I love Einstein’s great distinction that we can’t solve a problem at the level of consciousness that created it. It’s familiar to almost everybody yet it usually goes by very quickly. I invite you to take a moment with me and consider the powerful implications.
You can’t solve a problem at the level of consciousness that created it . . .
I take the levels of consciousness to be our isolated egos on the one hand, and the wider intelligence that surrounds them on the other. To use a metaphor, the isolated ego is like a small house we live in with the curtains drawn, an ego-house. Outside of it is the big wide world and the street with all the other people who stepped outside their ego-houses too. The higher level of consciousness is a natural community.
This shift to move outside our habitual way seems to be happening, with more or less clarity, for many of us, maybe millions of us worldwide. For others this language doesn’t make any sense at all, not yet anyway, though it points to something that’s theirs too.
There’s no praise due for seeing there’s another way any more than we deserve credit for a sunshiny day at the beach. We didn’t create the beautiful day. It’s a pure gift given to all. It doesn’t mean we’re better than others, if we see it.
Making the shift out of the isolated ego world into the wider world is a practice, not an on-off thing, not a quick fix. We’re learning how to do it, slowly, slowly. We’re practicing leaving our ego-house isolation and coming out into the street and looking around with the other people who came outside too. When we’re out there with them, we quickly see there’s more possible than we thought. In fact, seeing that there’s more possible than we thought is what the shift in level consciousness is. We see that there’s another world out there beyond our little ego-house. It was always there but we didn’t notice. This different world is vastly richer than the usual consciousness. It’s beyond the consciousness that got us into this mess in the first place.
But what’s that wider, collective intelligence like? It’s so vast and varied that each person sees it in a different way and each person is correct. But it’s ordinary too. Many of us have noticed it in “we-spaces” and many times too.
Some things that people commonly see about it, or notice when it’s pointed out, is that what’s beyond our present level of consciousness was already there before we popped in and noticed it. It’s been there all along but we just weren’t aware of it; we were paying attention to something else. We also see that it’s vastly bigger than the little house we were living in. We see that it belongs equally to everyone – or that they belong equally to it. Importantly for thinking about the climate situation and what to do about our modern dilemmas, we see that this greater consciousness is intelligent and purposeful. It’s the root of intelligence and purpose. Things succeed or fail depending on whether they’re in accord with the greater reality or not.
It’s the Tao, mysterious and impossible to define, but the real doer!
That higher level of consciousness knows what it’s doing. It’s already created everything, the whole ecosystem with each of us in it. It knows what it’s doing and we can work with it to determine our action and our own direction.
I’m using lofty language here but the simple reality is that Einstein was right. We can’t solve the problem we have – climate change or the other global issues – with the usual mind that characterizes our world. We’ll need a wider perspective. Even what “solve” means shifts; we see we’re part of a larger process where the outcome isn’t in our control in the way we fancied.
The presence of others helps us remember what’s beyond our ego house. Higher consciousness is naturally transmissive and being in the presence of others who are nurturing it helps both it and us grow in the world. It seems clear that while our effort is required, we can’t do it alone. Bruce Lipton says it nicely, “When you break up the individuals from a community into individual units, they become disempowered because it’s the collective consciousness and the collective energy of the group from which power comes.” We can’t do a collective endeavor alone. Alone we can become defeated by the weight of the challenges we face but the greater consciousness feels inspiring and inspired.
Even when we’re in the middle of things and don’t know where we or they are going.