Feb 7, 2010

Global Village, Global Oneness?

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee poses us an interesting challenge on The Huffington Post. Can we use the global communication potential of the Internet to experience unity consciousness with the world?

I remember when I first accessed the Internet in the early Nineties. I think that my children were using AOL and I went online to see what these "chat rooms" were. But although there was not much content in those days, I was struck by its potential and possibility. At that time I was having mystical experiences of the oneness that is present in all of life. In these moments I was made aware of the interconnectedness of all of creation, and how everything is a living expression of divine oneness. This first time that I went online I saw in that moment how the Internet could give the whole of humanity direct access to this interconnectedness and global oneness. All that is required is a computer and a connection.

Almost twenty years later the Internet is one of the central tools of our global connectivity. In the last few years it has radically changed our culture, how we communicate and access information. From laptops and cybercafes all around the world, even in unexpectedly remote locations, we are forming an interconnected whole, a network of human consciousness. And yet, although we are more and more immersed in this new form of communication, we do not appear to realize its deeper significance. There is the danger, that, as in the words of T.S. Eliot, we "have the experience but miss the meaning."

Well, we have definitely missed the meaning, if the meaning is deep connectedness. As one friend of mine discovered, when he was hit with a notional pie on Facebook by an old friend he'd been trying to have a real conversation with for weeks, the Internet is more about instamacy than intimacy. A communication tool is only as effective as its users. Besides which, the glut of information that is now at our fingertips is so overwhelming and distracting that it presents entirely new challenges to our ability to prioritize our interactions, in both the cybersphere and the face to face world. One could argue that our ability to have meaningful communication has actually atrophied.

Vaughan-Lee's objective is even greater, though, than the use of the Internet for meaningful discourse. He is looking to its potential to achieve mystical awareness; which is to say, experiential oneness. In this regard, I think the Internet is severely limited. It takes us out of ourselves, rather than deep into our core, or into the present moment. It is certainly useful for observing the collective consciousness. The Time Monks have developed the technology to forecast future occurrences by spidering the web and sifting for emerging archetypes. Their accuracy is pretty amazing. They can do this because all human beings are psychic and we are all tapped into a much greater, shared awareness, whether or not we're aware of it. We are all tributaries of the same great river, as my old friend Ralph Blum used to say. The Internet certainly makes more of those tributaries instantly visible. This does not automatically lead us to the great river, however.

Achieving those "peak experiences" of oneness consciousness requires a bit more effort for most of us, as Vaughan-Lee, himself, indicates. According to his bio, he is a Sufi teacher. Sufi is the mystical teaching in Islam. So he, no doubt, has undergone the learning/unlearning process that begins to break down the illusory world of duality, to take us into the mystical experience. I'm no expert on Sufism, but I did study for some years with Cherokee Mystic Virginia Sandlin, to that same end. For most of us, those experiences of merging with everyone and everything are brief and transient. They are, however, life-altering. It has nothing to do with how much of the world we can see before us, but with how we see it. It begins with acknowledging that oneness as a reality, rather than a symbol or platitude. Personally, I think it comes more easily when we are in the physical presence of earth's expressions, rather than pixels on a screen. I know many people who've had spontaneous experiences of oneness while communing with nature, for instance.

I would also remind Mr. Vaughan-Lee that the globe, while bigger than a breadbox, is still only a sliver of "all that is." We are one with all the universe, hence the name: uni (one) verse (turn). And the universe is not yet wired, to my knowledge. The earth is a microcosm of all that is; but then so am I. It is that awareness, that the smallest particle under my fingernail is a microcosm that contains the macrocosm, that awakens us to the mystical experience.

If we are to begin to experience our oneness through the wonder of satellites and fiber-optic cable, I would humbly suggest that we train our minds to view them as our reflections, just as we do with every other seemingly external object and person. To the mystic, the computer in front of me is "all that is" expressing as a computer. The person I chat with online is "all that is" expressing as the person with the silly, inscrutable nickname.

If we are to take Mr. Vaughan-Lee's challenge seriously, we have our work cut out for us. Internet communication, while vast in reach, is notoriously rancorous. I have personally encountered Internet users who insist that talking to people online isn't like talking to "real people," because they're just "words on a screen." This, presumably, justifies all manner of a verbal abuse. As one Time columnist put it:

The horribleness of commenters isn't really a mystery: Internet anonymity is disinhibiting, and people are basically mean anyway.

We tend to be far more gracious when we have to deal with people face to face, or eye to eye. As I wrote here, the presence of eyes seem to be the deciding factor in locating our moral compass. They are the windows of the soul, after all. Eyes are also geometrical depictions of oneness. Looking one another in the eye, is an experience largely missing from Internet communication. So, I'm afraid, is the conscious experience of unity. I see no reason, though, that our computers and Internet relations cannot become focal points for expanding our awareness of that oneness. We could begin by reminding ourselves that cyberspace is "all that is" expressing as cyberspace. If the Internet could be a vehicle for expanding our awareness that far, it truly would deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for which it has apparently been nominated. Mr. Vaughan-Lee has posed us an interesting challenge, indeed.

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