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Setting the Context
In the first half of Chapter Three, Terry Patten took us on a deep dive into the concept of wholeness. He punctuated his conversation with examples of how science, religion, and enterprises of all kinds have fragmented reality into many disconnected individual parts. Reducing the whole into unrelated parts blinds us to the interconnectedness we share with each other and our environment.
In the second half of Chapter Three, he asserts that separation leads to disintegration of the clear-eyed understanding of the whole and the systems that comprise it. The challenge in finding solutions to our wicked predicament is that we are unable to see each individual crisis fully, let alone the interaction between them all. The more we fragment, the less able we are to see the big picture.
Patten believes that this separative consciousness kneecaps our ability to effectively meet the crises confronting us today. As our sense and understanding of the whole rekindles, more of us become increasingly motivated to address the extensive challenges we face on all fronts. How can embracing a wholistic perspective help us live it? Join us for the wrap-up of Wholeness and Fragmentation.
Selected Readings From A New Republic of the Heart
Recitations by Anneke Edson, David Chasteen, Sallie Justice, Phil Justice, and Ed Prell
Chapter 3: Understanding Wholeness – Part Two
(p. 75) The world’s ancient mystical traditions…. all suggest that divine wholeness is the most fundamental nature of reality, and it is unbroken and unblemished—and yet human beings separate themselves, becoming “egos” instead of harmonious expressions of and participants in that original wholeness. This is the ancient esoteric meaning of “sin”—in Greek hamartia, “to miss the mark” by losing touch with and denying wholeness itself.
(p. 75) All conscious embodied beings experience reflexive shock at their mortality and vulnerability, and keep recoiling into separation, presuming the position of a separate self in a world of separate entities and processes.
(p. 75) From the perspective of mortal beings, wholeness is always being fragmented by this activity of self-contraction— so consistently that separation does not seem to be an activity at all; it just seems to be “the way things are.”
(p. 76) Wholeness is constantly being fragmented. And yet that’s only half the story—wholeness is also always reasserting itself. Things don’t only keep loudly falling apart; they are also always quietly coming together. Wounds heal. The immune system mobilizes and the disease runs its course and health is returned.
(p. 76) The reassertion of health and wholeness is stronger when it is supported by a strong sympathetic intuition of the prior unity or wholeness of existence. The most radical teaching about wholeness and fragmentation can be found simply in the prior unity of all opposites and conditional experiences.
(p. 76 & 77) Our attraction to wholeness drives our healthiest and noblest choices and aspirations. Even more fundamental than seeking, it is woven through our character. So, when we are healthiest and most conscious, we live a wholesome life.
CHALLENGES TO LIVING A LIFE OF WHOLENESS
(p. 77) Wholeness is the simplest and most fundamental of all values and properties. Yet a contemporary life that embodies wholeness is stubbornly elusive, especially when our world is complexifying and fragmenting so rapidly.
(p. 77) How can we account for all the fast-moving complexity? We can’t. And there is no pause button—our lives keep confronting us with discrete, specific challenges that require timely responses. So we act, react, or fail to act.
(p. 77) As profoundly as we have evolved on all levels, the habits of our neurological hardwiring still retain a deep thread of primitive conditioning that tends to cognize big abstractions like “the whole” as something “out there”—separate from the self, and thus not important to our lives, at least for now.
(p. 78) Because everything is a part of the Whole, the well-being of all parts depends on the health of the Whole. The failure of humans to see and embody this has resulted in a chaos of disconnection, in which most individuals and organizations “game the system” in one way or another, gaining advantage for themselves at the expense of the collective.
(p. 78) Corporations are incentivized to maximize their shareholders’ advantages, and they often do so at the expense of the commons. Citizens game corporations and governments if they can. In this respect, we enable one another to degrade our shared well-being. Each of us then functions something like cancer cells or tumors, sapping the health of the larger body politic.
(p. 78) Our looming crisis, likely centuries in the making, are a result of this mind of separation—countless generations of humans living, striving, and creating from a consciousness partially defined and compromised by fear, separation, division, conflict, and competition.
(p. 78) What is ironic and can seem vexing is that separative thinking (also often called “subject-object consciousness”) is so damn productive. The symbols and ideas that are creating so much confusion, division, conflict, and fragmentation are the very mental tools that have paradoxically made possible the advance of human knowledge and progress.
(p. 79) The power acquired through “knowledge of the parts” has been an enormous blessing. But it has also been a curse. On one hand, it has been the key to most human creativity and progress, through the world-transforming power of Western humanistic sciences. And yet it has become an unconscious habit that has estranged us from the Source of our very being.
(p. 79) Wholeness is not in tension with science; it is the message of our best scientific understanding of life. Science is in the process of recontextualizing and ultimately contradicting the story of separation, even though the separative habit remains strong in the minds of many, including many scientists.
(p. 79 & 80) In hindsight, we can see how much cultural evolution has unfolded out of separative consciousness. This habit-based separative consciousness is now itself tending to become a real danger to our survival. “Good works” done from this state of consciousness will not ultimately save us.
(p. 80) Whether it’s more educating, innovating, recycling, conserving and legislating; more donating, volunteering, protesting, organizing, and demonstrating; more good intentions and great ideas; trying harder, being smarter; knowing what’s wrong and what’s possible—none of these things can ultimately succeed.
(p. 80) If we act from separative consciousness, even all the good things we do will, inadvertently, reinforce the separation we presume, so our good deeds will inevitably spawn additional problems.
(p. 80) The most cutting-edge sciences in every field, the deepest psychological insights and spiritual teachings in human history—these will not save us until we integrate them into our selves, our institutions, and our cultures. Otherwise they will remain like unread books on library shelves.
(p. 80) They only come alive when they live in us and we live them in life. Something unprecedented is required from us now if we are to survive and thrive. And that something new must be grounded in wholeness and in consciousness.
CARE FOR THE WHOLE: INTEGRATING ACTIVISM AND AWAKENING
(p. 81) Activism and awakening are two great projects with the potential to be integrated in a way that can liberate a profound, hidden, and world-changing synergy. There is deep kinship between our urge to awaken to Reality and our impulses to make the world better through our dedicated service. When they connect deeply, our public life is uplifted and energized.
(p. 81) Our resonance with wholeness is fundamental to our urges toward both activism and awakening. Whether we know it or not, most of us are inspired to penetrate the illusion of separation, and yearn at some level to integrate everything healthy and noble and holy in ourselves and in the world.
(p. 81) And yet …. The habit of human thought and speech is simply to imagine ourselves separate from and independent of what we think about and describe. The mind imagines that every object of attention exists by itself, separate and independent from other objects and from us.
(p. 82) From there, the full integration of everything can begin to seem like a mystical abstraction or a utopian ideal, rather than inherent and obvious and heartening.
(p. 82) Activism and awakening each aspire in some way to heal the fragmentation of human experience. And they each partially achieve this.
(p. 82) Awakening cultivates a wholeness in our personal awareness and life that puts us profoundly in touch with our moment-to-moment experience. It restores our relationship to wonder, to the essence of life and death, and to all sentient beings.
(p. 82) Activism strives for a wholeness in our social relations, our political and economic systems, our institutions, and our structures of power.
(p. 82) These expressions of inner work and outer work are complementary, but each is, in its own way, incomplete. The obvious thing to do is to bring them together in a greater wholeness that draws on the strengths of each of these two great purposes, finds common cause, and innovates new synergies and greater efficacy. A “movement of movements,” if you will—an ecosystem of wholeness.
CULTIVATING WHOLENESS: A PRACTICE, A PROJECT, AND AN EVOLUTIONARY IMPERATIVE
(p. 83) Once we become attuned to wholeness, we can begin to see it showing up everywhere around us. And once we seriously commit to and intentionally orient ourselves toward wholeness, we can embody a deliberately more inclusive and expansive approach to every aspect of our lives.
(p. 83) We can cultivate a more wholesome and essential relationship to life. We can evaluate our actions by more holistic standards. We can create new practices, unfold new strategies, and form new organizations explicitly oriented toward emergent wholeness.
(p. 83 & 84) We can call such a bias toward and attention and commitment to wholeness—with the potential to counteract and transcend the fragmentation of our postmodern world—an integral impulse, and those who express it integralists. This orientation is part of the answer to that urgent, rubber-meets-the-road question of our moment: How can wholeness be lived?
(p. 84) Despite our present cultures of separation, polarization, and alienation, we are not separate or disconnected. An integral transformation of ourselves and our relationship to this larger web, and the discovery and development of new, holistic ways of being and doing, are becoming evolutionary imperatives.
(p. 84) We are being called to our next stage of evolution and to a new level of consciousness. We are being called to evolve beyond the exploitive, cannibalizing behaviors arising from narrow self-interest, and to embody values that serve the greater good of the whole.
(p. 84) We are being called to develop a new revolutionary framework for our global culture, based in a profound realization of our interdependence, our prior and ultimate wholeness and unity.
Summary & Preview of What is Next
It’s a modern phenomenon — a relatively new habit of human nature — for many of us to see ourselves as separate from each other, the environment that sustains us, and all other life on Earth.
Collective wisdom passed down through the ages tells us that no life is separate from any other life and our interdependence with one another is fundamental to our survival. Losing sight of this has led us to the current meta-crisis we all are now facing.
Terry Patten has described how reclaiming our inherent understanding of wholeness naturally reactivates our instinctive commitment to a deeper relationship with all life. He invites us to grow into a new stage of humanity that will be adequate to meet the times ahead. What will that entail?
In his next chapter, The Evolutionary Perspective, he thoroughly unpacks how evolution drives the existence of all life on planet Earth; it always has and it always will. And both the perspective of wholeness and that of fragmentation play an important though oppositional role in the evolutionary story of our planet.