"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Second 'Axial Age'

Are we entering a second "axial age" similar in breadth, yet different in content than the first "axial age" (a term coined by German philosopher, Karl Jaspers, to depict the fruition of Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, Zoroastrian, Judean and Greek religious and wisdom traditions between approximately 900 BCE and 200 B.C.E.)?

Certainly, with the existential problems we collectively face, and our technologically advanced potential for communicating ideas in a truly global culture, the ground is ripe for an emerging consensus of spiritual insight based upon the latent similarities in all the world's great wisdom traditions. And, perhaps, what we are seeing in the radicalization of fundamentalists across existing religious traditions is indicative of a reaction against a newly emerging "axial age" that embraces the core non-dual teachings of all the world's great wisdom traditions and the emerging consensus about global bio-genesis, global interdependency, and the key role that consciousness plays in shaping our world.

In an insightful Huffington Post article, author Duanne Elgin makes the case that we may, in fact, be on the cusp of just such a second axial age. Noting that the first axial age was very much a reaction to the emergence of city states and the use of new iron age weaponry in savage, widespread warfare, Elgin suggests that the time is now ripe (culturally and technologically) for a new spiritual paradigm to emerge.
"In a world of growing individualism and differentiation," Elgin notes, "the religious emphasis on compassion served as a vital bridge between people. Now, a second major axis with a very different orientation is opening in the world. Religions of separation are becoming religions of communion as we realize there is no place to go where we are separate from the ever-generative womb of the living universe. The second axial age begins with a recognition emerging from the combined wisdom of both science and spirituality; namely, that we are already home -- that the living universe already exists within us as much as we live within it."

"The universe is a communion and a community," says Elgin, quoting theologian Thomas Berry, and, "(w)e ourselves are that communion become conscious of itself."

"Compassion remains a vital element of spirituality," Elgin notes, "but it is now being held increasingly within a context of communion rather than separation."
"As people around the world move into spiritual communion and empathic connection with the living universe," Elgin suggests, "we see the role of religion differently: Less often do people look for a bridge to the divine. Increasingly, people seek guidance and community in the journey of awakening within the living universe. People want to know there are others on the journey of soul-making and seek guideposts along the way to support the awakening of their experience of unity and intimacy within the universe. Less and less are people seeking only religions of belief. Carried along in this great cultural project of awakening, we are increasingly seeking religions of direct experience -- religions of communion with a living universe."
"The 'Great Work" of our time," says Thomas Berry (in the attached video), "is
moving the human community from its present situation as a destructive presence on the planet, to a benign or mutually enhancing presence. It's that simple."

"When our aliveness consciously connects with the aliveness of the universe," Elgin observes, "a current of aliveness flows through us. At that moment -- when life meets life -- a direct connection between the living universe and ourselves is realized and we have an awakening experience. We no longer see ourselves in the universe, we experience that we are the universe."
"We do not need to manufacture or imagine awakening experiences," Elgin suggests. "Instead, we only need to experience directly what is already true about the fundamental nature of ourselves as beings who live within a living universe. When the conscious knowing of ourselves becomes transparent to the reality of our participation in an ever-emerging universe, we recognize there was no separation to begin with -- we all emerge in communion at every moment within the unity of a continuously regenerating universe."
That recognition is already becoming apparent - irrespective of the religious tradition from which it emerges - as a quick search of the Internet will reveal to those who make the inquiry.

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