One of the most significant mass extinction events in our planet’s known history took place some 2.5 billion years ago, when terrestrial life was still in its infancy. A new organism called cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, began introducing oxygen into the earth’s atmosphere, expelling it as a waste product as it feasted upon our home star’s radiation in the process of photosynthesis.

This oxygen was toxic to the other organisms which existed at the time, and as cyanobacteria flourished it poisoned them out of existence. Eventually oxygen began saturating earth’s atmosphere to such an extent that it began reacting with the potent greenhouse gas methane, greatly diminishing its warming capacity and causing mass glaciation as the planet’s temperature plummeted. This rapid ecosystemic shift nearly caused the extinction of all life on earth, including that of the cyanobacteria, in what is called the Great Oxygenation Event (also known as the Oxygen Catastrophe, Oxygen Crisis, Oxygen Revolution, Great Oxidation, or the Oxygen Holocaust).

Sound familiar? A new organism rolls in, starts killing off all the other species, and begins radically altering the planet’s atmosphere causing catastrophic climate change?

“Come on, Caitlin!” you might say in response. “Humans are far more complex organisms than cyanobacteria! We’ve gone to the moon and invented breast implants — hell, we could give breast implants to the moon if we wanted to! We’re awesome. We may be animals, but we’re rational, thinking animals with the free will to change course before causing total terrestrial extinction.”

Well that’s a cool story, mister hypothetical arguing person, but are you quite sure that’s true? We’re still marching toward climate catastrophe, and we’re still allowing powerful governments to amass weapons which could kill every single organism on earth if ever deployed. If we’re so different from the countless other animals which have gone the way of the dinosaur, why are we acting like glorified cyanobacteria? Like blue-green algae with reality TV and breast implants?

Experiments have shown that decisions we consciously make are actually made neurologically many seconds before we ever become conscious of them. The mental noises we hear in our mind’s ear tell us we’re thinking through our potential choices and then making a conscious “I’ll choose this option” decision in day-to-day living, but more and more research seems to show that our behavior is far more likely to be determined by unconscious mental habits than by the process of conscious thinking.

“Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal,” Robert A Heinlein once wrote. Mental stories clang around in the consciousness of deeply conditioned jersey-wearing apes about being in control as we hurtle on a spinning orb through a sea of blackness in a universe that we do not understand. We act based on the conditioning we’ve accumulated during our time here, most of it from other humans who have been acting out the conditioning they themselves have accumulated generation to generation to generation, and then we rationalize those actions retrospectively.

For these reasons, maintaining hope for our species is necessarily a spiritual position. Not religious, as religions in my estimation appear to consist primarily of the vestigial proto-propaganda of rulers who used them to control the masses, but spiritual. If you think we’ll be able to transcend our inherited conditioning patterns and turn away from the trajectory we’ve been sprinting toward generation after generation, that belief necessarily has built into it the assumption that there is something more to us than the mundane nuts and bolts of animal conditioning. Whether you think of yourself as spiritual or not, you have espoused a position premised on some secret, hidden potential within humanity that is largely undetectable by conventional scientific means.

The Center for the Study of Non-Symbolic Consciousness has reportedly interviewed more than a thousand individuals with what it calls a Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience (PNSE), or what those familiar with eastern philosophy might call spiritual enlightenment. These individuals come from all backgrounds and all walks of life, and have undergone a shift in their way of functioning which has drastically changed their relationship with thought. Their lives are no longer dictated by conditioned impulsiveness and believed mental stories, and they experience life in a way that is in some way unfiltered by old cognitive habits, giving them great inner peace and the ability to move through the world in a harmonious and responsive way. Life has an opportunity to get a word in edgewise, and they have the ability to respond to real-world situations instead of acting out repetitive conditioning patterns. What causes this shift in functioning doesn’t appear to be well understood yet, but the potential undeniably exists within our species for such a transformation.

I am fascinated by the parallels between this phenomenon and the political revolution that people are calling for with increasing urgency as those in power keep pushing us in a direction that is clearly not in our best interest. Media propaganda narratives are constantly being used by the elites who control governments to manufacture the consent of the masses and convince the public that it is in their best interest to obey and play along. Even a small child can see that ecocidal capitalism and endless war are stupid, and that letting people starve and suffer just because they don’t have enough money is nonsense, but it continues anyway because believed narratives make our society function in an unwholesome way in the same way that believed mental narratives make an individual function in an unwholesome way.

At its core, establishment media is revolution poison. That is its primary function.

From my point of view, freeing human consciousness from the clutches of mass media propaganda is the collective equivalent of the shift the human organism can undergo in the Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience. If we are indeed different enough from the cyanobacteria to avert annihilation, that difference isn’t in our capacity to manufacture mental noises, it’s in our potential to make this kind of shift in our relationship with mental narrative. And I maintain that if there are individuals who are capable of making this shift on an individual level, our whole species is capable of making it on a collective level.

True revolution is ultimately about moving in the exact opposite direction of extinction and into the health, harmony and peace that we all know deep down we are capable of creating. Let’s create it.



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13 responses to “Some Thoughts On Spirituality And Revolution”

  1. Mr. J. Krishnamurti, spent his entire lifetime giving talks around the world, his message was clear; I am not the teacher, we are here to learn together “Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be forced to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. My only concern is to set men absolutely, unconditionally free.” Until the end of his life at the age of ninety, Krishnamurti traveled the world speaking as a private person. The rejection of all spiritual and psychological authority, including his own, is a fundamental theme.~~~~~I was fortunate to attend one of his talks at Ojai, Calif. in 1978. I recently found some of his talks available on You Tube. The best books of his are The Commentaries on living series. Quest books published by the Theosophical Publishing House. Wheaton, Illinois. copyright 1956, 1967…..

  2. “From my point of view, freeing human consciousness from the clutches of mass media propaganda is the collective equivalent of the shift the human organism can undergo in the Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience.”

    You’re dreaming or tripping if you think that’s gonna happen.

    Mass media propaganda is about 100 years old and those states are so rare in human society that throughout history the people that achieve them have been noticed as different to most other people and celebrated for it. Mass media propaganda is a symptom of human consciousness not a trap for it to fall into. You’re part of it with this blog. (I’m part of it with this comment too.)

    And some wanker from a silicon valley “uni” re-badging enlightenment with some other name is just more of the same – more of that oligarchy you claim to be against, with its never ending colonisation/commodification of every fucking thing on earth while trying to extract rent from the rest of us for it.

    1. Darling, mass media is at least 4000 years old, the printing press only helped spur it on and at the same time sowed the seeds of heterogeneity that we reap today. Let’s ignore exceptionalism, which is deity worship ultimately expressed and celebrate life in all it’s mundanity. It represents the best offer on the table at the moment. Do not worry, in time all things will have ceased to have importance, relish and if need be defend what you have now, it will not last, nor should it.

      1. I like your name.

        You’re probably onto something with all that don’t worry be happy stuff* but for the sake of arguing … mass media could barely have said to have started in Europe with the printing press. The word mass is important – it implies a big and diverse audience. 100 years is close enough to what we have today with print and real time electronic stuff.

        * Its not exactly enlightenment tho is it.

      2. Mass media via the written word is only about 500 years old, it began with the printing press; before that, it was spoken word, which was not nearly as effective (as you can imagine).

    2. The more the media lies, the more it has to lie. The greater the difference between observable phenomena and the official narrative, the easier it will be to spot the lie. We’re at the point where we don’t need a Buddha to pierce the veil of illusion, we’re simply waiting for a child to innocently say the emperor has no clothes. The time will come, it is unavoidable.

  3. Someone asked how to get there from here.
    Quite simple, really. Difficult, but simple. Develop a spiritual practice. It could be from just about any spiritual tradition from just about any culture. Then practice it. Practice it consistently, and when you can, practice with others, and experience the additional power that comes from a group of people practicing together.
    In doing this, we begin to transform ourselves, and we also begin to transform our relationship with the world. If enough of us do this, we can change the world.

    1. This defeats the point of Johnston’e’s column, and aids the forces of repression. The enlightenment can only be collective from first to last. Individual consciousness, aside from being an oxymoron, plays into the hands of the oppressors.

  4. Caitlin, Sadly we will never truly have peace if we do not include non-human sentient animals in our moral concern and to do that we need to go vegan and cease using them as resources. Being vegan is a first step to a nonviolent life. While we have speciesism, we will have racism, sexism, heterosexism and so forth. Where we have one form, we will have all forms. The violence against animals does not remain in a vacuum. It is a persecution for completely unnecessary reasons since we do not need animal products to survive. We can easily meet all our nutrition requirements from plants (and other non-animal sources). So the only reason we can give as to why we are torturing and killing one trillion land and aquatic animals each year, is because we think they “taste good”. That’s morally unjustifiable.

    Animal agriculture is also destroying the planet due to 51% of GHG are from animal agriculture (watch Cowspiracy, the Sustainabilty Secret). We are also causing violence to our children as animal products in the amounts we eat them, are killing us by the millions each year. Children today are found to have white streaks of chosterol in their arteries and the beginnings of atheroschlerosis. Animal products just do not belong in our bodies the science is showing us.

    Vegans reject using animals for food (dairy, eggs, flesh, honey etc), clothing (wool, silk, fur, leather etc), entertainment, and other reasons. Its a win win for all of us to be vegan. It’s easier than people think. Start here

  5. Great article! Insightful. Thought provoking.

    1. Agreed. Anyone have any ideas how to get there from here that doesn’t involve a mass human extinction event?

      1. Yes. It’s not complicated, but it is difficult.

        Figure out what rules need to change, then force that to happen with a conditional mass tax-boycott pledge. Everyone who signs pledges to refuse to pay taxes once a majority of the voting population has signed the pledge. Nothing happens until a majority has signed, so nobody gets targeted unless the majority is getting targeted. This will either force the government to accept the rules change, drop all pretense of democracy, or be starved of resources–allowing an opportunity for a new government with better rules to replace the old if necessary.

        I could talk about exactly what needs to be done to ensure majority rule, but it doesn’t really matter. The root problem even more than a lack of democracy is that hardly anyone can be convinced of anything that conflicts with their emotions or their worldview. Ms. Johnstone talks about her ‘inner truthfinder’, but that’s a bit magical. Maybe hers is flawless, but hardly anyone else’s is. Before any progress can be made, there needs to be way to teach people a process they can use to figure out what to believe and what not to believe without relying on their emotions, memories, experiences, or their own worldview. People have to be okay with the possibility that they might be wrong about things that are core to their own identity. People have to stop being afraid of being perceived as weak when they admit they don’t know something. People have to stop thinking that believing or disbelieving something is an all-or-nothing absolute certainty–the amount of belief or disbelief in an idea should be proportional to the amount of evidence and logic supporting it, and we should be able to change our minds if new information comes up or the old evidence turns out to be challenged. Without that, all arguments will just continue to pseudo-arguments where no one is willing to abandon their starting position. We need to get to a place where arguments are mutual truth-finding and mental error-checking exercises.

        Basically, we’re going to have to become Vulcans to get anything done. I don’t know how we can do that.

        1. Basically, by the repeated use of the word “force” I think you are just proposing another version of tyranny over the present one. Yours is probably more explicitly physical force, instead of the present propaganda forcing. That in a way has the virtue of being more honest, at least.

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