(This article presents a chapter from my book “Butterfly Communities – the Heroes of a new Metaphysics)
The missing puzzle piece
The book talks about individual and social evolution. It states that the evolution of Life on this planet has a direction and that direction is toward increasing degrees of cooperation and correlation between living beings. Therefore, it states that there can be no true evolution as long as it doesn’t mean a step forward towards cooperation.
It speaks of the conscious orientation towards cooperation as the only way to overcome our crisis. Without the conscious choice for cooperation and mutual coherence, our divergent tendencies – fueled by our powerful technologies – will tear us apart, destroying the entire planetary ecosystem with our fall. It also speaks about the barriers against cooperation. There are always two main barriers against every evolutionary step forward: an inner barrier and an outer one. Always something inside us stands against any change. Also, our (social) environment has its own inertia and has the tendency to oppose any change. I “quantify” these barriers as our three pre-conditionings (metaphysical, biological, and social).
Furthermore, to help the reader align with the principles that make Life flourish on this planet, the book presents 7 principles of life. They all speak of cooperation – as the basis for autonomy – as the basis for authentic and creative participation – as the basis for true cooperation – as the basis for social equity and coherence among people – as the basis for harmony and peace and joy and hope for human society. The book helps the reader in her spiritual endeavor to perceive and engage daily activities as true spiritual practices.
But there is just one missing puzzle piece to complete all the others…
Conscious evolution is about understanding what is necessary for future evolutionary success and acting accordingly. It is very important – if someone wants to evolve – to be very clear to her WHO she wants to become. Without clarity about who we want to become, life is literally pointless. It is an endless wandering rather than a spiritual becoming. It is reactive rather than proactive; rather purposeless than purposeful. It lacks a spiritual map that shows clearly the direction in which we must orient ourselves if our spiritual endeavor is to be fruitful and meaningful.
Thus, I strongly suggest you to take the time to look back on your life and write a meaningful story about yourself: who are you and how did you become who you are? The first week of the 6-week initiation time (for Butterfly Fellowship rite of passage, see Appendix 9) will be a “vision quest.” It gives the time and the opportunity to someone to understand who she is, how she became who she is, and more importantly, WHO she wants to become further.
Who do you want to become? What world do you want to bring forth around you?
Just 50 years ago nobody was speaking about conscious evolution. Neither Plato nor Socrates, neither Buddha nor Confucius, neither Jesus nor Muhammad, neither Saint Augustine nor Thomas d’Aquino, neither Kant nor Hegel, neither Antoine de Saint Exupery nor Khalil Gibran – no one from our classics. Thus, in all my spiritual readings, I haven’t come across any suggestion to think boldly about who I want to become and act accordingly. It was instead a lot of suggestions to know myself, understand who I am, or align myself with a suggested model – but never to think for myself what is necessary for future evolutionary success and act accordingly. No one encouraged me to take responsibility for my becoming. No one encouraged me to think about what kind of world I want to bring around me and to act proactively in that direction. No one believed that each of us could have a real participation in the development of the world. All we could do was to align ourselves with models preconceived by others. Now we have the chance to choose who we want to become and model proactively our becoming. Also, now we have the chance to better understand the connection between our spiritual practices and our becoming.
How our spiritual practices could help our becoming?
Why do we engage in spiritual practices?
Because we hope to “expand our consciousness” (as someone answered this question), or to “connect with something greater than ourselves” (as I tend to say); or to develop some of the skills needed to better cope with life’s challenges; or to correct some of our shortcomings (lack of patience, lack of hope, lack of vision, etc.)
As a former priest, I know something about the reasons why one engages in spiritual practices and their results. I believe we can greatly improve these results if we 1) properly engage our spiritual practices and 2) craft them properly. I will show you a simple way that could make your spiritual practices fruitful.
Would you like your spiritual practices to really work?
The puzzle piece that usually is missing from our spiritual endeavor is the clarity of who we want to become and what we want to bring into the world. So, first of all, we have to decide who we want to become.
For this spiritual achievement your worldview should be 1) very coherent in itself and 2) very clear to you. Everything should be very clear to you: the story you tell yourself about the Universe; the story you tell yourself about the emergence and evolution of our planet, the story you tell yourself about the emergence and evolution of Life, the story you tell yourself about the emergence and evolution of human species, the story you tell yourself about the humanity past, present and future and, the last but not the least, the story you tell yourself about yourself. The clarity of your worldview gives you the clarity of how you want to participate in the unfolding of our world – the clarity of who you want to become and what world you want to bring forth around you. The coherence of your worldview gives the coherence of your decisions and actions.
I urge you to direct your spiritual work – first and foremost – toward learning about our world. Use the Internet as a powerful tool and learn about the latest scientific discoveries in biology, natural sciences or history (see Further Readings list). Developing your horizon of knowledge is the first step in your spiritual evolution toward a relational self and loving understanding. The development of a relational self is a true evolutionary step forward for you and for human species. Only this spiritual achievement will grant us the possibility to cooperate and use our powerful technologies wisely to bring forth a harmonious world.
Everyone of us has to take a “vision quest” to clarify who she wants to become and what world wants to create around her, what values she wants to stand for. Without clarity there is no proper orientation. Without proper orientation there is no proper evolution. Without proper orientation, all the spiritual practices we use will not be very effective, because there is no edifying direction. We can pray and meditate to become “better persons”, “more patient” or “kinder”, but as long as our true goals remain rooted unconsciously in our pre-conditionings – we will not succeed too much in becoming kinder or more patient. As long as our goals remain individualistic, we will only struggle in becoming a “better person”.
I write for those who want to develop an attitude conducive to cooperation and a relational self. The first step on this path is understanding their preconditions (which inevitably keep them prisoners in selfishness and self-centered motivations/goals). The second is the heroic decision to become someone who puts the well-being of the community in which she lives on the same level of importance as her well-being.
This heroic choice comes, at least for me, from the wider understanding of Life and its ways and from the conscious decision to align myself with it. It comes from the holarchic consciousness of the one who understands that her life depends on the Great Circle of Life, that her well-being and the well-being of her environment are the same. Such a conscious choice to become a relational self makes the spiritual practices we employ very fruitful – for the simple reason that now there is a clear direction of becoming. Moreover, they are easy to practice because now they align with our true goals. The daily activities necessary for co-living easily become veritable spiritual practices – the ideal place where we can work on our becoming toward a relational self.
However, we still need some “classical” spiritual practices, at least for one thing. I focus all my spiritual practices toward one outcome: awareness of each moment. With this awareness I can engage the activities of daily life as spiritual practices from the point of view of who I want to become (and not from the point of view of my autopilot/ my preconditioning/ my self-centeredness).
Each of us is endowed to choose its own spiritual practices that may help us engage in life consciously. Mine is very simple, consisting of a few words linked to the breath: (I am a) “servant” (inhale) – “leader” (exhale). I also connect this “servant leader” with the qualities I want to become: “with contentment and gratitude”, “with gratitude and generosity”, “with love and trust”, “with confidence and kindness”, “with peace and joy”, “with patience and wisdom”, etc. Other times I say “Observer – Creator” to succeed at every moment in rising above the “Actor” (who fights blindly in the arena) toward the Observer (who kindly observes others) and Creator (who seeks to connect and synergize with others, bring out the best in them, take care of their needs or simply improve the things around her).
The concept of the “servant leader” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in his seminal 1970 essay, “The Servant as Leader.” The servant-leader concept has had a profound and lasting influence over the past decades on many modern leadership ideas and practices. The servant leadership style is based on the idea that leaders prioritize serving the greater good. Leaders with this style serve their communities first. They managed to rise above their self-centeredness.
For me, being a “servant leader” simply means being present in the moment, attentive and benevolent to others, ready to meet their needs and desires, ready to “serve”. The leadership aspect is expressed by the fact that all these are my conscious choices to create a better world around me, based on the way I see the world (see Living Universe metaphysics). I “lead the way” through my personal example, without imposing anything on anyone. I am not suggesting that I am already such a leader: The servant leader described above is who I want to become.
As an important aspect, I am not focused or worried so much about “results” – a lot depends on the other person’s response – but about my “system”. To act “now” as a servant leader – with peace and joy, with generosity and love, with trust and patience – is my objective. If I succeed in this, moment by moment, I don’t worry about the future results: they will surely come! The hope that animates me (as long as my “system” works properly) perfectly aligns with the definition of hope given by Vaclav Havel: “Hope is not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
I have just shown in the previous chapter how all the daily activities required by co-living can turn into true spiritual practices. They could become not only effective, but also practiced with ease and joy, as long as what we want to become is aligned with the spiritual requirements of cohabitation and cooperation.
“People have the notion of “saving the world” by shifting it around and changing the rules and so forth. But only an alive human being could vitalize the world. The heroic quest is not to “conquer” the world, to slay the dragon, to “fight the evil”, but to find your authenticity and to act from this inner state. The heroic quest is not to “change” the world, but to bring life to it. And in doing that, you save the world. The way to bring it to life is to be alive yourself. This is the main point of this book.” (after Joseph Campbell)
I firmly believe that I live in a Universe inspired and driven by a Cosmic Dynamics. That is why it is easy for me to entrust myself to “something greater than me”. This entrusting is totally ingrained in my worldview. Because of this belief, a lot of ageless spiritual principles (even though my metaphysics aren’t quite the same as theirs) still make sense to me and help me find my ground (where many of us, who fail to trust in something beyond them, cannot find their ground).
For example, I believe that the trials we go through and the challenges life throws at us are no bigger than we can handle. It is a universal spiritual principle, expressed in the Bible on countless occasions and in various forms (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). I believe that I am able to face any challenge because the “Great Goddess of Life” will help me face it. She will guide and nourish me. I am well aware that some species and some people failed to “make it through” – therefore “God” gave them “more than they could bear” – still I firmly believe that I can face all my challenges. Moreover, I really believe that all the challenges Life gives me have a teaching purpose. It is clear for me that this is a belief I choose to believe. It works for me. I simply trust Life and her guiding and nourishing powers. Thus, I easily find my ground, I easily find meaning in my challenges, I easily believe that there is something to be learned. These beliefs have the strange tendency to become self-fulfilling prophecies.
I also strongly believe that “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (see Matthew 7:7-8) I ask the Great Goddess of Life with confidence and I thank her as if I had already received.
I strongly believe that what happens to us, happens to us according to our “heart and faith”. This gives me courage and confidence that I have something to learn from everything. Also, I strongly believe that sooner or later my inner reality will manifest/materialize outside me, building the world around me. I cannot influence the future, but I can influence my habits and they, in turn, will influence the future as I want it, according to my actions, my heart and my faith.
It is clear that these spiritual principles cannot be explained in any way, yet you can rely on them and they will never fail you. They are nourished by our faith and thus become self-fulfilling prophecies.
A revolution in communication
In the next appendix I will talk about some “communication formats” that might seem a little artificial. Although everyday actions can easily become spiritual practices, we tend to approach some activities automatically or, being even aware, fail to avoid their undesirable unfolding. Communication is one of these activities.
Communication requires at least two participants. If one of them approaches it unconsciously, under the tyranny of her preconditions and self-centeredness, sooner or later, the quality of communication will degrade, sliding dangerously towards the vicious circle of lack of mutual consideration and attention. For a fruitful communication, it is necessary for both parties to engage consciously in the communication process. That’s why, if two people agree to improve their communication methods and help each other in developing their communication skills, the “communication formats” that I will propose can prove very useful.
They may seem a bit artificial – and they are – like any spiritual practice. Doesn’t it seem artificial to get down on our knees several times a day and join our hands? Doesn’t it seem artificial to run specific distances or attend the gym three times a week during certain specific hours? Doesn’t it seem a bit artificial not to talk for a whole day? (Vipassana practice). The use of the disciplined practice of various practices is the development of a certain attitude and a certain discipline (specific to the respective practice) that is internalized over time, becoming natural and, therefore, easy to be employed in real life.
Edward de Bono – the originator of Lateral Thinking and Marshall Rosenberg – the originator of Nonviolent Communication warned us that the use of the respective thinking or communication techniques may seem a little artificial at first (especially to others), but their practice will (over time) lead to the development of a certain attitude (lateral attitude and nonviolent attitude) and of a certain discipline (of thinking and communication) – which, once internalized, can be easily used in everyday life.
These communication formats can become useful for any two people who want to improve their communication methods and skills – especially awareness of the act of communication itself, consideration of the other, awareness of our tendency to communicate from our old preconditions, pursuing individualistic goals etc. They become extremely effective on the one hand and easy to apply on the other hand, if who I want to become and what I want to bring to the world aligns with the desideratum of cooperation, synergy and harmony.