Barraged by the 24-hour news cycle, it’s easy to forget that there is another spiritual battle for the attention of humanity underway. On the psychic plane, each of us is a front on an evolutionary war between our instinctual origins and our reasoned future. Despite the pretext of our customs and manners, we are equipped with a set of flight or fight reflexes indistinguishable from our animal cousins. At our least, we are capable of profound, but naive savagery. Coupled with intelligence, this capacity for violence is multiplied exponentially in the form of advanced weapons, socio-political borders, and economic competition.
“As below, so above,” we might rewrite the old saying.
Though handed down through lineages of wise-folk, the great majority of humanity still labors under the tyranny of their lesser instincts. We are overwhelmingly concerned with sustenance, dominance, and procreation. Viewed strictly though this lens, we are no better than locusts or slime mold. We generally believe that what elevates humanity above the animals is our ability and need to find meaning in existence. Through the process of reasoning, we seek to know our place in the greatest possible scheme of things.
History could be looked upon as the oscillation of these primal states in humanity. War giving birth to technological innovation and philosophy; philosophy hardening into ideology into tribalism, and inevitably to conflict again using the very tools of innovation to further bloody the progress of humanity.
What explains this dichotomy?
Some philosophies hold that each human has a soul, some who contest the existence of one at all, yet others who posit a single shared soul among us all. I am most interested in this last idea for its utility in illustrating the situation I think we actually find ourselves in.
Objectives studies have shown we are all subject to the influence of others’ emotions. Like an influenza or weather pattern, emotional states move contagiously not just from human to human, but group to group. It is as if our consciousness were a shared resource like water or atmosphere. If we think of consciousness this way, the implications are obvious. We are all transmitters of the collective consciousness, filtering and adding to the common signal with our experiences.