On December 2-3, for the entire 24-hour turn of the Earth, One World Bearing Witness will gather thousands together virtually to participate in a new form of activism that is consciousness-based. It’s an experiment in sacred activism — a new approach to creating change that seeks to catalyze what we know about consciousness to create change at a subtle level that would, eventually, influence the physical. If the causal and subtle lead the physical, then this form of activism might provide new and unexpected inroads to creating change.
Right now, there is a current within the activist community that questions whether traditional forms of activism are effective any longer. Having half a million women march on Washington no longer can pressure Congress to act. It’s not that all forms of protest or “take to the streets” activism are obsolete, but when they are disconnected from the actual levers of power, they may make protesters feel good about themselves but they are not really doing much. Micah White, one of the co-creators of the Occupy meme and movement and author of The End of Protest, observes that in the last few decades there have been larger and more frequent protests than ever before in human history, but they have been largely ineffective. He calls the Occupy movement a failure – an important and valuable failure, but a failure nonetheless. Likewise, the activist network, The Rules, led by Alnoor Ladha, seeks to find ways beyond traditional activism, which has such a negative impact on activists in battles of constant opposition and antagonism.
What is emergent are new approaches to activism that seek to integrate what we have learned about consciousness with large social movements. David Nicol’s 2016 book, Subtle Activism: The Inner Dimensions of Social and Planetary Transformation, documents the empirical evidence for the impact of, say, large-scale meditation efforts on crime rates and other examples of the “indirect” working of what he calls “subtle activism.” Drawing on the work of Teilhard de Chardin, Christopher Bache, Richard Tarnas, Rupert Sheldrake, and David Bohm (among others), Nicol challenges readers to think outside the linear, mechanistic thinking of modernism and to extend our fundamental ideas about both activism and spirituality.
While these are primarily Left Quadrant approaches, they don’t ignore the need for Right Quadrant systemic change. However, they begin with the realization that a ground needs to be laid in human consciousness so that a before-thought recognition of our unity can develop between us on this planet. Such a recognition may be a precondition for developing new ways beyond the divisions that cause so much conflict between humans and with the Earth. Charles Eisenstein, for instance, calls individuals to live into “the most beautiful world that our hearts know is possible” (which is the title of his book) as the means of creating that transformation. Unify has been creating and supporting global peace efforts for the last five years through meditation flash mobs, drumming circles, and other forms of spirit-based activism that are complemented by practical local social action. The Emergence Network, led by Nigerian author and psychologist Bayo Akomolafe, is planning an exploration with the Proteus Initiative called “A Delicate Activism – Towards a Practice that is Alive.” And the Rules seeks through its programs, such as the Activist Ashram, to create a sacred activism that disrupts wealth and power inequalities.
All of these—and there are many more—start from a realization that activism, by seeing the “other” political or social position as an enemy, often tends to reproduce the divisions that it seeks to heal. These different initiatives are experimenting with ways to transcend and hold these divisions from a perspective of Oneness or wholeness.
In the Integral arena, there are some more integrally inflected efforts for a new activism. Terry Patten has written a new book (due out in March 2018 but available on pre-order) called A New Republic of the Heart, which is an integral and evolutionary guide to sacred activism. Thomas Hübl’s The Pocket Project aims to focus on specific cultural traumas that lock those involved into repeating patterns of conflict. Through relatively small healing interventions, they aim to release and re-integrate the cultural trauma so that new creative responses can flow.
Another, created by Thomas Steininger, Annette Loy, and myself, is One World Bearing Witness, which extends our We-space work into a global engagement between cultures. It is an actual experiment, open to anyone anywhere who can connect via smartphone or internet, to create a consciousness field that can hold unity-in-diversity through forms of intercultural dialogue and empathy. The event will create a container of depth in Oneness through meditation, and then use forms of ritual and ceremony—ancient means of healing and transformation—that will invite the participants to bear witness to key divisions and conflicts held in the collective psyche or the subtle energetic body of the whole. The goal is to create a field in which the totality can achieve a higher, integral synthesis than would be possible for most individuals on their own.
On Your Radar:
At this historical moment, as the stakes with climate change and the pressure to regress accelerate across the planet, consciousness work at a collective level may hold new potential for change. While these experiments defy the linear logic of the narrowly rational mind, they work with a holographic logic more in keeping with the nature of reality and the profound interconnectivity of all of life. They are grounded in the mystical realization of prior unity that every sincere spiritual practitioner discovers. What would it mean to hold this realization, not as a deep personal truth, but as a call to action? This is the essence of a new activism.
About Elizabeth Debold
Elizabeth Debold, Ed.D. is one of the world’s foremost authorities on gender development and author of the bestselling Mother Daughter Revolution. She was senior editor of EnlightenNext magazine for ten years and is currently an editor of evolve magazine, published in Germany.