For prior blogs in this series exploring the common good and the potential of an emerging Integral structure of consciousness, please refer to the links included below this post.
This is the second half of the previous post. Heads up: I skate a little close to thin ice here. Want to make clear that this is simply ME speaking, not ex cathedra, and all souls in this community are deeply honored as we collectively bushwhack our way toward truth.
The second take-away from this more “thermodynamic” approach to the common good (again an easier stretch if you’ve already worked with Eye of the Heart) is that since we are fundamentally dealing with subtle energetic substances here (not abstract moral qualities), increasing that overall quantum of wellness can happen at either end of the stick: either by implementing policies that contribute to the overall enhancement of wellness, or by direct infusion of the missing substances into the mix, resulting in an increased ability to make the difficult but necessary policy choices.
This second option, unknown and largely even unimaginable in the Mental structure of consciousness, has been the longtime “secret ingredient” of Wisdom transmission. In the Integral structure of consciousness it finally comes into its own.
I introduced this idea in Eye of the Heart by way of the iconic film Babette’s Feast. As Babette takes stock of the aging, dispirited remnant of a once-vibrant evangelical community she now cooks for, she realizes that what is missing among them is any felt sense of abundance. Pious exhortation notwithstanding, it’s a long stretch to believe in abundant grace without first having some visceral notion of what abundance is. These hapless peasants are dying of spiritual malnutrition, and Babette sets out to directly infuse the missing ingredient. Through her over-the-top banquet she initiates both their souls and their bodies into a profligate grace they could never have imagined, much less actually tasted.
To risk now a perhaps suicidal foray into the current social morass, I will share with you that this “direct infusion” strategy was in fact that deciding factor in how I came to my own decision to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. My instinctive motivation was “for the common good,” but this conclusion was neither theologically nor politically arrived at; it was totally visceral. As I looked around me, I saw my neighbors being slowly shut down by fear and distrust. The wheels stayed on the bus (barely) through the valiant efforts of our frontline workers and the equally valiant but more hidden efforts of our civil servants, town office staff, and storekeepers who kept the infrastructure limping along. But the emotional inroads were beginning to take their toll, and dread hung heavy in the air. We needed an immediate infusion of “wellness” that would allow hearts to soften and life to begin to flow again. We needed to move beyond collective terror, and the vaccine literally looked to me like our best shot. It was a calculated risk in the direction of trust, but it worked. It bought the time we needed to regroup.
Six months later, we are nearing the end of that summer reprieve. The Delta variant is still churning up the pike, and as in so other many places, the waves of fear are again beginning to ripple through the community, tempered this time by a wait-and-see approach as to how well a substantially vaccinated population can actually contain the menace. So far the sense of calm seems to be tenuously holding.
As these six months have ensued, I have become increasingly aware that vaccine resistance is not simply a darling of Fox News and MAGA diehards. A significant number of well-educated, deeply spiritual people in the circles I travel in, including colleagues I highly respect, have advanced equally strong vaccine resistance—remarkably, for substantially the same reasons. The common ground here seems to be a deep distrust of the delivery systems, be they the federal government, the pharmaceutical industry, the CDC, or mainstream news. There is a pervasive sense that we have been lied to, duped, manipulated or brainwashed to serve the Machiavellian purposes of a controlling few. Conspiracy theories abound on both ends of the political spectrum.
It is not my intention to get dragged into a dogfight about who has the better argument. Part of the anguish of the situation is that it’s fundamentally impossible to determine. If Gebser’s theory is correct, one of the telltale markers of the death throes of the Mental structure of consciousness is that truth atomizes into silos; everyone has their separate information feed, and there is no longer a common database on which to make informed judgments. The splintering is what’s on our evolutionary plate right now, and the healing of that splintering will come only as the next structure of consciousness takes robust hold.
So it comes down to a decision whether to trust, whom to trust, a decision that must ultimately be taken in the dark. And in this darkness, the swing factor becomes for me that very question posed by Teilhard: to what extent is trust itself—a.k.a., faith—an “operative”? What does the presence of this subtle energetic substance directly infuse into the situation? What ensues in its absence?
Teilhard’s answer, you recall:
“Under the influence of faith, the universe is capable, without outwardly changing its characteristics, of becoming more supple, more fully animate.”
In the finite flow system known as the United States of America, the infrastructure cannot long survive when distrust of the “middle” —the fundamental infrastructure—skyrockets so high. For whatever reasons, however fervently arrived at, the distrust is itself lethal. And as in Babette’s Feast, we have by now become so dispirited and suspicious that we’ve lost even the taste of goodness—and so that is where the emergency energy intervention needs to happen, that “secret ingredient” of Wisdom transmission. Before we can know the common good, we must once again taste goodness.
The system needs a massive infusion of trust: not earned trust, but donated trust—proactive trust— offered in advance, from a sober and lucid heart, out of an intentional commitment to that deeper wholeness that will take wing again if we but give it a chance.
That’s what the common good looks like to me just now. In a toss-up, the fruits of cynicism and distrust are clear. They lead to more isolation, more polarization, more strife. Involution, not evolution. As Teilhard reminds us (in Human Phenomenon, 188), “It is in the opposite direction that we must advance…” Trust is the path on which we advance.