PLANETARIZATION AND PLENITUDE
As we watch present developments in the Western world with a mind detached from ancestral traditions, we face a complex and ambivalent situation. On the one hand, we are aware of a powerful ferment of fascinating new ideas and of the dynamic and world-wide discontent and often passionate revolt of a youth refusing to accept the role which the generations in control of the political, industrial and military machinery of society have prepared for it. On the other hand we are confronted with the dull but bitter and frightened middleclass, middle-and-old-age masses of people clinging to their comfort, their Sunday Church religion, their inept but familiar leaders, and somehow believing with a blind fanaticism that Science and Technology, their twin-Gods, will solve all problems and usher in some sort of mechanized Golden Age.
All sensible persons may well bank on the victory of normality, good sense, and technicians who perform seeming miracles. However, historians should remember that a handful of irrational, starry-eyed and utopian fanatics from an insignificant corner of the Roman Empire successfully challenged the might of the Rome of the Caesars. They grew in power and influence within a society which, in spite of splendid administrators and a strong army, was inwardly disintegrating in rootless boredom and moral vacuity under outer and inner pressures which it took lightly and, in fact, before which it was helpless. It was helpless because it was built on a basic fallacy; the fallacy that efficient administrators and a powerful army can take the place of a spiritual tradition slowly dying of meaninglessness, and that pride in social-political and economic achievement can be a solid basis for the building of a new society.
The situation today is of course very different. America has tremendous power it dares not and cannot use if nearly total destruction is to be avoided. It has many, many thousands of churches, but they are mere facades to hide deep, gnawing insecurity. Though frightened people cling to their pews and the printed words still declaimed by confused and wavering priests or ministers, the spirit is either dead or fast asleep, drugged by suburban comfort and the tamed mediocrity of officeholders. Yet middle class people and the drugged masses of retired T. V. watchers and golf addicts still have enormous inertial strength made comfortable by self-righteousness. Goliath may scorn the little fool, David, but David won through mobility and faith. Is our non-conforming, dreamy-eyed, love-entranced youth, fascinated by drugs that help dissipate the ego-lure, often at heavy cost to their bodies and minds, the new David?
One may wonder if a radically transformed Christianity could again stir the imagination of the new generation perhaps — after it tires of Oriental symbols and occult tales, possibly after a nuclear holocaust. Or does the future of humanity belong to a new world religion, perhaps the Bahai Movement whose followers so often glow with a faith, that evokes the stories one has heard of early Christians? The Bahais, more than any other world-wide group, have a definitely planned, indeed a God-revealed World-order to reintegrate on a global scale a humanity disorganized by an expected radical catharsis. Perhaps also — who knows! — a contact with Intelligences coming from another planet will upset, arouse and recast into a new mould man's collective response to a broadened awareness of the universe around him.
No one can convincingly answer these questions and many others just as crucial. One thing seems certain: the world-crisis through which we are passing and which very likely will soon become sharper and more focalized is not just one of those crises which, we are told, occur periodically and to which society becomes adjusted, after which the good old days come back again.
The crises of the past were relatively local and the consciousness of even the broadest Roman mind never actually encompassed the whole of mankind; great kingdoms and empires existed when Rome collapsed. Now, the crisis is global. It might seem to manifest as a struggle between two different approaches to social and economic organization; but the now very ambiguous and shifting cold-hotwar — in which many shades of human temperament and doctrines face one another in a confused array of big propaganda words and menacing gestures — is not the basic factor in the global crisis. The struggle between the idealistic and protesting section of the youth of all countries and the various types of Establishments is far more significant, at a time when the whole future of Man is at stake. Not only is the whole of humanity indirectly, if not directly affected by the critical world-situation, but all the kingdoms of life on this Earth are more or less menaced — and as well the water, air, and soil of the planet. Should a large-scale nuclear holocaust take place, the electro-magnetic state of the entire solar system might even be altered with totally unknowable consequences.
Such an enormous potentiality for change of a catastrophic nature also indicates the possibility of an evolutionary transformation on a truly planetary scale. The title of this book, The Planetarization of Consciousness, should indicate what I consider this possibility to be. What is at stake is not some minor modification in the structures of society. What is at stake is a fundamental transformation which transcends local or national conditions and the normal behavior of greedy egocentric men hankering for power to fill their inner soul-emptiness. It is a change as radical as the change from one state of matter to the next in the scale of temperature — let us say, from the solid to the liquid state. It occurs at a time when atomic scientists speak of a new state of matter, the plasma state — and perhaps there is some kind of parallelism between such a discovery of the plasma state and the increasing dissolution of all objects, concepts and traditions to which one can apply the concept of solidity. Is not our whole philosophical and psychological approach to reality leading us to a completely dynamic, unsolid, fluidic reality?
From Solidity to Liquidity
Solid matter is the matter we experience as objects having more or less precisely defined and constant forms. Humanity has functioned for millennia in this realm of objects and as well in a solid world of traditions and standards of value — gold, for instance, as a concrete basis for interpersonal and international transactions. The growth of cultures has taken place in terms of objects, of solid land, of sacred idols; and as the ego-sense developed, it led to a kind of idolatry, a dependence upon solid character and static beliefs. Interestingly enough, ancient cultures took form mainly along the banks of great rivers, whose inundations were life-giving, so that there also developed a sort of mystical response to and identification with the flowing water. The old Mediterranean cultures grew around a nearly closed sea, somewhat as a primitive living organism born of the sea is a pocket of water surrounded by a layer of more differentiated cells. Yet this Mediterranean sea also became a potent symbol of the inner mystery of life, and Crete — an island — may have been the cradle of the vitalistic Mysteries which spread to the later rationalistic Greece, Aristotelian in her outer mentality but with an inner life deeply influenced by oracles and mystic rites.
The entire world-picture began to change with the Renaissance and the Great Voyages around the globe. The ocean became the controlling factor in an ever-expanding commerce. England dominated the world-scene as a sea-power, extending her tentacular greed and pride in all directions as ruler of the waves. While until then, the coastal regions appropriated the seas on the shores of which they solidly stood, and gave them local names, men now began to realize that there is but one global ocean, and that all the land was born of it and may one day return to its majestic tidal breathing, its unfathomable rhythm.
The mystery of the fluid and tidal ocean has now been violated by man's avidity and armed power. Paralleling this violation is the conquest of the sub-lunar realm of ancient lore — the aura of the Earth. Perhaps soon will follow man's penetration into the space of the solar system, another even more vast, more open oceanic expanse — which we at last realize to be a plenum of vibrations and vast tides of solar energies, not unlikely rhythmed by a slow, 11-year cycle of in and out breathings.
Where is anything solid left upon which man can rest his yearning for static peace, unquestioned security and safe ego-boundaries? The world of modern physics is a world of fantastic motions, a world in which change is the only fact that does not change — as the old Greek seer-philosopher, Heraclitus, intuitively felt. Yet, as I have shown throughout this book, this constant and inconceivably rapid rhythm of change is ordered. It is rhythm. But the rhythm of the motions of atomic particles and galaxies seemingly rushing away from us in all directions, is a tremendous challenge to minds whose consciousness is still attached to some tiny homeland — for the possession of which horrible wars seem worth fighting. The consciousness of most men is still bound to the land of their birth and of their ancestors. How senseless this must seem to our space travelers! And yet, they too are most likely caught in the web of local, regional or national feelings, and the moral or religious paraphernalia of local creeds. The President of the United States could push a button which might destroy most of the world's population, yet he has to cater to local business interests and dutifully attend football games and church services every Sunday.
What is the way that would lead us to the planetarization of consciousness? Can a sufficient number of individuals reach this planetary stage of mind and truly become world citizens? Is nationalism an incurable sickness today, even though in the past it fulfilled a necessary function in the development of a frame of reference larger than the narrow provincialism of the Middle Ages — or the even narrower worship of the tribal land to which a small group of men fanatically believed they had been given eternal possession by their tribal god?
It should be clear today — though it obviously is not insofar as most people's minds are concerned — that mankind has reached a stage in its historical development where the basic fact is the nearly total interdependence of all human groups, the larger nations included. We are all living inside of a field of ever more closely related activities. Every move on any continent immediately affects the behavior and the welfare of people on other continents. Nothing, therefore, is any longer an external factor, because all nations and communities are linked by an actually unbreakable web of relationships. Hatred, too, is a form of relationship; but it has become such a senseless type of relationship in a world already so unified by ever more pervasive interchanges at all levels, that this hatred and all nationalistic feelings have to be fed and sustained by the lies of governments and large business groups capitalizing on the inertia of old historic antagonisms.
Presumably, for the first time in the evolution of mankind, a people need not expand aggressively in order to survive; or at least it would not need to do so if the political, social, religious and cultural leaders were not blind to the potentialities of our modern world. Abundance for all is possible only if minds controlled by greedy egos and cultural traditions would let go of their fears and their ambitions. But this, of course, means a reversal of the type of thinking which has controlled human minds through long millennia of scarcity and conflicts for survival. Whereas in the past man's energies had to be directed outward toward conquest, now these energies should be directed inward — which means toward the accomplishment of an inner harmony in the planet-wide organism of an integrated humanity. Aggressive expansion in an outer world peopled with competitors and probable enemies is no longer the key to survival and all-human peace. The key is rather the internal organization of resources and their distribution among the various human collectivities, each collectivity willingly and effectively fulfilling its function in the economy of the whole, the global organism of Man.
What this means practically is a reversal of all basic human values, and first of all, an irrefutable awareness that we have come to a turning point in human evolution, that we have left behind the Age of Conflicts and entered the Age of Plenitude.
The Man of Plenitude
I have already spoken of plenitude several times in this book, and nearly thirty years ago I wrote a long but still unpublished work called The Age of Plenitude. It is a sad reflection on the average American mentality that almost everywhere I have spoken or written of plenitude, the audience or the linotype men have understood it as "plentitude" — a non-existent word monstrously derived from "plenty" as, say, autobus is derived from omnibus, a Latin term meaning broadly "for everybody." Plenty, and its synonym, abundance, indeed express the ideal for the people in our consumer society. The craving for bigness is, alas, typical of our people. We have not learned from the fate of the dinosaurs and other immoderately large and cumbersome animals.
The word, plenitude, well known in all European countries, has nearly the same meaning as "fullness," but it is used almost exclusively with reference to an inner state of human or divine being and consciousness. The Greek term, pleroma, is related to it; and I have used this term, pleroma, to indicate a condition of existence in which the most complete plenitude of being and consciousness is experienced — a truly divine state, the omega state.
Each of the great periods of human evolution brings to the fore a type of man who is not only characteristically associated with such an historical era, but whose appearance on the stage of human evolution heralds and contributes greatly to the building of the kind of society which flourishes during such an era. During what I call the Age of Conflicts — which is witnessing the gradual process of the individualization of man — we have seen appearing, then ruling the human stage, such basic types of men as the Warrior, the Priest, and the Merchant. Today the Executive and the Manager or Technocrat type are dominant in the United States and other Western nations, polarized, as it were, by the general type of the Workingman, organized and full of importance since its glorification by Karl Marx — the Proletariat, the "virgin masses" from whom a revolutionary renewal of society and human relationships was supposed to come. One should also of course speak of the Scientist as a type which should be very different from the Technocrat, though today the difference has lost much of its significance in a great many cases.
When I wrote about the Man of Plenitude in 1941 just before and after Pearl Harbor, I had a very broad evolutionary concept of a type of human being who would herald the coming Age of Plenitude, the Age of Synthesis which marks the third phase of the dialectic process of the development of man's consciousness and capacity for relationship. All preceding types converge, as it were, toward the coming to birth of the Man of Plenitude: the man who, freed from his egocentric clinging to security and local conditions, in time as well as in space, can resonate totally to the vast rhythm of the cyclic process of transformation acting through the whole planet — his home and indeed the very substance of his being; the man-globe who can thus become an utterly consecrated agent for this process, who can focus the energy of world-evolution in his global, because fully developed and polyphonic being. Having focused this power in full awareness, he can then release it and also formulate the multi-level meaning of the great crisis the whole Earth is facing. It is a crisis in consciousness, because it is conscious and individualized men who have brought it about.
"Who is the man of plenitude? It is he who lives the fullest, the deepest, the most creative life possible under any condition: a life most individually formed, yet utterly consecrated to the greatest whole of which he can realize himself an organic part. It is he who lives a life rooted in the common humanity of all men, but unfolding through functional differentiation of activities toward an ever higher level of fulfillment — a life glorious with a vibrant and integral understanding of the meaning of all activities within himself as within the social and universal wholes. It is he who realizes in the fullest possible way that at the core of any whole flows the cyclic stream of formative power of the Divine Mind, and who becomes that stream.
"What is the goal of plenitude? — It is to live a life of organic totality; of multi-leveled rhythmic integration; of eager intensity in love as in thought; of serene understanding, yet creative fervor; of unflinching honesty to oneself, as well as to the whole; of elegance and ease; of service and consecration; — a life structured by self yet rooted in the greater Whole and filled with its total life; contained in form, yet radiant in freedom; a life beautiful and noble, in which earth mates with heaven in the generous bestowal of creative meaning, and man unites with his companions for the work of the Seed.
"Thus indeed it is to live the life of plenitude — the life of the Spirit, by the Spirit, as the Spirit.
". . . To be plenitude — to be consecrated — to accept responsibility — to assume the burden of those who deny Man and worship stultified gods — to go on and on, never looking back save to understand and to accept, to bless and transfigure the roots which have become flowers and seed — to smile and laugh at the little joys which trickle as dew from sun-drenched trees at dawn — to be silent and open as the desert under the stars — to enfold and to bless the depths as well as the heights — to be beautiful and clear, with the purity of water which is only its chemical self and contains no sediment — to be honest with oneself and with the world, because Personality creates within forms that are unblurred and steady — to be a song of Destiny and a chord of power in harmony with the universal Whole — to be Incarnation and Transfiguration, Christos become a man and man divine. These are words; they may be goals; they may be realities. It is for everyone to decide, for everyone to accept the meaning and the fullness of what he can live, of what he wills to live."
(from The Age of Plenitude)
In this century which has seen a fantastic growth of specialization and technology — this century which Henry Wallace, one-time Vice-President, once called "the century of the common man" — the ideal of the man of plenitude may well seem far-fetched and utterly utopian or out of place; yet, as Count Keyserling, the great German thinker, unfortunately rather forgotten these days, wrote repeatedly: "It is the few minds whose thoughts run in counterpoint to the popular trend of the time who are most significant and who really matter." They are the seed-men, the true fathers of tomorrow. What the technology and specialization dominating the lives of our contemporaries represent is simply the means to the end; and most people are blind to that end. Modern science and technology were necessary in order that men might circumfly the earth and thus, through them, that Man might become objectively aware of the globe from whose gravitational pull he had become free. Because astronauts experienced the planet as a whole from the outside, they could actually realize its global character, and they opened the door, as it were, to the emergence of global man made in the image of the planet.
Symbols for the New Age
One can only consciously become the likeness of that to which one has become exterior and from which one has been liberated. The seed must leave the dying plant in order to fulfill its dharma. A human being must emerge from the womb of local and ancestral traditions in order to be individually human; or as an old occult statement proclaimed: "When the son leaves the mother he becomes the father." Man circling the globe in conscious wakefulness and in control of the forces he is using can be remade in the symbolic image of a globe. Indeed the greatest symbol of the future is the Globe, and no longer the Cross; not the Man of Sorrow but the Man of Plenitude who, having learnt how to suffer, has overcome the schizophrenia of futile conflicts in pain and reached the peace that is found at the core of the sphere, where all radii converge and gravitation is annihilated — at the core of the sphere, rather than in external space where men can only exist by means of technical subterfuges. Crises are inevitable; suffering is the great Liberator. What matters is the end, not the means — provided these means really lead to the omega state, the plenitude of man. The Cross has been for us the way to the Globe. Our Christian culture has conditioned a global crisis which can be the foundation for individual victory; and it should now be seen and justified as an inevitable prelude to Man's fulfilling tomorrows.
Heat, the tremendous heat released by atomic fusion, and the Globe — these are the two great symbols of this New Age to which so many people today aspire. Alas these aspirations and the intellectualized extrapolations and previsions of science-fiction writers and scientific planners seem most of the time to offer us but quite unpleasant prospects for the future. The gadgets are exciting, the men unimpressively similar to modern college-graduates who have run the gauntlet of the many tests worshipped in our factories of knowledge. These factories of knowledge are no longer universities; they do not bring to our youth a sense of the unity of the existential and human process; rather they take pride in being multi-versities — the very opposite of the global ideal, and indeed the manifestation of a new type of intellectual materialism. This is the most basic reason for the recent revolt of youth all over the world.
Yet for anyone who is not blinded by the superficialities of this period of crisis and transition, and by the inevitable readjustments of society and human psychology during such a period, the final outcome should not be in doubt; but it does indeed require the emergence of a new type of human being. The great Indian yogi-philosopher, Sri Aurobindo, gave the name "Gnostic being" to this type. Starting from a very different base of thought, the French priest/archaeologist, Teilhard de Chardin, has spoken in Christian terms of a magnificent apotheosis for man at the end of the universal cycle, the omega point. The American philosopher, Charles Morris in his splendid book, Paths of Life, also written at the beginning of World War II, presented us with the vision of "Maitreyan Man" the man of a future of all-inclusive synthesis. Other thinkers have also more recently outlined what this new type of man might be, giving it a variety of names. These are not dreams; or if so, then let us admit that the future is always, at its highest point, the dream of a few seer-philosophers who in the past were totally aware of the momentum of evolution and could already see, even if only dimly, the butterfly in the chrysalis. Could there be a new planetary cycle without its seed-men?
We need such men today, men of creative imagination, or as was said during the last World War, "imagineers" combining engineering skill with imagination. We need new symbols to fecundate the minds of the youth of tomorrow, perhaps after a momentous crisis. Whatever form this crisis may take matters little, perhaps, provided it brings humanity to "the dead-end to end all dead-ends" (quoted from a text of Zen). Man usually tries all conceivable means to escape from total self-transformation until they all fail; then left alone and hopeless, and for all practical purposes dead, he realizes that, though all strength is gone from him, he lives. What makes him live after the collapse of all he believes in as a means of strength? The self.
The self is the center of the globe. It is the depth beyond all depths, negating the very concept of depth or height. From the self — the basic vibration which changelessly sustains all the everchanging organic activities of the total person — man can go with creative power in every direction. From the self, man can act as man of plenitude attuned to the Great Harmony of the universe, the Brahman beyond all gods, the infinite Potentiality of any and all universes — each presenting a different solution to the problem of existence, every universe a cyclocosmic whole structured by its particular Logos, its time-formula of change, beginning in unity (alpha state) and ending in multi-unity (omega state).
Always increasingly awake to the needs of all lives and progressively more vitally aware of all activities within the several spheres enveloping the solid globe of Earth, man in the condition of plenitude will be able to fulfill, individually and collectively, the function of humanity on this planet. Let me repeat, as I close, that this function is to make the planet conscious; it is to mentalize all the activities occurring within the vast field of the earth, to increase the level of consciousness of all existents, and indeed to transubstantiate or etherialize the very matter of the globe.
To perform this alchemical Great Work of human destiny, men of all races and cultures must act together. The greatness of modern science resides primarily in having brought together men of all countries and most varied backgrounds in a common endeavor and a remarkable fraternity. In a concrete and highly effective manner, science has demonstrated the possibility of a global brotherhood of men polarized by a common quest and an effectually structured effort. It is inevitable that this effort leading to the release of new potentialities can have destructive as well as constructive results. What is needed among scientists is the realization that their methods, fertile of results as they may be, cannot lead to a total understanding of universal reality because they are conditioned by limiting types of cognition based on a past rebellion against religious dogmatism. Scientists need as well the courage to stand up for mankind-as-a-whole, and against local and national interests and passions.
In a preceding chapter I spoke of the one vast creative effort of Man which has left remarkable artistic achievements in every century and on all continents. In Art too we therefore witness a unity of human endeavor, though it manifests through a multiplicity and great variety of forms. Likewise in Religion, underneath the different dogmas loudly proclaimed by priests and moralists, there is one vast millennial effort, circuitous though it may be, toward the planetarization of consciousness and the ultimate achievement of the plenitude of Man.
Science, Art, Religion operate essentially through the use of symbols; and indeed nothing is more important than the emergence of new symbols. Each field uses its own special type of symbolism, but a society or a culture considered as an organized field of human activity is always dominated by some especially powerful symbol, and by some archetypal heroic act which inspires the multitude. Today, the symbol of the Globe is emerging as the dominant factor of the civilization slowly forming out of our confused and tragic Western society which ruthlessly and blindly managed to spread over the surface of the earth; and I repeat its twin-symbol is that of the generation of fantastic heat through an organized effort in which scientists of all nations collaborate — heat that destroys, but also heat that gives us the possibility of adventuring beyond the pull of Earth's gravitation, reaching the moon and eventually other planets as well. In this adventure, which is now fascinating men's imagination, as the Crusades and the great voyages of the early Renaissance fascinated the imagination of men five centuries ago, man will find himself reaching the paradoxical goal of discovering himself as a citizen of the Earth just because he is now able to free himself from its gravitational pull. The next step may be the discovery that intelligent beings exist on other planets, perhaps in other solar systems. Then humanity will ineluctably have to stress above all else its unity — the wholeness of planetary Man; and human beings will be able to call themselves Terrans, and have no home but the whole Earth.
Today, fear and pride are straining the hearts of multitudes of men; and perhaps a third of mankind is nearly starving. Human bodies are proliferating at a fantastic pace, possibly to offset some impending cataclysm; but if there is to be no death-dealing event, then such a proliferation will in itself be the cataclysm, in spite of the eventual possibility of having vast new sources of food made available for human use, for any adequate production and distribution of such food would come too late. Yet we must have faith in Man; not this or that man or this or that country, but global Man as the emergent consciousness of Earth — as the Mind of the planet. And the planet will act, if men are too inert or blind to do so. Some will sneer at these statements, saying that such a faith is of the order of the naive faith in God held by long generations of Christian men and woman. What if it is? What if the most profound and vital clue to the crisis of our epoch were that God is becoming concrete? As Oliver Reiser once wrote: "When God is known he becomes Man."
This is the great symbol of the Incarnation. But while twenty centuries ago it was one particular human being who was believed to have assumed the awesome responsibility of God becoming known in and through him alone, today at this time when many expect and await a Second Coming, we should realize that the Incarnation of God is occurring in humanity as a whole, in global Man. It is indeed taking place at the center of the Earth — a planetary Incarnation in which we may all participate if we have sufficient faith and the courage to vanquish the ghosts of our yet unredeemed collective past.
To understand with one's mind, and even more to feel with one's heart the reality of this Incarnation, we must enshrine in our consciousness a new Image of God, and as well a new Image of Man and the planet Earth. The transcendent "mystic Body of Christ" in which all men live, move and have their being has become a concrete, vitally effective Presence. It is surrounding us; Humanity is surrounding us, taking multifarious forms on our television screens. The planet is enfolding us as closely as the walls of our ancestral home had enfolded our childhood; do we not romp around in it in often meaningless excitement just as we did as children? And beyond all forms, all globes, all finite universes, we should be able to feel within and through, as well as beyond our limited beings and minds — the immanent power of ONE, the very Principle of existence, the Wholeness in every whole.
We cannot escape the facts of our tumultuous and perhaps cataclysmic era. We can only refuse to see them, panicking when aware of their implications. We are afraid, just as the Jewish rabbis were afraid in Jesus' presence, because men are always afraid of a new Image of God and Reality unless they are courageous enough, or perhaps desperate enough, to remain open and spiritually naked before the vision — unless they are forced to see that there is nothing to lose and plenitude of being to gain.
The Planetarization of Consciousness