This article is an excerpt from
BY V. M. GOPAUL
What is consciousness? Simply put, it is a state of being aware of one’s surroundings. Further to this capacity, it also means having a perception of other people and the world. There is nothing constant about a person’s insights into reality, and in fact, it changes as the mind processes new knowledge. Consciousness has been the subject of ongoing debate, study, and controversy among philosophers, thinkers, and scientists. Awareness of what we can and can’t see is fundamental to being human and differentiates us from other species.
In addition to personal perceptions, there is also a collective consciousness, which refers to the set of shared beliefs, ideas, attitudes, and knowledge common to a social group or society. When we take this collective awareness to a universal level, it converts to the oneness of humanity, a concept still in its infancy.
At both levels—personal and collective—there is a dynamic interaction between the two, and one influences the other in a symbiotic relationship. Let’s look at a concept that is now universally accepted but which the learned of the time considered heresy when it was proposed.
This controversial moment in history has to do with Galileo Galilei, who has many titles including astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, mathematician, and father of science. But his outstanding achievement happened only because of Galileo’s courage to present the idea while knowing full well opposition to it would be fierce. This act cost him his life. Indeed, it was a true sacrifice of the highest order on Galileo’s part for the progress of humankind.
What did he do? He observed the sun and planets, especially Pluto and Saturn, with the newly invented instrument called the telescope. During his time, the accepted concept, known as the geocentric model, was that the sun, moon, stars, and planets all orbited the Earth. Galileo’s observation contradicted this century-held belief. He concluded through his scientific understanding that the sun, not our planet, was the center of our galaxy. The Roman Inquisition investigated the matter in 1615, which concluded that heliocentrism was “foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture.” The Inquisition tried Galileo, found him “vehemently suspect of heresy,” and forced him to recant. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest. The authorities continued to harass him with requests to publicly recant his faith in the heliocentric model. During house arrest, he continued to write and produced his finest work, Two New Sciences, which received high praise from Albert Einstein.
Religion and science, in their search for truth, are often on a collision course. In this case, despite opposition, Galileo Galilei single-handedly changed our understanding of our solar system. This science paved the way for the most amazing discoveries such as finding billions of stars, countless galaxies, and the existence of black holes.
Daily I see the sun moving from east to west, giving me a clear external perception of the sun going around our planet. Mentally, I believe in science. What we see is not always real.
In August 2018, when I visited Mauritius, I gave a talk to a large audience, and in it, I briefly mentioned the oneness of humanity. Two days later, one attendee of that gathering said, “Will unity of humanity ever happen?”
I replied, “Yes, it will.”
Another person who was part of that conversation said, “No, it will never happen.”
I said, “I am convinced it will, but it will take time.”
Both are from the village where I was born and where I lived for two decades before leaving to experience the big world. After some contemplation of that conversation, I realized that the consciousness of that society where I spent my teen years had not changed much in fifty years. Both people have never left the island. In 1967, when I was presented with the concept of the oneness of humanity, my reaction was exactly the same as the other two. Over five decades my awareness of human beings has morphed into a different vision, mainly caused by my experience with people of different colors, creeds, religions and social classes. Will my interaction with the two alter their opinion? It is hard to tell.
How are we to assess the current oneness consciousness around the world? In the last few years, it looks like the idea of unity and harmony of the global family is drowning in a sea of tribulations. True, globalization, which is one of the many faces of oneness, has been under severe attack around the world.
Though battered by unforeseen calamities, unity and harmony is our collective destiny, propelled by divine powers. To appreciate a broader perspective, this globalization actually started with international trade. IBM, General Electric, General Motors, and Ford Motors are world-renowned American companies; they originated around 1900. In a search for lucrative markets beyond the US, they started selling products overseas. Companies from Germany, Great Britain, and France followed suit. Since the turn of the century, waves of US-born businesses, notably Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Facebook, to name a few, have taken flight and spread their wings in every place where humans live. Fast forwarding to now, trade has a global reach and the benefits are astronomical. Global trade has brought so much prosperity that it has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese and Indians from poverty. In 2018, China had 80% of the world’s manufacturing. Capital, technologies, business know-how, and experts are on the move. Quickly, other countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam are marching on the road of China’s success. By no means has the prosperity been at the expense of America, the enabler of the Oneness movement. In fact, in 2018, America posted the best employment rate, 96%, in fifty years and the stock market hit all-time record highs. The same prosperity enjoyed in North America, Europe, China, India, and other countries will spread to all parts of the world. A win-win development for all.
Setbacks happen and will continue to do so but in no way will the spirit of achieving harmonious societies, free of hatred, rancor, and strife, be dampened; rather, it is a yearning in every human being.
Additionally, the ever-changing interaction increases consciousness at various levels. In our modern society, governments play a serious role. Let’s examine education, for example. Until recently, schooling from elementary through university was only for the elite. In fact, my parents only received four years of formal schooling. In past decades, working on the farm was more important than spending twelve to sixteen years getting an education. Now universal education is not only free in many countries but mandatory. Governments throughout the world are spending all their resources to educate their population. This is another step towards global prosperity. And it is considered to be the norm. Education plays an important role in eradicating superstition, falsehood, and expanding the consciousness of the oneness of humanity. A careful study of the history of education around 1900 shows a major shift happened, instead of churches, governments took the responsibility of building school systems.
2018 was a chaotic year. Raging fires, flash floods, an unexpected tsunami, explosive volcanoes, and devastating hurricanes were only some of Mother Nature’s wrath thrown at humanity all around the world. In parallel, there were traumatic incidents of another kind, such as starving children in Yemen, refugees fleeing Syria, colliding trade wars, the angst of the #MeToo movement, and so on.
Sometimes it is hard to see a clear path towards peace and harmony. As an optimist, I detect hope and encouragement around me.
Lynne McTaggart, in her book The Intention Experiment: Using Your Thoughts to Change Your Life and the World, explores a fascinating idea that gives solace and encouragement to a dismayed soul. As in her many other books, McTaggart explores the science of consciousness. If you are looking for ways to raise your consciousness that give you the power to create a happier and more fulfilling life for you and the world, here they are:
- Find yourself
- Observe and reflect
- Be compassionate
- Don’t hold onto your past experience or your expectations
- Keep your ego in check
- Destroy blockages
- Spend time alone
- Step out of your comfort zone
- Embrace nature
- Meditate and exercise
Looking back 400 years, Galileo Galilei was a true disruptor. And there are hundreds like him that are changing the world. We are a product of our society, but we also have the power to re-create our social surroundings, as suggested by McTaggart’s advice. Don’t be shy about making a big difference. Keep in mind you are not alone in being an agent of change. Every bit counts.
With a heavy dose of divine blessings, Baha’i Faith proclaims that we all “have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The Almighty beareth me witness: To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth.”