In writing the Introduction to The Man Who Could Fly, I noticed that in almost every behavioral science, there are small groups of individuals interested in phenomena that break the paradigm. Of the sort that interests me, paradigm-breaking shows up in branches of medicine; in physics; in anthropology; in history; sport; the arts; animal consciousness; magic and religion; mesmerism, hypnotism; psychical research, parapsychology, transpersonal psychology – and philosophy.
There’s always a minority, an invisible college, passionate to explore the outer limits of consciousness, and ready to transcend the mainstream. Maybe this invisible college is meant to serve as recurrent reminder of our forgotten human potentials.
There are all kinds of activists, lobbyists, causes. What does it take to qualify as a consciousness activist? Here’s my short list of defining marks.
The first is being committed to the view that consciousness (or mind) is the most fundamental factor, power, reality. This is vigorously at odds with mainstream materialism. It can be called idealism, spiritualism, panentheism, and by other curious-sounding names. It represents a viewpoint of great antiquity and is based on real human experience, albeit not everyday experience.
The second defining mark is that consciousness activists are not afraid of extreme phenomena. Near-death experiences, for example, raises big questions about the nature of life and death -- levitation too because it’s closely connected to states of ecstasy.
An activist actively confronts the challenging phenomenon and doesn’t dismiss it with premature explanations.
The third mark of a consciousness activist is the feeling of being coerced to speak out and confront the politics of a false metaphysics on the rampage. Consciousness is the core of all experience, therefore entangled in all aspects of life. A consciousness activist cares about how ideas and ideologies can thwart and destroy life and experience. So there’s a critical and a therapeutic role to play.
It needs to be laid bare how materialist assumptions play out in the business of everyday life, especially in America, a country being strangled to death by plutocracy, corporate capitalism, consumerism, militarism, systematic mendacity, crowned by the near infinite evils of Big Pharma – aka the enslavement of consciousness for profit.
In the battle against marauding materialists, mere intellectual critique is insufficient. A new force needs to be unleashed, a revolution in the quality of human awareness, a radical change in the sense of reality. This will never happen by piling up more and more information. Neither will an increase of theoretical precision do the trick. The transformation needs to go deeper.
One thing is hard to doubt. Something drastic usually triggers the saving leap of consciousness. It will be like acquiring magic spectacles that let you see the world in altogether new ways.
How can I get my hands on a pair of such spectacles? Is there someone out there who knows how to make them? A new Spinoza ( he was a lens-grinder) for our new millennium?