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Climate change: Humanity's mirror

Signs Editorial: Climate Change
Signs of the Times -- Henry See

If the world is a mirror of those who inhabit it, what can the issue of climate change tell us about ourselves? Everybody talks about the weather. It is the one safe topic when you meet a stranger or are stuck next to a colleague you don't know very well waiting for a meeting. If you live in a rural area, the weather has a direct affect on people's lives as a year's crops depend upon how much or little rain may fall, an incident of hail that wipes out young fruit, or how early or late a frost may come. If you are in a city, with only your weekends off, then whether or not your free days are rainy or sunny can assume a grand importance.

In short, everyone has something to say about the weather.

There is a lot of talk these days about climate change and global warming. We hear predictions of everything from the melting of the ice caps leading to a rise of the ocean level enough to flood New York City and other low-lying areas, to a sudden change in the Gulf Stream that would usher in a new ice age, to complete silence. Some give timelines of a thousand years' transition. Others tell us it could happen much more rapidly in two to five. Some say it isn't going to happen at all.

The Bush administration continues to insist there is not enough scientific data in hand while the "Peak Oil" apologists use climate change as another argument in favour of massive population reduction and the end to an oil-based economy.

We think that the "Peak Oil" gang are disinfo meant to corral well-meaning people who have serious questions about the way the world is run behind the hidden agenda of the powers that be to kill off a large part of the population. The way Mike Ruppert has siphoned off a group of people who were questioning the official story of 9/11 into "Peak Oil" is certainly suggestive. We have evidence that population reduction is on the agenda.

There is some evidence to suggest that oil may not be a fossil fuel, or may be both a fossil fuel and an abiotic fuel. Unfortunately, to have an idea of the actual known reserves of oil we are dependent upon people who have shown themselves to be less than trustworthy in the past. We are thus faced with an ambiguous situation where hard facts and reliable data are missing. So our intuition has to play a certain role in seeing behind the veil.

Intuition cannot decide anything for us, however; it can only serve as a pointer to new fields of research and study in order to gather the data to move from intuition to knowledge.

In every field of inquiry, for everyone person who says "yes", there will be another who says "no". For every expert who says the future is bright there will be another who tells us the future is bleak. Data can give different interpretations depending upon the hypothesis or point of view brought upon them, so there is obviously another level that is primary, that must be worked upon in order to clear up our perceptual apparati and permit us to see the world objectively. Without an objective understanding of the true nature of our reality, we will be lost.

Of course, arriving at an objective understanding of reality is fraught with the same pitfalls as looking at the question of "Peak Oil" or climate change. [Let us note in an aside that there appears to be confirmation of climate change every day that we look out the window. If predictions about climate change are true, and we tend to think they are, then they could become a powerful manipulative tool in "confirming" "Peak Oil".

Of course, there is no hard link between the two. Climate change has nothing to do with whether or not oil is running out, it has something to do with how it is used.] One's preconceptions, prejudices, and social formation will influence one's choice of interpretation. To build this understanding into one's research protocol is therefore a necessary first step. This implies the use of working hypotheses that can be adapted to fit new data. One cannot be held prisoner by one's ideas. If the data doesn't fit, then some serious rethinking may be called for.

That raises the question of the nature of the researcher himself. Someone who is incapable of such openness regarding his or her own ideas won't be able to progress, which doesn't mean that his or her research won't be terribly successful in the sense of it being adopted as the dominant paradigm. Other forces come into play that have nothing to do with science and research: charisma, personality, connections with people in power, a willingness to play political games, and the like. All of these can have more influence in science than the search for truth, especially in a society that places no value on the truth. Why should we think that scientists would be more interested in the truth than the president?

Scientific research is therefore embedded in a social structure that must be understood in order to understand science itself. The scientist is also part of that structure, and a scientist who is bent on unravelling nature's truths must be as ruthless on himself as he is with his data. He must struggle against his own subjectivity, against those forces within that would have him interpret data according to wishful thinking or an eye on his colleagues' acceptance rather than according to what is. A person whose self-conception is completely tied to one idea or theory has much more than an idea or a theory to lose if they are proved wrong: he or she will lose him or herself. How easy is it for most people who have invested years in developing something to let it go?

The idea that the Earth might be "running out of oil" is certainly a captivating idea, especially if one is already disenchanted with modern, consumer society, is horrified by the pillage of the planet, and has a yearning for a simpler life where other values are dominant. If true, it could give a scientific grounding to an ecological future. But here we see the fundamental problem. The pillaging of the planet and the destruction of our habitat is morally unconscionable and should not need a scientific counter-argument, but in our world conscience is not an adequate argument. Conscience has no economic weight. Those who would argue from conscience are obliged to find benefits that touch the bottom line in order to be heard, before they are turned away.

Imagine a world where science and conscience are not at odds. For the moment, we are still stuck in this one where there are other forms of energy that could replace oil were we to apply the amount of money that has gone into the destruction of Iraq, if throwing money at problems could solve them. Experience shows us that throwing money at a problem is no guarantee of success, and that brings us back to our fundamental problem: ourselves.

The world is a mirror reflecting back to us an image of ourselves. The United States and its official culture of individualism, profit, greed, material success, frenetic rushing to stay in the same place, is the logical extension of a life based upon the Illusion that it is something outside of ourselves that can give us happiness or bring us salvation. While other countries are not yet so bound in its clutches, they are on the route towards it. The society of the US marks the future of us all.

We live in a world without conscience, where all sorts of considerations come into play that shout down the imperceptible voice of conscience in the background. Because our world treats these illusory considerations as real, we learn to ignore that which is truly Real.It is the psychopath that is without conscience, and Robert Hare entitled his study of psychopathy exactly that: Without Conscience.

But not everyone is a psychopath. They number only a tiny percentage of the population, even if their influence far outweighs the numbers, and many people have a tenuous link with their conscience. But because that link is so weak, so lost in the noise of our own minds, in its place we have what are called morals. Morals are conditioned by time, place, and culture. The Eastern Esoteric Christian Tradition explains the existence of morals in this way:

In addition, these bundles of mechanical ties [between the three lower centres] have a specific significance and play a positive role in the psychic life of the individual. Taken together, they constitute the organ -or better still the instrument - of morals. Given that, in exterior life, the voice of the real 'I' is weak and rarely heard, man who is constantly identified with the 'I' of the Personality, can act - and often does act - without taking the words of this intimate voice into account, even if he repents thereafter. Within such conditions, the mechanical ties between the three centres are practically the sole brakes put to his anarchical greed.

This instrument of the morals is moulded in accordance with the traditions of the environment of the family and is being shaped since birth through education. It is evident that, without this instrument, the organization of the social life under all its forms is unthinkable. Yet due to its own nature, it cannot serve as a guarantee for a good and equitable conduct of the humans; so, to solidly assure its existence during the times of peace, the human society has always been obliged to have recourse to constraint and to the application of penalties: necessary remedies, since morals would never have been strong enough to curb the extreme and anarchal tendencies of the Personality. The latter is, in fact devoid of that kind of moral conscience that the religious practices are keen to indicate in the form of the fear of God.
We can easily understand, in view of the proceeding, that moral conscience is not identical to Consciousness at all. The former is a kind of substitute, founded no more, like the authentic Consciousness direct judgment, spontaneous and simple, but on a whole lot of considerations. among which, the race, the civilization, the epoch, the caste, the environment, and the one or the many personal interests play their role, so much so, that what is, in fact, understood by the notion of morals changes a lot, being a function of the many variations of such components. Thus we distinguish the morals of a cultivated man from those of a savage, the morals of the Roman society from those of the Middle Ages, and the last from those of our present days. We must not believe, however, that morals are proceeding, with time, along an ascending curve of progress. Besides, from the esoteric point of view, the notion of progress, as we habitually conceive it, has no absolute value. [Boris Mouravieff, Gnosis, Vol 1, trad. Dr. Fouad Ramez, Madbouly Bookshop, Cairo. 2005]

These morals are necessary because they are the only brake on our unfettered greed. They are necessary for the preservation of human society. In this, they have their role to play in the grand Cosmic scheme of things. However, they do not achieve the status of conscience because they are illusory as all things of this world are illusory. They are taught and codified as rules, there to be considered when the need arises, to pick and choose, to abide by or to ignore; they do not arise spontaneously as a direct judgement on a situation in front of us. To attain such a conscience, one must change one's very BEing until our conscience becomes who we are. As Martha Stout notes in her book The Sociopath Next Door:

"A very large sense of conscience can integrate moral intention, personal desire, and identity in the mind--right action becomes who we are--and for this reason, extreme conscience appears to be a rare exact-fit to human happiness." p. 195

Stout quotes the following in her discussion of what she describes as "extreme conscience":

"When conscience grows significantly strong, apparently it unifies the human psyche in a unique and beneficial way, and rather than causing 'life disruption', extreme conscience significantly enhances life satisfaction." (Research by A. Colby and W. Damon, Some Do Care: Contemporary lives of moral commitment. Cited by Stout. p. 195 )

The unification of the human psyche is the goal of esoteric work. It is the work we have before us, because how else can the world change if not through the transformation of those of us who build and shape it? If the world is a mirror, then it is the subject looking into that mirror that must evolve. The world-mirror will then change with us.

Now, that's a project for climate change.