The Uranus Assertion
Radical Idea: The perceived global environmental crisis may be as much a sign of humanity’s evolving spirituality as it is an indication of humanity’s rush to Armageddon.
• Our concept of ecology must expand to include the invisible dimensions of Earth: The mythology of Ouranus or Uranus, as well as Gaia.
• Environmental reforms need to be motivated by something more sustainable than fear.
• Our conception and attitude to ‘God’ has a direct bearing on our relationship to, and stewardship of, the natural world.
That we are in the midst of a global environmental crisis is nearly indisputable. At conference after conference we hear someone telling us that human actions on planet earth are unsustainable. Environmentalists tell us that the very survival of the planet is dependent upon humanity making immediate change. The direction of that change however, and the ways in which it can most effectively be brought about, are open to debate. Conventional wisdom says that the crisis is caused by too great a disconnection between human consciousness and the so-called ‘natural’ world. A mind-body split that can only be resolved by ‘reconnecting’ with our emotions, our bodies, and the land.
The radical view is that the crisis is actually the result of too little separation between man and his environment, rather than too much.
More specifically, the crisis is that human consciousness is caught part way through a dis-identification with the mental, emotional and physical bodies, and the crisis reflects a lack of transcendence.
I am not disputing that there is great value and healing in reconnecting with the roots of our collective journey in consciousness through the physical and emotional planes, but I am asserting that the overall direction lies — not backwards and away from mind — but forwards through the mind to the transmental stages of awareness. I call this ‘the Uranus assertion’ for reasons that will become clear later.
To make the distinction between the two directions more apparent, let’s take an example of Bob and Steve, two men in their late forties, both of whom have suffered mild heart attacks and have been informed by their doctors that they will have to radically alter their lifestyles if they want to stay alive.
Bob immediately takes the advice to heart and begins a restoration project. He reads up on the latest theories about cholesterol. He joins a gym and begins an exercise program, changes his diet, and gives up smoking. He begins to feel great and has more energy than ever. He makes more changes – revamping his business so that it is more efficient and profitable than ever. He decides to leave his wife and starts going out with a young attractive woman he meets at the gym. He buys a sports car, joins a drumming group and explores his sexuality. It is like he has a new lease on life and he feels great. Later, his business fails and his new partner leaves him for another man. A depression sets in that he can’t shake, and he resumes his old bad habits.
On the other hand, Steve does not react positively to the news. He enters a time of deep contemplation and a difficult re-evaluation of the meaning of his life. He confronts the inevitability of his own death that the heart attack foreshadowed. He spends time praying, and then takes up meditation and gets therapeutic help. His health does not improve immediately, and his THE URANUS ASSERTION 15 outer life activities are cut back: he loses his job and his relationships go through upheaval. After a long time of contemplative focus and review of his values, he begins to become active in his outer world again. He makes considered and far reaching changes based upon the principles he has discovered are most important in his life. He has found meaning and perspective in his life.
The key issue in this example is the way in which the two men deal with the reality of death. Steve accepts it as a sober warning, and allows it to deepen his life. Bob recoils from it and refocuses his energies on survival. At the end of two years from their heart attacks, a medical evaluation of the two men might show that Bob was physically healthier, but a psychological examination would reveal a different reality. Bob was still motivated by fear of death; Steve was moving forward into his life.
The fear of death may be an efficient motivator for rapid change, but not a solution for sustainable living. Dire warnings about the state of the environment can have a tendency to reactivate the survival fears that may ultimately be behind our careless behaviours in the first place.
We may rush to make changes out of that fear but the results will often be short-term and result in a contraction of the compassionate consciousness that is needed to make changes that are sustainable. Industralised countries, suddenly aware of the consequences of their actions rush to limit and restrict the development of other nations along the same path; millions of dollars get spent on saving species past their evolutionary use-by date in the name of biodiversity, etc. But these acts are often coloured primarily by our own fear of annihilation. A similar pattern plays out in health systems where we desperately seek to prolong life at all costs.
ts. Motivating people through fear works on the pragmatic view that humans are primarily motivated by the drive to survive (i.e., the same drives that dominate in the ‘natural world’ that we can witness at work on the Discovery Channel) … Unfortunately there is a Catch 22 in this assumption:
• Humans are destroying nature.
• … but humans are not separate from nature;
• therefore, nature is destroying nature.
To avoid confronting this, it is often suggested that ‘man’ has separated from the rest of nature, and that this separate but illusory sense of self (ego) is what allows them to abuse ‘her’ (i.e., nature becomes feminine, associated with the body).
The egoic development of self consciousness is then often seen as the (male) culprit, along with science and technology, that alienates humanity from nature. The domination of the body by the mind then gets linked up with ideas about patriarchy and the gender wars. The result is a rather confused worldview that contains the same inner inconsistency that it sees in the outer world. Namely, it separates out a part of ‘nature’ by labelling it unnatural and blaming it, and wanting to ‘go back’ to a ‘more simple’ time.
This, in itself, is not an ecological view — it is an outpicturing of the mind/body split that has plagued western thought for centuries. In its most disfunctional form and as a reaction to the abuses of mind, this worldview advocates a rejection of mind and technology altogether. The tendency is to romanticise earlier periods of human evolution on the planet when a deeper participatory connection with the natural world was experienced, such as tribal, land-based cultures, or other pre-mental periods. Advocates of this worldview often encourage us to “return to nature”, or go back to before it all went wrong, before thinking became dominant in mankind.
They ‘elevate’ pre-rational experience to post-rational, as Ken Wilber explains in Sex, Ecology & Spirituality:
“Many of the elevationist movements, alas, are not beyond logic, but beneath it. They think they are, and announce themselves to be, climbing the Mountain of Truth; whereas, it seems to me, they have merely slipped and fallen and are sliding rapidly down it, and the exhilarating rush of skidding uncontrollably down evolution’s slope they call ‘following your bliss’. As the earth comes rushing up at them at terminal velocity, they are bold enough to offer this collision course with ground zero as a new paradigm for the coming world transformation, and they feel oh-so-sorry for those who watch their coming crash with the same fascination as one watches a twenty-car pile up on the highway, and they sadly nod as we decline to join in that particular adventure. Spiritual bliss, in infinite measure, lies up that hill, not down it.”
True, much of the motivation behind these approaches may be well-intentioned attempts by some environmentalists and eco-philosophers to correct an obvious imbalance in the western worldview. However, in seeing the negative side effects of human self consciousness, they wage war on consciousness itself: they seek re-admittance to an earlier Eden — a pre-conscious unity that occurred on the emotional and etheric levels before the development of mind.
Those who promote a return to an undifferentiated oneness with the natural world often epitomise a retrogressive movement “back to nature”. They correctly diagnose the alienation, but prescribe the wrong solution. True oneness lies in the other direction – onward through the existential desert and out of the ‘natural’ world altogether. Or rather, let us redefine what ‘natural’ means so that we include the soul of the planet as well as its form.
The Gaia Hypothesis is a movement towards thinking of the planet as a living, somewhat selfregulating organism. Gaia has a physiosphere (physical matter), biosphere (biological life) and noosphere (mind).
While an expansion from pure materialism, however, this Gaia-based worldview is still materialistic from an esoteric perspective. The soul encompasses and expresses through mind, emotions and body — but it is not limited by them, and has a separate existence of its own.
In mythology, the spiritual realms of earth were represented by Uranos, the Sky God. There are different versions of the myth — the most popular is where Gaia, the Earth Goddess, gives birth to Uranus the Sky God.[PLACEHOLDER]
The other, less common, myth portrays them being born together, out of Night.[PLACEHOLDER]
The first version parallels the worldview that consciousness is basically an epi-phenomenon of matter, generated out of complex physiological processes. The second gives consciousness (or soul) and matter equal billing.
A third view, corresponding to the perspective that soul precedes and transcends form would have Gaia being born from Uranus.[PLACEHOLDER]
In the first diagram the implications are clear. If Gaia dies, the game is up: the survival of the planet is therefore paramount. Where there is (physical) life, there is hope.
In the third diagram, above, Uranus is the reality. Gaia can be seen as either a limitation of consciousness (the ‘liberate us from the evil old world’ approach of some eastern philosophies), or a creation of, or field of expression for, spirit.
In the second diagram, Uranus and Gaia are seen as two aspects of the same underlying reality.
Creation myths are a powerful reflection of the way we see our world, and what motivates us, often unconsciously, into political action.
In order to understand the environmental crisis, I believe we must at least shift our worldview from the first to the second diagram. We must at least give the soul of the earth equal billing. And by the soul of the earth I do not mean the etheric, energy body, or the emotional life, or even the Jungian collective unconscious: I mean that consciousness and purpose which transcends the human kingdom altogether.
Here is a thought experiment. Contemplate seriously, for at least a few moments, the des-truction of the earth. Imagine a meteor hits the planet and all life is destroyed (no space ships get away carrying the seeds of new life).[PLACEHOLDER]
Notice your reactions. Now imagine that we knew this was going to happen ahead of time, say ten years. All top scientists agree that there is nothing we can do to stop it – we just have to accept it.
How might this change the way you lived those ten years? How would it affect the way you treated the environment? Why?
And now consider two more ‘end of earth’ scenarios:
• Earth blows up in a manmade nuclear war. No survivors.
• Earth is destroyed by the sun going nova. No survivors.
Which of the three scenarios do you prefer? Why? Does it matter what the cause of death is? If humans are not motivated solely by survival needs, then what is it that does motivate us from a deeper level? Why would we care? If it matters, we are led to wonder, What is Uranus/Gaia trying to achieve during its life or ‘an incarnation’ of the earth? How might we find out and align with such a transcendent purpose?
And how do we correctly guage the ‘health’ of the earth in a way which includes the soul. If, to take a radical example, we only measured the biophysical signs of, say Ghandi during the middle of a hunger strike, we might get a very distorted view of the ‘health’ of the whole being. While his body may be in crisis, I suggest his Soul was very healthy!
I am not saying that Earth (through humanity) is undergoing a conscious spiritual process through the current environmental challenges, but Earth may be undergoing a semi-conscious spiritual crisis, and it may be humanity just isn’t aware of it, and, like a child, believes it is the cause of inevitable or temporary change.
The conventional view is that humans have lost the evolutionary plot. We have separated ourselves off from the rest of the natural world and are destroying it out of an inherent selfishness and greed. What we therefore need, this thinking goes is a massive dose of fear in order to wake us up and take responsibility for the survival of the planet.
The radical view that I prefer is this. Humans are eventually (and therefore inherently) wise, loving and purposeful beings, in touch intuitively with the rhythmic life and purpose of the universe. We have been surprisingly successful in our development on this planet. That success is currently expressing itself in a period of powerful self focus and preoccupation. Many of the problems that humanity is causing on the planet are the result of being only part way through a period of transformation. The capacities resulting from the development of self-consciousness have yet to be offset by the benefits of developing transcendent consciousness.
Much of the human selfishness, greed and careless behavior towards the planet stems from fear generated out of a lack of realisation of our true nature and therefore is only exacerbated by increasing that fear. What we need is an empowerment from spirit to remind us of our true purpose and give us the courage to come to terms with our physical mortality. We do not need to return to nature (defined in its material sense).
Perhaps we need to finally break our consciousness free from nature altogether, and find NATURE, waiting where it has been all along, ‘above’, and within us.[PLACEHOLDER]