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The Crash of Civilizations

We like to think we are individuals, especially in the West. Indeed, individualism is largely an unseen and unquestioned ideology.

individualism martin lefevreAnd the plague of individualism is growing rampantly. It is the new religion, much more insidiously destructive of the old ways and values than colonialism ever was. Not that they should be preserved, but something true and living has to replace tradition and culture as man has known them for thousands of years.

We are not individuals, in the sense of being our own separate persons with our own independent wills. The word ‘individual’ literally means ‘not divided,’ exactly the opposite of the usual meaning of the word. The vast majority of people are actually dividuals.

Is the fear of the juggernaut of individualism one of the main subconscious currents in the Muslims world? Offensive cartoons are just a focus and trigger. The insignificance of the trigger demonstrates the depth of the resentment, anger and fear in people in the Muslim world, who feel under attack on all levels by the West.

In the West on the other hand, it isn’t just terrorism, but the collective mentality of the Muslim world that scares the bejesus out of people. The Western mind, in its unexamined individualism, ironically is extremely conformist.

Terrorists calling for the deaths of cartoonists and editors are our mirror image. There is no ‘them’ anyway, evidenced by the obsession with ‘domestic terrorists.’ In the global society, all terrorism is domestic. All individualists are potential ‘lone wolves.’

The Western world has eviscerated its own traditions. And the sheer momentum of its pathologically outer-directed culture, driven by the individualistic profit motive, is destroying all traditions. That is the root of the ‘insult’ many Muslims are railing against.

To my mind, the “clash of civilizations” comes down to those who still live within traditions reacting against those who have eroded their traditions beyond all recognition. In that light, to talk about the unconditioned mind seems irrelevant.

But in the global society, it’s all one polluted stream of human consciousness. Letting go and stepping out of that stream is the true revolution, if humankind is to survive and flower as a species.

The last yellow light of an opaque afternoon sun reflects off the massive slabs of volcanic stone that form the sheer sides of the gorge within the big canyon of Upper Park.

Every crack and crevice stands out vividly, evoking beauty and mystery beyond words. The light reveals the living quality in stone of which one is rarely conscious, and for a moment, the overwhelming beauty of the earth leaves one transfixed.

Below, the creek fans out, washing over and around the rocks 100 meters away. Due to the sheer walls of the small gorge, the sound reverberates up to the precipice where I stand. Its clarity, combined with the slight feeling of vertigo, obliterates separation and space.

The mind, which is already deeply quiet from a sitting beside a relatively placid section of the stream, soars with the grandeur of the place. A feeling of flight comes over one, andindividualism martin lefevre 2 there is a fleeting sense of dropping off the cliff and gliding above the watercourse, just like the hawks.

A few steps down the trail, and I come across a single wildflower, a delicate violet thing growing between jagged rocks on the descending path. Back on the gravel road, I hear the honking of a flock of geese, the last rays of a setting sun glinting rhythmically off their wings.

There is no method to meditation. One cannot bring about a transformation within oneself through effort and will, since effort and will are products of thought.

When one simply learns how to observe one’s thoughts and emotions without division, the mind slows down, and one’s thoughts become a trickle. Then the heart is cleansed of hurt, anger, fear and sorrow, and it expands to include all of humanity, which is contained within each of us in microcosm.

Useless, recurring thought patterns, including beliefs and traditions, which give rise to hidden and accumulated emotional patterns in individual and collective consciousness, are the root of the nightmare man has made of the world.

Freedom, even just a temporary surcease of the mind, arises from the movement of negation, which brings insight and understanding. It begins and ends with self-knowing. To understand oneself is to understand the movement of thought and emotion as it arises within oneself. Take time every day to experiment with observation.

There is a distinction between emotion, which is of the past, and feeling, which is of the present. With right observation, attention absorbs thoughts and emotions as they arise, opening space in the mind/brain for beauty, mystery, love and the nameless.

Martin LeFevre

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