Recently a member of the Many Rivers community passed me some information about a new media company that has formed that has the ambition to build a media empire serving the QoL Market ("Quality of Life"). The organization, One Degree Media, was founded by a team of media saavy professionals with long standing interest in spiritual and self help subject matters. In fact, one of the founders of One Degree Media was among the original business organizers behind the EST movement. Reviewing some of their prospectus material (see www.1degree-media.com) turned out to be an occasion for my reflection on this sort of media outreach and the notion of a great awakening of human conscious that must be near at hand.
First off, One Degree Media is a business venture in the category I would call spiritual entertainment. I don't say that to dismiss the effort: even our small bookstore sells lots of books and CDs I would put in the category of spiritual entertainment. But it does mean that One Degree Media is about selling product and making a profit. In the end this means that the basis for discrimination around what constitutes good product will be how well it sells. "The Secret," the Eckhart Tolle franchise, Madonna's interpretation of qabalah, etc. will all be hot commodities in this new venture. But none of these hot properties necessarily brings people closer to taking the steps needed to engage in a genuine path of self-transformation. I don't doubt that under the mantle of One Degree Media, there might even be useful teaching materials produced, but like in other areas of life, such content will be the minority of the offering. In my experience, genuine spiritual work at the level that I find interesting is not a big seller. Will the content that One Degree Media produces offer better impressions to the World than say Fox News? No doubt. Will it usher in a new age of spiritual enlightenment? Not likely.
The notion that we are in the midst of a grand movement of spiritual awakening is an interesting one to me. If I examine the proposition in terms of what I see going on in the world, I can argue the opposite case just as convincingly. The romance with cultural exceptionalism seems characteristic of every age of human kind. It typically comes in the form of either the myth of the Great Awakening or the myth of the Imminent Apocalypse. It is not uncommon to see spiritual communities and teachers (teachers who are otherwise quite impressive and deep in their practice) held sway by these myths.
The Fourth Way tradition (whose ideas and practices are a strong influence on our Tayu practice) offers a somewhat different mythology well worth considering. In the Fourth Way mythology, we exist within a vast hierarchy of interchanging cosmic energies of varying densities. The creative outpouring of the Absolute is progressively stepped down via transformative processes to be utilized by Nature for various purposes of which we as humans may have little understanding. Life on earth including human beings exists to help bridge the gap in this ongoing exchange of forces between energies at the Solar level and energies at the earth and lunar levels. One of the purposes of this exchange is to "feed the moon" so that the moon can continue in its own evolutionary process of becoming a planet.
Humans and life in general fulfill this purpose regardless of whether we are conscious of it. When humans exist within a culture of enlightenment and people interact and live their lives with greater consciousness, the energies required by nature to feed the moon are more naturally available as a byproduct of our conscious emanations. When humans exist within an unconscious, ego-driven culture, the energies required by nature to feed the moon are extracted primarily at the time of death or through the release of negative emotion. In this latter case, nature utilizes overpopulation, short life spans, disease, wars, violence, etc. as the means to extract the required energies. So whereas it may be good from a conscious human perspective to cultivate a harmonious culture of enlightenment, nature will adapt and extract what it requires whether humans are conscious or not.
The conditions of human life today, this mythology continues, are such that nature tends to want to keep us asleep. Our social and psychological universes have evolved to pull our attention outwards onto the phenomenal realm. We remain hypnotized by the stories we tell ourselves and each other about the nature of our existence. And all of this suits the aims of nature just fine. Humans are much better managed when under hypnosis. But this state of affairs may not suit the aims of an individual human being.
According to this mythology, humans have another possibility available to us that is somewhat independent of the aims of nature. We have the possibility of evolving our Being to the Solar level and in this way transcending the laws and limitations to which we are subject in the ordinary hypnotized mode of human existence. In this sense we are experiments in conscious evolution. Whereas most forms of life exist under the laws of nature to serve the ends of energetic transformation on the Earth, humans have an additional possibility of evolving our level of Being to an entirely different octave. Terrestrial nature may be indifferent to this possibility, but higher beings from the Solar realm are available for help. There is no obligation for us to avail ourselves of this possibility, and there is no inevitable evolutionary movement toward global awakening (though at times it may appear that there are great rises and crashes in collective human consciousness). The path of individual transformation itself can be quite challenging and demanding, but it is available to each one of us.
I don't suggest you accept this Fourth Way mythology as a dogmatic truth. Rather, I offer it as an alternative lens through which to view such things as the so-called consciousness movement and the limits of what organizations such as One Degree Media may be able to achieve. In today's climate of romantic optimism about evolving humanity, this mythology is likely to seem like a "downer" (no Great Awakening). I have recently, however, been reading a series of Fourth Way commentaries by Maurice Nicoll written in England during the middle of World War Two. At that time, when the prospects for humanity looked exceptionally dim, this mythology must have seemed like a godsend (no Imminent Apocalypse). For me, this mythology serves as a sword of discrimination that helps to cut through the pretense of modern spiritual entertainment and return me to the foundational questions of our Work: Who am I? What am I doing? Why am I doing it?