After Consciousness
Our Next Evolutionary Step

by Stephen Wing

published in Aquarius (one week before 9/11 changed everything)


If Consciousness is the goal of spiritual growth, the next question is: consciousness of what?

If "conscious" means to be conscious of oneself as a participant in a vast Oneness, a universal unity, then the conscious person of today may look around and discover that his or her consciousness is inseparable not only from Godhead and Creation, but from many brutal human injustices.

To be truly conscious, I believe, means not to turn away from this ugly reality, but to take a step closer. The next step after Consciousness is Conscience.
Conscience awakens Compassion, which manifests as Service. The steady increase of volunteer activity in this country bears witness that all the books, tapes and seminars of the spiritual growth movement are indeed feeding an evolution of consciousness.

Ask any volunteer: service is intoxicating stuff, especially working directly with individuals in need. And modern life certainly has produced plenty of them— service opportunities enough to keep an infinite number of volunteers pleasantly intoxicated. But is this the end of evolution?

Martin Luther King Jr. said, "We are called upon to help the beggars in life's marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

As consciousness grows, sooner or later our compassion will include people around the world that we can't see, other species, even generations unborn. Our call to service must likewise expand to address not just individuals who are homeless or imprisoned or hungry or sick, but the larger forces that evict, criminalize, malnourish or toxify them.

We can all name these powerful forces, the corporate conglomerates, the secret governments. But the conscious person looks deeper. These forces are only masks for greed, fear and egotism, human failings we all struggle with— which have unconsciously been enshrined as our society's highest good.

If we look deeper into human injustice, we discover that we are its unwitting beneficiaries, from cheap labor in China to lower taxes on gasoline. Most of us are financing it as well through taxes, investments, purchases. Such are the pitfalls of Oneness; not only are we all interconnected in a single spherical biosphere, almost all of us now also participate in the global circulation of money.

Our nation was founded on the "self-help" principle; the U.S. Constitution provided the tools to alter its own provisions if enough citizens take part. In successive waves of citizen activism, generations of volunteers have ended slavery, won the vote for women and blacks, improved wages and working conditions, ended segregation, and regulated pollution.

But most of us take these historic gains for granted, unaware that we can lose them if we relax our vigilance. The same forces that colonized the world under the "help-yourself" principle are still alive and busy, colonizing our brains through technology and advertising, re-engineering citizens into consumers.

The result is a resurgence of colonial economics under a new name: "development." This Orwellism means the same thing for "underdeveloped" nations as for natural ecosystems: exploitation by profit-making machines called corporations.

The World Bank makes loans for both kinds of development, devastating both the land and the economies of its "clients." Then the International Monetary Fund steps in with a program of "structural re-adjustment," requiring maximum resource extraction and minimal government services. Most former colonies have now been re-colonized through a permanent burden of debt.

The World Trade Organization and its "free trade" agreements are designed to eliminate "barriers to trade" among member nations— along with democratic self-determination. Most of the barriers eliminated so far by the WTO's secret panel of judges have been democratically-passed laws to protect workers, communities, and the environment from abusive corporations.

Fortunately, another wave of citizen volunteers is rising. Since 50,000 of them took to the streets of Seattle in 1999, this new worldwide coalition has converged for similar demonstrations in Washington DC (30,000), Chiang Mai, Thailand (2,000), Melbourne, Australia (5,000), Prague, the Czech Republic (10,000), Quebec City, Canada (??), Genoa, Italy (100,000), and other places.

In each case, their nonviolent tactics were met with a textbook example of what they had come to protest: secrecy, exclusion, media disinformation and police brutality. The press has focused almost exclusively on a small fringe element who target corporate property in the "terrorist" tradition of the Boston Tea Party.
But with the help of the Internet, more and more people are realizing that planet Earth is in trouble, and we can't count on governments, corporations or media to save us. We'll have to get out in the streets once more and do it ourselves.

On Sept. 28, the World Bank will meet in Washington DC. The new coalition will be there. Some are longtime activists in various causes who have finally found common cause. But most will be young, idealistic children of the baby-boomers— the generation that stopped a war, then dropped out to raise children, join the ratrace, and begin an inner spiritual search. These young people are clear-eyed, nonviolent, and remarkably conscious. I highly recommend that you meet them.