Planetary Survival and Consciousness Evolution: Psychological Roots of Human Violence and Greed
By Stanislav Grof, M.D
The two most powerful psychological forces in human history have been without doubt violence and greed. However, the current global situation has amplified the consequences involved. More people were killed in the last hundred years than have existed from the dawn of humanity up to the last century. We have the dubious privilege of being the first species in natural history that has achieved the capacity to eradicate itself and destroy in the process all life on this planet. Yet the current global crisis is of a psychospiritual nature, and it cannot be resolved without a radical inner transformation of humanity on a large scale.
While this would seem a hopeless task, the recent theoretical concepts and practical approaches from a number of new-paradigm sources offer promising new strategies, which fall into the following five categories: development of a new image of the Universe and of a more comprehensive understanding of human nature and of the psyche; new understanding of the roots of malignant aggression and human violence; new insights into the nature of insatiable greed; experiential approaches facilitating positive personal transformation and consciousness evolution; and transpersonal psychology, consciousness research, and the global crisis.
It has become increasingly clear that consciousness is not a product of the physiological processes in the brain but is a primary attribute of existence. In the last analysis, the individual psyche of each of us is commensurate with the totality of existence; the deepest nature of humanity is not bestial, but divine.
Malignant aggression does not reflect true human nature; it is connected with a domain of unconscious, perinatal dynamics that separates us from our deeper identity. Those who initiate war activities and violence in general are typically substituting external targets for elements in their own psyches, which should properly be faced in personal self-exploration. The circumstances of birth play an important role in creating a disposition to violence and self-destructive tendencies or to loving behavior and healthy interpersonal relationships; thus changing birth practices to kinder and gentler ones would have a huge impact on the degree of violence acted out in the world.
Perinatal sources of greed lie in a feeling of dissatisfaction and discomfort with the present situation, whatever it might be. Like the child stuck in the birth canal, the individual feels the need to get to a better situation that seems to lie ahead, resulting in a "rat-race" strategy of existence which is incapable of delivering happiness. Transpersonal sources of greed lie in our separation from our true identity with the Divine, resulting in a craving for substitute satisfactions or surrogates—Atman projects.
However, hope lies in deep experiential approaches that facilitate personal transformation through psychospiritual death/rebirth and connection with the memories of positive postnatal or prenatal memories. Such approaches have consistently resulted in the emergence of deep spirituality of a universal and all-encompassing nature and a corresponding development of deep humanitarian and ecological concerns in individuals.
The current global situation has exteriorized many of the essential themes of the perinatal dynamics. If we continue to act out the problematic destructive and self-destructive tendencies originating in the depths of the unconscious, we will undoubtedly destroy ourselves and the life on this planet. However, if we succeed in internalizing this process on a large enough scale, it might result in an evolutionary progress that can take us as far beyond our present condition as we now are from primates. Thus, it is essential to spread the information about these possibilities for transformation and consciousness evolution and get enough people personally interested in pursuing them. We seem to be involved in a dramatic race for time that has no precedent in the entire history of humanity.
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