1.2 Culture and Consciousness in the Humanistic and Transpersonal Fields1.2 Culture and Consciousness in the Humanistic and Transpersonal Fields

Western culture is struggling with having emerged from the twentieth century, the century that exploded, with a relativized, fragmented, self-critical identity. This is an identity crisis which the psychopathic, unreflective part of the mainstream culture has responded to with materialistic consumerism and a militaristic neoconservative power drive (both fuelling a global ecological crisis in sustainability), moralistic political correctness and an apocalyptic fundamentalist religious zeal. We now live within a global community that is struggling with issues of social justice, extreme economic inequality and the survival of indigenous, local culture. Yet, in the emerging post imperialist model for the regulation of order in the global community, peaceful, self-interested cooperation is becoming a theme, as exemplified, for example, in the European Union. Respect for the multiple meanings of individual human life is becoming integrated into the multicultural model of social relations. These themes of egalitarian, reciprocal cooperation are related to the humanistic, psychodynamic, existential and transpersonal traditions that are central to HEP and the many other traditions delineated in this directory, which also offer possibilities for facilitating a successful transition through this explosive evolutionary crisis in the culture.

These themes have undergone a parallel emergence in the corporate world, where business negotiations in a progressive, pragmatic environment include not just a competitive striving for dominance, but also the recognition that the inclusion of mutuality and co-operation, as well as acknowledgement of unconscious psychodynamic factors, brings more effectiveness and productivity. In the general area of conflict resolution this psychodynamic theme also shows itself. Not just striving to defeat ‘the enemy’ in a militaristic drive for victory over the other, but recognition of mutual self interest and egalitarian co-operation as being fundamentally more realistic and productive. In this way, resources can be directly allocated to problem solving rather than the more immediate and limited goal of achieving dominance, and only then being able to ‘fix’ things because you are now in charge. The psychodynamic model also highlights the need for addressing contradictory tensions between positivistic social and organizational intentions and the more obstructionist, defensive, emotional unconscious factors that come into play when people try to cooperate.

If we look forward in our own culture toward renewal and reconnection, we have to look beyond the core principle of a transcendental divine that saves and protects to an existential divine that mediates participation. Rather than saving by lifting us above and protecting us through transcendental regulation, the existential divine invites us into a self-arising, self-organizing, self-regenerating world, where relationship is the basis of protection and authenticity is the saving grace. Religion as a social institution, and a militaristic drive for security, does not serve this model. Psychology does, in its psychodynamic, existential, humanistic, transpersonal and archetypal forms. I will refer to this theme as the existential-humanistic tradition, the basis of the HEP Method.

The fragmentary remnant of the transcendental divine model is consumerism - everyone a little king or queen, the centre of their own universe, ostensibly able to have whatever they want, whenever they want and however they want. This is driving our culture into a mad frenzy, where the watchwords are ‘more’ and ‘faster’, fuelling a fatalistic and nihilistic culture of shallow, narcissistic self satisfaction and self aggrandizement. In an idealistic, success driven culture, hypocrisy is inevitable - lip service must be paid to ideals while secret pragmaticist do ‘whatever is necessary’, spinning the tawdry possibilities of greed and power as the grand achievement of high ideals.

We may look at the existential-humanistic tradition in Western culture and see it as an evolutionary tendency that relativizes monotheistic religion, undermines the prevailing dualism of neo-Victorian moralism, and highlights the rampant consumerism in liberal, democratic capitalism. Religion as a social institution has become inadequate as a way of understanding human nature, and as an inspirational vehicle for how to live. The existential-humanistic alternative involves a move away from idealized goals that one works towards with resolute commitment through skill and means, toward a model of surrender into what is being called forth at the level of individual humanness, in a cultural and natural context. This surrender facilitates the evolutionary drive to manifest our full potential, what Jung calls the process of individuation. While this involves stepping beyond the limitations of received enculturation, it also calls for a return to cultural involvement and contribution. What Paul H. Ray calls ‘integral culture’.

Mainstream religion, for many, has become inadequate also as a container for aspirations towards wholeness, participation, genuine community, and a meaningful cosmology that isn’t simplistic. The mechanistic cosmology of classical science, with its linear cause and effect phenomenology, provides certainty and predictability, to some extent. This is the basis of its technological success. But it doesn’t meet the richness of actual human experience, which it reduces to biology and behaviour. Although quantum physics and dynamical systems theory provide more complex and co-creative models, the scientific tradition remains a limited, albeit magnificent, achievement in human understanding of humanity, nature and cosmos.

The existential divine implies an emergent relationship with our own nature, including coming to terms with ‘otherness’ rather than trying to control or eliminate otherness, whether as unconscious adversity or simply as the ‘alien’ other. This involves a need to come to terms with complex diversity and the dark, mysterious intensity of our own unknown depths. This move has been marked politically and socially by the change from the militaristic, monotheistic, imperialistic, divine right of kings model of social-organization to the current neo-liberal, capitalist democracy. There has not, however, been a concomitant evolution in the spiritual/religious cosmological model of human nature. We have begun to pass over, instead, into the existential, psychodynamic and transpersonal psychological model, although this has not yet received a wide spread integration and sociopoltical formulation. The Living Institute is engaged in this endeavour – to bring these psychological perspectives to bear on the cultural evolution that is taking place in an unnecessarily dangerous and unconscious manner in Western culture.

The existential divine could also be attributed as the ecological divine. This implies an emergent relationship with (rather than control over) nature, both as the wild ground from which we arise, and in which we have our life. The Living Institute teaches an archetypal phenomenology of a re-enchanted post modern cosmos that is, simultaneously, radically deconstructed and tentatively re-constructed, revealing the world as a co-creative, personified, existential project of inner/outer reconciliation. This includes a focus on Thomas Berry’s geocentric theology, Emerson’s community of subjects and an experiential-process oriented psychological and philosophical approach to a study of cosmology. In this, the cosmos is seen as a sacred Great Work of unfolding self organization, in which humans carry a particular role as co-creative, self conscious earth stewards. James Lovelock, in his book, The Gaia Hypothesis, proposes a scientific formulation of the earth as a self regulating sentient entity, which the Living Institute takes up. The program also draws on the teleological purposefulness implications of the biocosmic model, without subscribing to creationist fundamentalism.

The existential-ecological divine mode of knowing is mystical and psychological. The form of social organization for the existential/ecological tradition is an egalitarian confederacy of locally focused, communally organized small groups, rather than a religious, legalistic, hierarchical, authoritarian, centralized, bureaucratic mode. There are many institutions, organizations, people and traditions which enact these themes globally, some of which are formally related, most of which have operated within a somewhat confined sphere of direct mutual interest. With the emergence of interconnectedness as a defining theme in 21st century global culture, this is changing. This directory is, in part, an attempt to facilitate this, for the people connected to the Living Institute. ‘Think globally, act locally’ is still a watchword, and yet global itself may become the new local, as McLuhan has poetically suggested in his ‘global village’ aphorism.

There is a significant focus on embodied experience in the existential-ecological tradition rather than a prohibitive, regulatory fear of the body with the concomitant priorizing of spiritual and mental phenomenon at the expense of the body that is characteristic of the transcendental divine. There is no ‘sin’ or ‘evil’ in the existential-ecological tradition. Rather there is a concern for holism and reconciliation to otherness, and an appreciation of the evolutionary function of adversity and alterity. The model is one of education and healing – providing complex care for restoring the wholeness of the subject, both individually and communally.