Do We Need a New Way of Living?

06/07/2011 12:28 am ET | Updated Aug 07, 2011

It is no understatement to say that the human species has entered a period of profound, fundamental, and unprecedented change. As such we need to acquire new skills in order to co-exist with a world seeking to exist at a greater depth within the larger fabric of life: planetary, solar and cosmic. Every evolutionary/revolutionary change requires a change in consciousness; this has always been the case. We are slowly beginning to recognize this fact and to notice a change in our psychology and consciousness. Philosopher and humanist Ervin Laszlo has outlined what he calls the "Ten Benchmarks of an Evolved Consciousness," which includes living in ways that enable all other people to live as well; living in ways that respect the lives of others and that respect the right to the economic and cultural development of all people; to pursue personal fulfillment in harmony with the integrity of nature; and working with like-minded people to preserve or restore the essential balances of the environment.

These benchmarks of an evolved consciousness, as Laszlo outlines, suggest a transcendent mind that forms relations and ties both locally and globally, both physically and non-physically. These again support the precepts of a quantum-field consciousness that embraces the local field of the person as well as having non-local influence. These traits may form what is increasingly being viewed as an ecological identity; perhaps even the stirrings of the cosmic self? The person acts and behaves both as an individual and as a part of the greater connected whole. These multiple relations form a more varied, rich and complex life; what psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi terms as essential for an evolving self. Csikszentmihalyi believes that a truly fluid evolving self needs to seek out and be involved in a range of activities and relations that stretch the self; to find new challenges and the commitment to develop new skills and learning. Another trait of an evolving transcendent self, notes Csikszentmihalyi, is the "mastery of wisdom and spirituality"; meaning the ability to see beyond the appearance of things, and to see through deceptions: to "grasp the essential relationship between the forces that impinge on consciousness." Also important in Csikszentmihalyi's framework for harmonious evolution is our ability to "invest psychic energy in the future." By this he means that a person should not only have trust in what is to come, but also to actively engage with "unforeseen opportunities" to build toward a positive and constructive future.

What both Laszlo and Csikszentmihalyi are effectively saying is that a transcendent, evolving consciousness develops through those who engage in human activity that expresses both greater individuation and a greater sense of oneness and unity. An evolving consciousness would also reflect the understanding that conscious energy is primary, and be aware and open to ideas and impacts of evolutionary and spiritual thinking. The view that consciousness is a primary force/energy in our reality is the key to helping people expand their consciousness and identify with ever more non-local ties and responsibilities: from one's family and community to the world, all life on Earth, and eventually to all life in our known universe. It is our materialistic thinking that has become dysfunctional and which now forms the backbone to a form of social pathology which has little idea or social index of how to measure our quality of life. These days a country's GDP only serves to indicate a country's economic inefficiency and says nothing about the well-being of its citizens. Negative social attributes have become rewards for our global economic system and for the modern way of life. Our social relations have for too long been representative more of an exchange of economic values and goods rather than our emphatic well-being. It seems as if we have been living within a "topsy-turvy" upside-down reality.

In an interesting study that links brain science to investment behaviour, researchers concluded that people with an impaired ability to experience emotions could actually make better financial decisions than other non-impaired people. This research is part of a new academic interdisciplinary field called "neuroeconomics" that explores the role biology plays in economic decision making, by combining insights from cognitive neuroscience, psychology and economics. This new study, published in the journal Psychological Science, shows that people with brain damage that impaired their ability to experience emotions outperformed other people in an investment game. The study suggests that a lack of emotional responsiveness gives people an advantage in economic circumstances as emotionally impaired people are more willing to take high risks because they lacked fear. Players with "normal" brain wiring, however, are more cautious in their dealings and interactions. A co-author of the study has even suggested that people who are high-risk takers or good investors may possess a form of "functional psychopathy." There we have it then, neuroeconomics has confirmed that our upside-down world is partly run by people who are social psychopaths. No wonder the old systems are failing us, and our so-called "modern societies" are suffering from the effects of embedded socio-cultural disorder, disequilibrium, and disharmony. It makes us wonder how our systems of politics and economics would be different if we all accepted and understood that consciousness is primal and that our thoughts are at the root of everything that manifests in our lives. In other words, how would human life be if we shifted from being "functional psychopaths" to being transcendental evolutionary agents?