We are all part of a much larger chess-game, a metaphysical game larger than the most powerful people and organisations on Earth. It is the ongoing, unfolding movie of the World Soul. We become unknowing victims of this game by denying the deeper meaning of our experiences.
To become proactively engaged in the game - that is, to create future history more intentionally - we must acquire a habit of acknowledging truths when they face us. This harmonises the conscious and unconscious, reducing the need for storms, quakes and conflicts between them.
Such an idea runs counter to the prevailing ideology of modern times. We see ourselves as independent, separated individuals, free to do what we like. Such freedom and individuality are a myth.
We are part of something much larger, and our choice lies between conscious and unconscious participation in it. Too often our actions are clouded by unconscious factors we deny, suppress and have lost control of - and in this way we sacrifice free-will.
To heal the world of its ills, we have a lot of owning-up to do. If there is a problem, the solution starts with us, not with the people over there. Our fates are not already written. The world is a complex interactive organism and, if something happens over here, something will counterbalance it over there. In recent decades we have become aware that our innocent, normal actions can have large consequences far away.
When we buy a house, drive a car or save for our holidays, we affect someone in Afghanistan or Iraq, through a long chain of consequences. The impact of shopping in your local supermarket reaches Antarctica. The consequences of our actions touch people we'll never know or even hear of. We are part of the bundle of causes of what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq and, reciprocally, Afghans and Iraqis have causative influences in the lives we live too.
Following along with this logic, Afghans have wanted for food because we over here have plenty of food - too much. Iraqis have wanted for freedom because we have relative freedom - and we abuse and under-appreciate it too. They have suffered surfeits of weaponry in their lands because we export our arms and conflicts to proxy countries on the world stage, so that we may live in peaceful and secure societies.
We have not resolved the question of war, but merely shunted war on someone else. This is 'dumping'. Our hunger and violence are exported and dumped on others. So, in 2001, while we got upset about hungry, defenceless Afghans for genuinely compassionate reasons, the Afghan scenario also connected with something inside us - our own undernourishment and vulnerability. An awkward deficiency was exposed.
We are but wriggling cells in a heaving, kaleidoscopic mass of transpersonal psychic-emotional activity, vast in scale. When we think of planet Earth, we think of continents and oceans, but shift your vision and you see a writhing ball of thought- and feeling-stuff emitted by billions of people, all swimming in the same experiential soup. This is Earth, the being. We are bit-part players in an enormous epic movie, Earth's blockbuster, with a vast cast and an unknown director. We believe we're film-stars, but actually we're just faceless bit-parts in a brief crowd-scene.
The world psyche is one being, and we're like nits in its hair. We are its eyes, ears and perceptual surveillance-drones, feeding data into an oceanic repository of accumulated experience. It also feeds experiences back to us, through our inner feelings and the mysterious power of events, and our perceptions of and conclusions formed from them.
In this transpersonal context, Afghans live their lives on our behalf and we live our lives on theirs. By this means, the world psyche maximises its experience. In recent decades, since we've been able to watch each other on TV, this interactivity has intensified. What is the aim of this interdependence? The world psyche seeks perpetually to balance itself, and it, like us, is on a path of learning. It seeks to become more consciously conscious.
The balancing game works in various ways. If some people get ridiculously rich and are ungenerous too, someone else gets ridiculously poor. As wealth disparities grow, rich and poor feel less and less included in each others' lives - their worlds separate. Their unity becomes suppressed, unconscious, a polarity which starts fighting.
Polarities remain self-balancing but, for humans, unconsciously so - that is, re-balancing happens through things going 'wrong' or through the law of unintended consequences.
To heal the world's extremes, therefore, and make the world a better place - that is, to lessen the polarity - the extremes need to acknowledge and reincorporate each other. World crises, fraying people's psychological defences, assist this reincorporation process. In many cases, things going 'wrong' are, in the fullness of time, actually going 'right'.
There is a further twist to this: since we share tastes of the pathos and pain other people (such as Afghans) experience on our behalf, they are our teachers. Most countries are not at war, but our societies and our psyches are nonetheless battle-zones. The suppressed feelings amassed from this tumult shift to other places - places more susceptible to open conflict - and conflict duly breaks out.
When we watch Israelis and Palestinians wrecking each others' lives, the feelings we feel are our own feelings, charged with our own associations, memory and emotion. These people help us become aware of issues of which we would otherwise not be aware.
If we truly wish to help them, it helps to look at our own issues and work out our conflicts in our own domains of life and action. In doing so we contribute to reconciling polarisation across the world. We do this by reducing the total amount and voltage of conflict within the world psyche.
If this illogic is correct, then resolution we create in our own lives and neighbourhoods gets passed on down the line. If the world as a whole took such an approach, things would change fast. One of the best things we can do is to make contact with people living in circumstances that contrast our own, to bear witness to their situation and allow them to bear witness to ours. It knits a web of reincorporation, bringing together the disparate bits of the world psyche. The universe seeks always to balance, connect and release tensions between its different areas, and we can help this.
This doesn't mean that Afghans have to live in dire circumstances, just for us. It doesn't mean we have to live in privileged circumstances, to compensate their poverty. This is a state of extremity and imbalance - we need to adopt a middle way. Our comfort and security charge their price too: colourless, passionless and stultifying, they spread suffering thinly and chronically, making it quiet and insidious rather than acute, visible and painful.
At least with acute pain you can identify and grapple with it, but pervasive, surreptitious pain is difficult to pin down. From the viewpoint of the soul, it is debatable whether comfortable people are happier and insecure people are unhappier. The soul doesn't judge, it just experiences and bears witness.
At this point in history, humanity has reached a zenith of polarisation and emotional indifference and separation. It doesn't have to be like this. It arises from a collective paradox in which peaceable people suppress their mutual differences to 'keep the show on the road' and conflict-ridden people suppress their mutual understanding and empathy to keep the boat obsessively rocking. Yet the value of such polarised extremity is that it makes us aware of the value of balance and re-bonding in the human family.
While we live on the same planet, polarisation has led us to a point where we live in extremely different worlds. In richer countries, we contribute aid to the victims of disasters without realising that they send us aid too - ours is material and theirs is feelingful. On our behalf, they live lives we ourselves don't live, and they give us life-experience we lack.
The aid that Afghans send us is humanity, pathos and poignancy, real-life intensity and an aliveness of spirit. To bring Afghans back from the edge, we need to take on some of these qualities, investing less in protecting ourselves and more in being truly alive.
We need to take on what Alan Watts once called 'the wisdom of insecurity'. Reciprocally, Afghans need some of the qualities we live by - relative security, regularity and enough to live on. But they probably don't need the burger bars.
Economically and psychologically, the world does not have to be acutely polarised. When we see footage of refugees and war victims, whatever stirs or upsets us signals something to us, about ourselves. Humanitarian concern confronts us with deeply existential questions.
It could even be said that we have an unconscious desire to witness confrontations such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq to help us raise uncomfortable issues in ourselves, giving us opportunities to exercise compassion, concern and understanding we lack in our own daily lives. Don't take such an idea too far, but there's truth in it.
By looking at our unconscious role in the equation of conflict, something shifts. This has enormous geopolitical consequences, exercising a longterm transforming effect on policy-making, conflict-resolution and the state of society. If we deplore terrorism, what role does terrorism play in our own histories and what terror do we foist upon others?
What are we a part of that permits terrorism? Does our economy profit from weapons production and the creation of hardship for others? What have we done that we regret? What do we do that others don't like? What can we do to unmake the polarisation game?
In the 1980s, USSR realised it could no longer sustain its part in the Cold War. Both sides had undergone massive militarisation, diverting immense resources from other uses. USSR spent 25% of its GDP on military expenditure, and the domestic consequences were enormous. This mutually assured destruction weakened both sides together: the Soviet bloc suffered shortages and the West suffered pot bellies and saturation - two sides of the same coin.
USSR decided to stop playing. It calculated it had less to lose by stopping, and that it would survive. It did not need USA's agreement. Suddenly the situation was resolved, rather quietly, and the Cold War ended. This is called facing truth and making it easy. We need a lot more of this.
From the book Healing the Hurts of Nations, by Palden Jenkins, 2003.
© Copyright Palden Jenkins 2003.