruthlessly is the collapse of industrial civilization that is now underway and the complete lack of moral responsibility or responding with justice and compassion.
The Hindu sages identified four stages of Kali’s dance: Ominous, dangerous, severe, and lethal. We see the dance of Kali playing out in our time in the following way:
- The Ominous Stage of Kali’s dance began with the creation of a technological civilization rooted in a denial of the sacred feminine and in the belief that nature existed only to be exploited. The terrible injustices that characterized the early evolution of industrial civilization were exposed and excoriated by the great Romantic poets and the major philosophers of change such as Marx, Rousseau, and Walt Whitman, who saw quite clearly that the obsession with domination of nature and the worship of profit as the bottom line would lead to a soulless culture, massive and dangerous inequality, and a world of endless war for resources. They were not heeded, and so the next stage unfolded.
- The Dangerous Stage then ensued with an orgy of frantic expansion, fueled by a fantasy of endless energy and resources undergirded by the delusion of infinite growth on a finite planet. This was denounced by ecologists and environmentalists and the majority of scientists who were aware of the horrific dangers such an orgy was engendering. However, very little was done to limit the destruction, and the culture in general continued in its addiction and denial, supported by a massive military industrial complex. Wars became exponentially more destructive with the creation of a nuclear bomb, and humanity grew accustomed to a semi-psychotic state of endless consumerism laced with perpetual anxiety. This lead inevitably to the frightening stage of the dance in which we find ourselves.
- The Severe Stage has now obviously begun to unfold with very little significant environmental mitigation of the damage done to our ecosystems and the omnipotence of the 1% whose soulless pursuit of power and money at all costs dictates policy on every level. It is now only a matter of decades before the planet may be uninhabitable as a result of this dark marriage of addiction to power and total lack of any concern for compassion or justice or even survival. We must see this for what it is—a psychosis, unhealable by anything but catastrophe, and perhaps not even then; a nihilism that is, yes, demonic and that has rotted the human passion for transformation.
- The Lethal Stage, a whole bevy of appalling facts makes clear, could soon be upon us. The lethal stage of Kali’s dance will destroy human and animal life and a vast portion of the planet. In case this seems exaggerated, let us not forget that such destruction has occurred before with the extinction of the dinosaurs and the devastation of the Great Flood. More and more people are now realizing with the election of Donald Trump and the corruption, ignorance, blindness, and turpitude that attend and support his Presidency, that this is not only a possibility, it is a distinct probability.
Please do not read our description of these stages too quickly. Allow yourself to be exposed at visceral depths to what Kali is trying to teach us all whether we like it or not.
How Then to Move Forward?
There can be no way forward in a crisis as absolute and extreme as ours except through such terrifying knowledge. And this knowledge must lead to wise and skillful action if it is not itself to become corrupt and paralyzing.
As we wrote “The Serpent and the Dove: Wisdom for Navigating the Future” article,[v] we named three essential perspectives and actions that awake human beings must embrace going forward into what we know as a “Dark Night of the Globe,” namely Reconnection, Resistance, and Resilience. We understood that the Age of Trump would be extremely challenging for all living beings on the planet in the face of his perspectives on economics, the environment, culture, foreign policy, and race and the deranging they are marshaling, both in the corporate and political worlds.
Almost immediately after the Trump victory, many who voted against him and even those who did not vote at all began calling for “reconciliation” in order to ensure a peaceful transition of power. We believed that “reconciliation” could not be the most appropriate approach, since the values Trump had espoused so soundly alienated so many in his campaign. Attempts at reconciliation are important, but we need to be very cautious because the word “reconciliation” is not stringent enough. The notion of reconciliation can easily continue the kind of comatose, fake inclusiveness that makes us vulnerable to deceit. The wise words of Jesus come to mind in which he counsels his followers to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. In the current situation, we must beware of New Age soppiness and “let’s love him no matter what” sentimentality. There is no authentic reconciliation without authentic discernment and without both parties opening their arms.
To reconcile too fast with a form of fascism that could usher in the last, lethal stage of Kali’s dance is a dereliction of every kind of intelligence. It is reminiscent of a wife, repeatedly raped and battered, who clings to the belief that her husband can change if only she endures.
As a January, 2017, New York Times ad opposing the Inauguration of Trump states, “Trump is ‘assembling a regime of grave danger’ that is an ‘immoral peril to the future of humanity and the earth itself.’ Millions must rise up in a resistance with a deep determination such that we create a political crisis that prevents the Trump/Pence fascist regime from consolidating its hold on the governance of society.”[vi]
Post-election, CNN Republican commentator, Ana Navarro wrote that “It’s hard to give Trump a chance when he staffs his White House with racists.”[vii] Post-election, comedian Dave Chappelle stated on Saturday Night Live[viii] that he was willing to give Donald Trump a chance, but he asked that Trump give him a chance as well. Only in this kind of scenario, we believe, can authentic reconciliation have a prayer of succeeding. We cannot overemphasize the danger of a false rhetoric of reconciliation that does not realize both the depth of darkness in the forces now threatening our future and the enormous and ruthless power they possess and have shown they will use when they feel they must.
For this reason, we prefer using the word Reconnection as the first response we must make toward the rise of fascism, and this reconnection is not even primarily focused on the adversary. Without Reconnection, we simply will not be able to create a resistance movement. Reconnection fosters inner strength and a deeper connection with the truth of our own divine consciousness and the sacredness of creation. Reconnected, we are far more dynamically involved in creating community of every kind. Reconciliation grounded in discernment can only occur when we are deeply reconnected with our inner wisdom of the Self, with Earth, and with our trusted and tried allies. Unless we commit to doing the grueling and transforming work of Reconnection, no authentic reconciliation or necessary dialog with others of different perspectives can truly take place.
Our “Serpent and Dove” article did not provide us the space we needed to elaborate on the deeper meaning of Reconnection, Resistance, and Resilience, which this book is intended to accomplish. Moreover, since writing the article, we believe a fourth ‘R’ should be added, namely, Regeneration, and this ‘R’ will be explored as it pertains to the other ‘Rs’ and the unfolding of the crisis.
We hasten to add that at the time of publication of this book, we do not see a robust, discerning resistance movement that has moved beyond feel-good activism. Although we celebrate all the acts of defiance that have revealed human decency and dignity, we nevertheless argue that a systemic illness lies at the core of industrial civilization, and that illness will bring about its collapse. For awake human beings, the purpose of the collapse, as with all suffering, is to transform our consciousness. Knowing that civilization will collapse, does not in any way preclude resistance and Sacred Activism. Not to resist and not to act, now ensures total destruction. Resistance and Sacred Activism are central to the transformation that is now taking place, but they both need to be enacted with unprecedented inner strength, discernment, and unwavering resolution. Resistance in our extreme circumstances must integrate activism with profound, soul-searching, soul-searing inner work in order to have any chance at all of being effective and transformative.
We cannot afford at this moment any form of false hope or illusion. Kali humiliates such fantasies, and they will not serve us as we go forward. We envisage four possible scenarios:
- A massive non-violent resistance movement rises imminently and prevents wholesale destruction.
- A resistance movement that waxes then wanes as a result of being undermined by a post-truth, post-fact agenda in which the rampant corruption and the tendency toward violence that pervade the current administration paralyze the functioning of government and the willingness of citizens to resist.
- Any resistance movement ruthlessly suppressed with the enactment of martial law, the silencing of the media, the incarceration and elimination of dissidents, and pervasive chaos throughout the culture signals the beginning of the fourth and final lethal stage of Kali’s dance.
- Modern civilization collapses, the planet is profoundly changed, much human and animal population is destroyed, some humans survive to seed the next churning of the human experiment in the post-apocalyptic world.
- Horrifying suffering leading to the extinction of life on Earth.
These should not be perceived in any chronological order. Any of them could occur, and all might overlap.
In this book we want to explore how Reconnection, Resistance, Resilience, and Regeneration might manifest in all of these possible scenarios. Even if we realize that we are facing certain extinction, we are still responsible for the level of our consciousness in terms of how we treat others and how we attempt to mitigate the destruction that will be our only legacy.
In Carolyn’s 2015 radio interview with Stephen Jenkinson, author of Die Wise, he spoke of the etymology of the Greek word catastrophe, noting that the prefix cata, implies moving downward and inward, and the suffix strophe relates to a kind of braiding or weaving activity. From Jenkinson’s perspective, the deeper meaning of “catastrophe” is an entrance into the subtleties or mysteries of being a human being. That pathway has been established by people before us, and that road or braided rope is a way that we follow the descent into the mysteries of life.[ix] Our work as awake human beings at this time then, is to be willing to descend into the dark night of the globe as well as the dark night of the individual soul and to do so in connection with trusted allies. Going downward and inward is the only way we can open to the mystery of the Self and be guided by it through whatever unfolds.
If you are reading these words, it is likely that you are on this road—a road traveled by many humans before you, but unique to you in this moment because you are facing challenges unlike theirs. Countless humans before us have faced catastrophe, and the fundamental concern of this book is not whether any of us will survive, but rather, how we face cata-strophe by following the call to go “downward” and “inward,” and how we do so in deep connection with ourselves, each other, and Earth.
When we contemplate a future significantly shaped by a neo-fascist perspective, we will need much more than external dialog or benevolent intentions. In fact, when we speak of reconnection, interpersonal relationships are only one aspect of our concept of reconnection. Rather, we believe that reconnection of any kind must be grounded in reconnection with oneself, with the other, and with Earth. Re-connection assumes that a fundamental connection has been broken and cries out for restoration. The history of our species has been the history of humans attempting to connect and reconnect with self, other, and Earth. Our spiritual and religious practices throughout time have been designed for reconnection as in the etymology of the word religion or religare, which literally means “to bind back,” that is to say, reconnect.
Reconnection is not without its price. You cannot reconnect with the truth of your divine Self, with other, and with Earth without being made aware of the excruciating intensity of all of the forces of dissociation and disconnection that now threaten life itself. Reconnection slaps you awake to your responsibility to live and act in a way that resists and transforms them.
As we find ourselves on a trajectory to human extinction as a result of climate catastrophe, what is essential is to reconnect at the deepest possible level with the Self, the divine within. This Self, as all the authentic mystical traditions reveal, is not the personal self. It is a universal, divine reality of which each one of us is a unique expression.
But, what does it mean to reconnect with Self? Is it yet another subtle form of the narcissism which has brought us to this tragic juncture in the human story? How do we connect with Self, yet remain connected with other and with Earth?
Let us begin by reevaluating the worth and truth of our emotions. William Blake was reported to have said that emotions are influxes of the divine, so perhaps our fundamental human emotions are pivotal in reconnecting with Self. Industrial civilization’s disdain for emotion as “irrational” or “unscientific” has produced a modern human with a fragmented psyche and a heart entombed in a sarcophagus of nearly-numb insensitivity to anyone or anything or what we named in Return to Joy as a “flatline culture.” What this disdain ensures is paralysis and denial in the face of the horror of the collapse of industrial civilization.
Four fundamental emotions which are certain to rise in a culture of neo-fascism are fear, anger, grief, and despair with variations of each. We often label these as “negative” emotions, but psychologist Miriam Greenspan in her wonderful book, Healing through the Dark Emotions, writes that, “Our distrust of the dark emotions has been heightened by recent mind-body research that concludes that negative emotions are bad for you, contributing to life-threatening illnesses from asthma to cancer, cardiovascular disease to immune system disorders. By and large, this research neglects to distinguish between emotions that are experienced mindfully—that is, fully experienced in the body in a direct and open way, as they occur—and those that are not mindfully experienced or have become “stuck” in the body.”[x] In other words, so-called negative emotions are not inherently negative, but we often perceive them as such because we lack the tools to work with them consciously in order to mine the emotional and spiritual treasures that they hold for us.
In her 2011 book Navigating the Coming Chaos: A Handbook for Inner Transition, Carolyn noted that Greenspan speaks extensively of “emotional alchemy,” drawing upon the ancient mystical practice of transforming baser metals into gold. By this she means that when we allow emotions to flow, which is not the same as merely “letting it all hang out,” and when we allow grief, fear, despair, or other “negative” emotions in the body, we allow their wisdom to unfold. “Emotional flow,” she says, “is a state in which one is connected to the energy of emotions yet able to witness it mindfully. We ride the wave of emotion on the surfboard of awareness. When we do this skillfully, emotional energy in a state of flow naturally moves toward healing, harmony, and transformation.[xi]
Emotions have an extraordinary capacity to connect us with our own bodies because they issue from the body. Because we are so disconnected from our bodies, reconnection is most importantly reconnection with that body and the extraordinary wisdom of its changing, subtle reactions. Unless we learn how to revere, honor, and listen to our bodies, with deep compassion, reconnection with the Self is impossible. The reason is simple, the Self is not only transcendent but also immanent, and so, embodied. Likewise, when we share emotion with trusted allies, our connection with our emotions and the lives and bodies of our allies is immeasurably deepened, and often we enter the territory Rumi so beautifully described when he wrote, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”[xii] Connections with our emotions and physical bodies enable us to reconnect viscerally with the creation. Moreover, the study of Ecopsychology increasingly reveals our emotional bond with Earth, and students of Ecopsychology and Permaculture often report the deep emotional connection they experience through engaging directly with soil, plants, and animals.
Beyond even our emotions and the rich and healing connection with Earth is the divine consciousness that all the mystical traditions know we have been originally blessed with. An entire plethora of techniques from simple meditation to the saying of the names of God in the heart are available. Everyone who fears for the future needs now to connect radically with the peace, joy, strength, persistence, and wisdom that our original birthright of divine consciousness makes possible and sustains. Claiming and experiencing our divine consciousness ends the illusion of separation from ourselves, each other, and Earth.
The illusion of separation is inherent in the paradigm of industrial civilization which flourished as a result of developing a “use” relationship with Earth. Whereas ancient and indigenous peoples experienced Earth as a living being with whom they cultivated an intimate relationship, modern, non-indigenous humans came to view the Earth as yet another resource that can be extracted from, commodified, and turned into profit. When we reconnect, we begin a long journey to subvert all the structures and ways of thinking and being of an obviously bankrupt civilization.
The Kali Yuga will become an era in which separation has never been more axiomatic. President Trump’s cabinet is comprised of career “extractionists” whose fortunes have been acquired relentlessly through the commodification of Earth and other living beings. Economic inequality, the exploitation of labor, and the deification of the corporation are becoming even more virulent than they have been in recent memory. Thus, human beings battered by the separation myth are likely to become more insatiably hungry for reconnection than at any previous time in our history. Therefore, everyone reading these words is now compelled to place reconnection with Self, others, and Earth at the center of their spiritual practice and functioning in the world. This is nothing less than an act of revolution with incalculable potential consequences for the future of our world. Any revolution that does not begin with this radically inclusive reconnection is doomed to failure.
If we do not commit to a conscious path of Reconnection, then all of our efforts toward Resistance and Resilience will not only fail, but lull us back into a mindset of business as usual and the delusion that “life goes on,” and that our situation is something less than profoundly dire. And if we allow ourselves to be lulled to sleep by this now-obviously lethal fantasy, the greatest gift of our situation—it’s clarion call for radical reconnection—will be unreceived, and with catastrophic consequences.
Since the 1970s, industrial civilization has commodified and extracted beyond anything humans on this planet have been able to achieve in their history. As a result, we created unprecedented emissions of CO2 and the most massive extractions on Earth. We have all ridden this wave of fossil fuel use, brought all of our ingenuity to it, and have maximized extraction beyond anything the human species has ever done. The only metric we have used is profit, and the bottom line has been our Holy Grail. However, this has created a colossal blind spot in which we have initiated a trajectory of annihilating all life on Earth, and we are on the way to total systems collapse and near-term human extinction. All of this because we have disconnected from ourselves, from others, and from Earth. Our blind spot is our undoing because, since nature abhors a vacuum, when there is a blind spot, the human shadow will find its way into that spot.
In No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, Naomi Klein emphasizes that “…there is an important way in which Trump is not shocking. He is the entirely predictable, indeed clichéd outcome of ubiquitous ideas and trends that should have been stopped long ago. Which is why, even if this nightmarish presidency were to end tomorrow, the political conditions that produced it, and which are producing replicas around the world, will remain to be confronted. With US Vice-President Mike Pence or House Speaker Paul Ryan waiting in the wings, and a Democratic Party establishment also enmeshed with the billionaire class, the world we need won’t be won by just replacing the current occupant of the Oval Office.”[xiii]
What is more, says Klein, “…the ground we were on before Trump was elected is the ground that produced Trump. Ground many of us understood to constitute a social and ecological emergency, even without this latest round of setbacks.”[xiv]
Another socio-political factor that laid the groundwork for a Trump victory is the abject despair experienced by masses of Americans who have lost more than jobs, houses, and dreams in recent decades. They have, in fact, lost faith in the American Dream itself, and if they have not succumbed to the opioid epidemic ravaging parts of the American Rust Belt or Appalachia, they may have been seen waving banners or taking cell phone shots of Trump at one of his numerous campaign rallies throughout Middle America.
Naomi Klein argues that the degradation of the idea of the public sphere or what is also known as “the commons”—a degradation which has been unfolding over decades, particularly since Ronald Reagan proclaimed that “government is not the solution; it is the problem,”[xv] ultimately led to economic decline and made Trump’s appeal possible. Fueled by the outrageous seductions of individualism and materialism in the 1980s and 90s and subsequent deregulation of corporations, alongside appalling sums of money flowing into politics, a “self-described billionaire sitting on a golden throne” was able to “pass himself off as a savior of the working class,” says Klein. “A pitch as patently irrational as ‘Trust me because I cheated the system’ could only have been sold to a significant portion of the American public because what passed for ‘business as usual’ in Washington well before Trump, looked a whole lot like corruption to everyone else.”[xvi]
Reconnecting with the Shadow
To begin with a simple definition, the shadow is any part of us that doesn’t match with our ego image of ourselves and that we unconsciously send away and say, “That’s not me.” For example, I’m not a dishonest person; I’m not insensitive; I’m not greedy; I don’t consider myself and my needs to be superior to the needs of other living beings.
While helpful, such a simple definition does not begin to explore the mystery and depth of the shadow, both in the ways it appears in reality in our lives and in the vast and very troubling questions such an exploration raises about the nature of the divine and reality itself. After all, one of Jung’s greatest and most controversial achievements was to raise the question of whether the divine itself has a ferociously dark side.
Jung wrote in Psychology and Alchemy, “The shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself and yet is always thrusting itself upon him directly or indirectly.” He adds, “The shadow does not consist of small weaknesses and blemishes, but of a truly demonic dynamic.”[xvii] Jung did not use the word demonic for effect. He used the word demonic because it is through our shadow that the destructive forces that are part of the alchemically creative nature of the One wreak their havoc, violence, suffering, and destruction.
Each of us has a personal shadow, briefly defined above, as well as a collective shadow. This is true for nations, cultures, and communities that essentially agree unconsciously that whatever bad behavior they name, that nation or culture or community says, “That’s not us.”
When we deny the individual or collective shadow, we ensure that we project it onto others in ways that can become deadly and extremely violent. This is why Jung said the shadow has nothing less than a demonic dynamic, and the history of the world is the story of this demonic dynamic.
Shortly after the election of Donald Trump, we often heard the question, “How could this have happened?” Only from a profound lack of awareness regarding the shadow could such a question have originated. Months later, Lebanese-American writer Rabih Alameddine in his New Yorker article, “Our Part in the Darkness,” wrote:
We are not better than this. We are this. The man was elected President. Ipso facto, America is this, we are this. I say this not to suggest that we must be blamed, or that someone who did not vote for Donald Trump is just as culpable as one who did. What I keep trying to point out, to friends, to anyone who will listen, is that too few of us are willing to acknowledge responsibility—not necessarily to accept blame, but to stand up and say, “This thing of darkness, I acknowledge mine.”[xviii]
What does it actually mean to acknowledge that “this thing of darkness, I acknowledge mine”? It means accepting that we live, participate in, and collude with a culture that worships only money and success; that adores power, and denigrates love, compassion, and justice; and that each one of us has been contaminated by this culture’s complete lack of conscience, responsibility, and obscenely superficial values. It means that we have learned to lie for our own advantage, to scheme to ensure our domination of others and build our security and that we all are paying the spiritual price in paralysis, cynicism, and despair. In fact, what this ferocious shadow work reveals is that we are as responsible for this situation as those whom we can conveniently characterize as its Darth Vaders and Genghis Khans.
This is a terrible recognition that all of us would love to avoid; however, it leads to the kind of self-knowledge we all now need to negotiate with the other inmates of a worldwide madhouse. If we do not recognize our own insanity and the ways in which it deforms and informs our increasingly chaotic actions, how will we ever have compassion for others driven by the same dark whirlwind, and how will we ever evolve the skillful means to attempt to deal with them beyond the corrupt safeties of judgment and condemnation?
Reconnection Alongside Resistance and Resilience
As we have been emphasizing, the only legitimate ground on which to stand as we resist a neo-fascist agenda is the ground of intimate connection with the Self, each other, and Earth. Dean Walker, author of The Impossible Conversation: Choosing Reconnection and Resilience at the End of Business as Usual, argues that unwillingness to discuss the severity of catastrophic climate change and a number of other topics dealing with our planetary predicament results not only from the fear of facing the issues directly, but from our profound disconnection from Self, other, and Earth. Taken together, these make the issues strangely surreal and out of reach, and any discussions we have about them are ventures into the absurd.
Perhaps nothing is more blatantly indicative of our disconnection from Self, other, and Earth, than our current climate catastrophe. In The Impossible Conversation, Dean Walker devotes a relatively small but essential section of the book to what he calls the Sober Data. Here are seven factors in a long litany of unarguable and shattering facts:
- “The Earth is in the midst of a mass extinction of life. Scientists estimate that 150–200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become extinct every 24 hours. This is nearly 1,000 times the ‘natural’ or ‘background’ rate and, say many biologists, is greater than anything the world has experienced since the vanishing of the dinosaurs nearly 65 million years ago.”
- The World Wildlife Fund and Zoological Society of London’s bi-annual report, Living Planet, assesses how the natural world is reacting to the stresses implied by an ever growing human population. Their study of over 3,700 vertebrate species shows that global wildlife populations have decreased by nearly 60% since the 70s.
- The loss of fresh water animals is far greater, closer to 80%.
- The amount of global coral reefs dead due to acidification and other human caused impact = 50%. If the current rate of warming and destruction continues, 90% of coral reefs will be threatened by 2030, and all of Earth’s coral reefs could be dead by 2050. Within those same projections, the Great Barrier Reef would die by 2030.
- It is both fascinating and devastating that scientists use the metric of ‘atomic-bombs-worth of warming’ on Earth and particularly within the Earth’s oceans. Scientists have long known that more than 90 percent of the heat energy from man-made global warming goes into the world’s oceans instead of the ground.
- The world’s oceans will be empty of fish by 2048 due to overfishing, pollution, habitat loss and climate change. This projection is from an international research team that studied: data from 32 related experiments on marine environments, analysis of 1,000 year history of 12 coastal regions, fishery data from 64 large marine ecosystems and the recovery of 48 protected ocean areas. ‘This isn’t predicted to happen. This is happening now,’ writes Nicola Beaumont, PhD, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK.
- The worst thing that can happen is not energy depletion, economic collapse, limited nuclear war, or conquest by a totalitarian government. As terrible as these catastrophes would be for us, they can be repaired within a few generations. The one process ongoing that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly that our descendants are least likely to forgive us.[xix]
Contemplating the Sober Data, chosen almost at random, forces us to ask, “How did we arrive at our current predicament?” We concur with Dean Walker that our massive and largely unconscious disconnection from Self, other, and Earth has brought us to the ghastly, unprecedented predicament in which we are irreversibly ensnared.
In 2016, Carolyn and Dean began facilitating twice-monthly online calls with individuals who are eager to engage with each other in the “impossible conversation” in a heartfelt manner. Named Safe Circle calls, these online encounters have become a prototype for the kind of reconnection required for resistance as well as living resiliently.
If we do not reconnect with each other by sharing our heartbreak, we will not be able to resist or live resiliently. What is more, the Safe Circle call model creates a consistent container for discussing and mobilizing strategies of resistance and employing the fundamental tools of resilience.
To attempt to resist while lacking an understanding of reconnection and consciously utilizing reconnection practices increases one’s vulnerability and guarantees exhaustion resulting from struggling in isolation. Our resistance must be informed by robust connection with Self, other, and Earth. Moreover, to attempt to live resiliently without reconnection is to miss the essence of resilience. As stated above, resilience is “the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.”
Reconnection practices and resistance alongside trusted allies strengthen our resilience.
**Dedicate one day to taking a personal inventory of ways in which you are disconnected from yourself, others, and Earth. Notice the ways in which you are disconnected from your body. How are you disconnected from your emotions? How are you disconnected from other living beings? How are you disconnected from Earth?
**Are you engaged in any practice that connects you with your body such as yoga, Chi Gong, Tai Chi? If not, consider engaging in one of these practices. While regular fitness exercises are useful, they often do not connect us with the body’s deeper energy and wisdom.
**With a trusted ally in your life, share one emotion you are feeling as you reflect on our global predicament. As much as possible, speak from your heart and not your head. Also invite your ally to share with you and listen carefully and attentively to them as they speak.
**Spend at least 15–20 minutes (or more) in the solitude of nature. If you are not used to doing this, it may be challenging at first. Simply sit or stand in nature and observe what is around you. Notice the smells, sounds, and textures of the elements of nature as well as colors, light, and shadow. Touch the trees, leaves, water, and soil. Return to this same place in nature within a few days. This time, take a notebook with you and write down what you notice. Be specific. As soon as possible, perhaps the next day, return to your solitude spot with your notebook and write down anything different that you notice. Continue this practice as often as possible, writing down what looks or feels different from time to time.
**Say the Name of the divine by whatever name you know it repeatedly in the depths of your heart. Over time, you will be initiated by grace into the truth of your non-dual relationship with the divine and into the depths of the strength, peace, truth, and wisdom of your deathless, divine Self.
[i] Marion Woodman: Dancing in the Flames: The Dark Goddess in the Transformation of Consciousness, Shambhala, 1997, p.139.
[ii] “Kali Takes America: I’m With Her,” Vera de Chalambert, Rebelle Society blog http://www.rebellesociety.com/2016/11/18/veradechalambert-kali/
[v] “The Serpent and the Dove: Wisdom for Navigating the Future,” by Andrew Harvey and Carolyn Baker, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-serpent-and-the-dove-wisdom-for-navigating-the_us_58335fbfe4b0eaa5f14d4963
[vi] Urging Millions to Rise Up, Trump Foes Issue Call to ‘Resist Fascism’, http://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/01/04/urging-millions-rise-trump-foes-issue-call-resist-fascism
[vii] Ana Navarro: It’s hard to give Trump a chance when he staffs his White House with racists, http://www.rawstory.com/2016/11/ana-navarro-its-hard-to-give-trump-a-chance-when-he-staffs-his-white-house-with-racists/
[ix] Carolyn Baker and Stephen Jenkinson, The Lifeboat Hour, August 28, 2015, https://soundcloud.com/orphan-wisdom/stephen-jenkinson-lifeboat-interview-with-carolyn-baker
[x] Miriam Greenspan, Healing Through the Dark Emotions, http://www.miriamgreenspan.com/excerpts/introEx.html
[xi] Carolyn Baker, Navigating the Coming Chaos: A Handbook for Inner Transition, iUniverse, 2011, p. 81.
[xii] Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi, Castle Books, 1997, p. 36.
[xiii] Naomi Klein, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics And Winning The World We Need, Haymarket Books, 2017, p.13.
[xiv] Ibid., p.23.
[xvi] Ibid., p26.
[xvii] Carl Jung, The Collected Works, “Psychology and Alchemy,” Part II, CW 12, p. 221
[xviii] “Our Part In The Darkness,” Rabih Almaddine, New Yorker, Feb 5, 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/our-part-in-the-darkness
[xix] Dean Walker, The Impossible Conversation: Choosing Reconnection and Resilience at the End of Business as Usual, Amazon Create Space, 2017.