11. The Virtual and the Essential


         Since the beginning of the century I have had the sense we are drifting further and further from the essential.  Reflecting on this I come to the following observation.  Our inherent referent for the essential is nature. It is our teacher, our existential comfort. We feel joyous and purified by it.  Nature is the essential food of the soul, because it is where we come from and our true home.  Its pristine being nourishes us. 
         From our human beginnings, the touchstone for our growing intelligence was the natural world.  It conditioned and instructed our intelligence, our understanding, and our way of being.  Nature grounded us in its realities. For all the difficulties of primitive life, things were good then in a way they no longer are.
         In the last 200 years, the man-made world became more and more dominant as the environment from which we absorbed our being.  Starting with the Romantics, we began to sense our alienation and long for our primordial connection.  This reached a point of alarm in the last half of the twentieth century, sending the sensitives off on their various quests and motivating sweeping social change.  We were removed from nature, but we have still been grounded in the reality of the physical world.
         Now, however, another degree and kind of remove is taking place.  Our referent is becoming the virtual reality of our media, our telecommunication and our computers.  Now our grounding is a completely synthetic one that is even more divorced from the teaching of the earth.  With incredible volition our reality is becoming a virtual one.
         But what of our soul?  Divorced from our source, imprisoned in a synthetic world whose determining value is greed, we enter deeper and deeper into error.
         We humans have taken over the natural process of evolution based on a technology that is myopic with regard to the whole. The optimystics of the world, such as my friend Barbara Marx Hubbard, look at all the factors in the movement of civilization and, in the resonance of visionary evolutionists such as Teillard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo, see our species evolving into a higher life form, a non-organic one, which may survive even after we have destroyed the capacity of the earth to sustain human life. Noting the tendencies and direction of advances in biotechnology, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and life extension, we see the possibility. The optimystical view is that the gnostic geniuses of the past, including Buddha, Socrates, and Jesus, have been prophets of this higher life form and that their insight is a gesture towards the telos or final end of this evolution, Aurobindo’s gnostic being.  But the lessons of error and foolishness of the past and the gravity that devolves the realizations of these great minds, give pause.  If the valence of these developments is not rooted in the essential connection to life, the great experiment of human consciousness will fail.
        
        If there is anything truly sacred in the world, it is essential.  Through gnosis we come to know it.  The wise have called it by many names.  It is worthy of our prayers, our devotion and our utmost commitment.  It is our only hope for survival and the compass for any authentic way forward.

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