Posted by: chrismaser | December 18, 2011


Until we shift the focus of our attention from the products of the outer landscape to the process of the inner landscape of our soul, we will continue to destroy our external environment. The movement to a socially-environmentally sustainable society cannot occur without a radical transformation of individual values and priorities. Today’s excessive materialism simply cannot survive the transition to a sustainable world because all material things created by humanity, including jobs in this technological world, have built-in obsolescence. This simply means that the more deeply and clearly we analyze the problems our world is facing, the more we realize that the crisis is not somewhere “out there,” but is within us—with the way we think.


It’s a personal, inner crisis generated by the fear of poverty and insecurity—fed daily by the media—that manifests as a collective outer crisis of materialistic greed exemplified by excessive consumerism. The health, vitality, and honesty of our inner landscape governs the authenticity with which we treat one another, Planet Earth, and ourselves in the collective, outer tapestry of society and the environment that enfolds it. In other words, our crisis is not only one of spiritual bankruptcy but also a growing lack of trust and faith in one another as conscious, caring individuals.

“Authenticity,” which is the condition or quality of being trustworthy and genuine, is the spiritual voice of the heart, which each of us seeks and to which we each respond. It is the harmony between what a you and I think, say, and do and what we really feel—the motive in the deepest recesses of our heart. We are authentic only when our motives, words, and deeds are in harmony with our attitude.

Our attitude is the visible part of our behavior, whereas our motive is hidden from view. Emerson wrote, “Your attitude thunders so loudly that I can’t hear what you say.” And it’s when a person’s visible behavior is out of harmony with their motive that their attitude points to a hidden agenda, an ulterior motive. It’s this lack of inner harmony among thoughts, motives, and deeds that is currently plaguing humanity.

It’s the ulterior motive, perceived as a crime by the public at large, which causes a absence of trust based on a lack of authenticity. “Commit a crime,” wrote Emerson, “and the earth is made of glass. . . . Some damning circumstance always transpires.” The Scottish philosopher Carlyle summed up our choice about the authenticity of the individual when he said, “Change yourself, and then you will know there is at least one less rascal in the world.”


Ulterior motives are those self-serving motifs that are perceived by the public at large as being negative or dishonest. Such motives often come about when someone is resisting the necessity of altering their set of values to meet changing social conditions brought about by cultural evolution. Cultural evolution, in turn, is the collective change in societal values stemming from a shift in the collective social consciousness. In general terms, a social system is catapulted into the throes of evolution when it has reached a size and level of complexity that outstrips it resources or when its normal functioning is drastically disturbed by a collective shift in social consciousness—such as its citizens deposing a malevolent dictator. As Israeli statesman Abba Eban observed, “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.” Put simply, people change when the pain of a present circumstance becomes overwhelming.

Although culture is learned from the past, modified in the present, and passed to future generations, cultural evolution does not follow so quiet and orderly a course. Evolution occurs in leaps of turmoil during which an old, rigidly adapted species or system is swept away and replaced by a new flexibly adaptable one. Thus, as a cultural system becomes destabilized, it can respond to a small (perhaps peripheral) disturbance, like the environmental movement of the 1960s, by amplifying it and making it the dominant factor in further cultural evolution.

If society learned one thing from the decade of the 1960s, it would be nice to think it would be that one cannot unilaterally destroy the “establishment order” without offering a viable replacement, that before an old paradigm can be cast out there must be a new one to fill the void. But, evolution, cultural or otherwise, doesn’t work that way.

Each new paradigm—each new leap of evolution in culture—is built on a sudden shift of insight, a quantum leap of intuition, which carries forward a modicum of old ideas. Those who cling to the old way and fight against change demand irrefutable proof that change is needed. The irony is that the old way also began as the new way and was also challenged to prove change was necessary or even desirable.

The personal and social trap of an old, rigid paradigm is that any system of belief that has become comfortable has also become self-limiting. At this point new data—whatever countermands the accepted, established order—cannot fit into the old way of thinking, which has grown rigid with tradition and hardened with age. It is therefore periodically necessary to crack open the old if a new thought form is to enter and grow, catapulting both the individual and society forward in a leap of cultural evolution, the offspring of which is a renewed sense of authenticity.

Moving forward may be difficult for those whose belief system and personal identities are invested totally in the old paradigm; they see no reason to change. For those who subscribe to a new paradigm, moving forward is easier because there is something toward which to move—a new vision. But, giving birth to a new paradigm can be physically dangerous if we charge others with being “wrong,” implying that we ourselves are “right.” Neither claim is entirely correct, however, in a world that is neither black nor white because our perceptions—based on a growing archive of knowledge—are constantly changing, both with time and age.


Nevertheless, there comes a point in the history of every society when change is necessary if that society is to continue to evolve. And it all begins or ends with the willingness of the individuals—who collectively are society—to change. If the willingness to change is absent, as it almost always is, there comes crisis that takes the initiative out of the hands of the citizens and thrusts them forward kicking and screaming unceremoniously along the evolutionary path.

Consider Jesus, for example, a supremely gentle man, who preached the love of God above all else and the moral imperative of love, mercy, justice, and faith among all people. Jesus refused to knuckle under when challenged by the Pharisees of Jerusalem and by the administrators of the mighty Roman Empire. For his courage and faith, he was crucified. But when the Roman Empire began to crumble under the weight of internal dissension and corruption, the followers of the original disciples emerged from the catacombs and converted the emperor himself to their new faith.

Then there was the Buddha, who found enlightenment under the boddhi tree. The Buddha’s words and example transformed many parts of the ancient Hindu civilization during a time of social turbulence and dissatisfaction. Over the decades, the Buddha’s teachings have been carried throughout much of the Orient.

Centuries later, a few idealists with the courage to live their dreams of freedom, equality, justice, and brotherhood rejected the King of England and united thirteen colonies into a union of greatly different values, social structures, and economies, and from that union grew a new nation—the United States of America.

And within my lifetime, there was a humble man named Mohandas K. Gandhi, who told the British they could steal everything from him and even kill him—then they would have his dead body, but not his obedience. It was, of course, Gandhi’s obedience the British needed in order to enslave his spirit and keep India in subjugated. But Gandhi, a free man in his heart and mind, challenged the might and the treachery of the British Empire with truth and love. And in the end, the British consummated India’s freedom, because force, violence, and brutality simply could not stand against truth; love; and determined, peaceful nonviolence.

And there were others—who brought out the dark side of human society. Their time was brief, however, because truth and love always win in the end.

All of these people, saints and sinners, intellectuals and soldiers, armed with only an idea and the courage to act on it, could topple dominant regimes whose corruption festered internally. There have been others also who toppled lesser foes but who nonetheless changed the world.

Today, our world is so highly specialized, so culturally fragmented, so thoroughly interdependent, and so economically enmeshed that a tremor of instability in any part of the global house of cards—like the tiny temblor that initiates of an earthquake—will spread rapidly and destabilize most societies.

Unless we cause a global, nuclear holocaust or poison ourselves with pollution, humanity will survive, but the suite of social crises we are today facing are not only an interrelated product of our thinking but also unprecedented in dimension, and will mark the end of an era. The types of social, economic, and political organizations that have been created in modern times will undergo major and sudden changes like the collapse of the “Iron Curtain” and the current deposing of Arab dictators, in what is being called the “Arab Spring.” The outcome, however, will neither be determined by nor predicted by any past social experience with respect to the way the new social order will function.

The quiet time in the United States since the last burst of cultural evolution is over. We have again sailed into a maelstrom set in motion in the United States largely by ultra-conservative administrations, whose policies of fear—and the greed it spawns—set the stage for the mega-crisis we must now ride out.

There are those, however, who have consciously prepared themselves for this crisis and will live through it. This, despite the fact, as Jonathan Swift said, “when a true genius [or visionary] appears in the world, you may know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in confederacy against him.”

These are the people who have the foresight to “read the handwriting on the wall” and to act on it with courage. They saw the close of the twentieth century as the end of the old, dominant social system and the opening of the twenty-first century as the freedom to create a new and better social order. They look ahead, prepare, discuss, and perfect their ideas, and then wait patiently to implement them. They possess the inner vision, the knowledge, and the courage to act for the good of the whole when their inner knowing tells them the time is right. They will hold the helm of cultural evolution and give it what direction they can by asking bold new questions, those that guide the evolution of society for the common good of people and of Planet Earth. And here the watchword is “love” for all generations and for the Earth itself.

I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.

Thomas Jefferson, September 28, 1820


Related Posts:

• Current Crises: The Trilogy of Extinction

• Current Crises: Wealth And Money—What’s The Difference

• Tropical Crisis: “Bushmeat”

• Current Crises: On The Eagle’s Wing

• Current Crises: Our Growing Heat Stress

• The Choice Is Ours

Text and Photos © by Chris Maser 2011. All rights reserved.

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If you want to contact me, you can visit my website. If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.

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