Transcending Mass Consciousness
Articles By Frances Segraves
On level after level, on plane after plane, we are immersed in mass consciousness, and we struggle repeatedly to emerge onto solid ground. We are involved, to become evolved.
Just what do we think of as "mass consciousness"? We think of it perhaps as a vast sea of awareness, receptive to the stimuli of light, heat, darkness, cold, and pressure, blindly acting and reacting to impulses arising from some kind of natural automatic direction, caught forever in its own inchoate anonymity. It is all of these. But it is also our first filed of experience beyond our own periphery. All of us are units in this mass. Communities are only larger clusters of these units, nations still larger, and continents and planets larger yet.
Considering the mass consciousness thus puts in a new context. Often we are inclined to comfortably look down upon what we term the "mass", and with some smugness assure ourselves and anyone else who will listen that we are certainly not part of it-this is not us-it is just all those other people, from whom we are somehow different.
So our first shell is constructed, our little house of separativeness which sets us, so we think, apart, and protects us from those unlovely aspects of human living which we find particularly distressing. This shell, however, turns all too quickly into a prison for the little "I" hiding within it. Fear and anxiety add to its constriction - fear to lose the shelter, and fear to lose identity within the mass. We are caught in the squeeze, and for survival, have to escape before we are smothered.
Cautiously, then, we extend a few feelers a little way outside to see if we will be attacked, or if by some miracle we can make a new place for ourselves within a larger community than our own tiny, carefully surveyed area of living, once so satisfying, now so limited. If we negotiate this transition successfully, we discover to our astonishment that what seemed a mass, remote, terrifying, ignorant, and apart, is the very stuff of civilization and culture itself. It is the human race striving, hoping, dreaming, struggling and frequently achieving. Mass consciousness is, then, ourselves.
Once we can tolerate the idea that we are part of the human race, and admit that in the interests of our own survival we must act and submit to being acted upon, as a part of growing, we encounter a real problem: our degree of vulnerability. How open need we be to mass experience? Must we go the whole round time after time? Well, it depends on how smart we are. That is, we cannot protect ourselves in our little shells from life experience, for that is our school, our kindergarten. But we don't have to stay in kindergarten forever.
First, then, we reject the mass through fear, and separate ourselves from it. Moving on, we become part of it, and find our second refuge identification. This shell is harder to get out of. It is comfortable at first. There are others in it, who do what we do, and appear to think as we think, have the same things happen to that that we experience. We do feel that we are not alone, but are indeed a part of humanity, a part of one another. And in this conformity seems to lie security.
Why is this not sufficient? It is, until we discover, through the questing and questioning which is an inevitable consequence of the thinking process, that not only are our own answers unsatisfactory, but those of our new-formed brothers are no better. Again, we are threatened, this time by a conformity that at first was comfortable, is now constrictive. Again we must break out of our shell, to continue our search.
If we can no longer accept conformity to mass consciousness within our chosen area as sufficient or satisfactory, where do we go next? And how? Detaching ourselves from identification with crowd values is not easy. David Reisman, in his fine book The Lonely Crowd divides society into three categories: the inner-directed group whose source is tradition; the other-directed group which is "people minded", so sensitive to what the "others" think and feel about them that their total life is anxiety-ridden in an attempt to conform to some vague idea of group adjustment, based usually on the lowest common denominator; and the autonomous group, the balance, whose acceptance of social and political authority is always conditional they can cooperate with others in action while maintaining the right of private judgment. These three divisions seems valid, but limited. We would add another one: "upper-directed" to express the potential of the individual who by his own effort lifts himself out of the mass, towards the light, but who remains, to redeem it. He is inner-directed in a truer sense than Reisman implies.
How does this effort to separate from the mass arise? There is a certain pattern that each life experience inevitably takes. It begins with an impact. Physical impact of one kind or another. This is followed by an emotional response, which is usually in two parts, attraction and repulsion, or advance and recoil.
Here the average person stops unable to take the next step of analysis and evaluation, which is a mental one, and requires effort, and detachment. He is still more unable to take the next one, to open himself to the spiritual impression which will retain the essence the synthesis of the experience in the storehouse of the permanent atoms.
So that, for the average person, sensitive to and a part of mass consciousness, life experience is a series of explosive incidents containing two elements physical impact and emotional response. These he repeats and repeats, much like the Corinthian king Sisyphus who as punishment for revealing divine secrets, was condemned until the end of time to roll a huge stone to the top of a hill, only to have it fall back again. We are better off than the unfortunate king. Finally, because we Can think, we reach a saturation point the well of the unconscious spills over and the conscious mind awakes.
We exam in ourselves and our environment with new eyes. We discover that our limited reactions are made up of outworn patterns, suitable for our ancestors, but no longer useful to this present life, and they had better be traded in for some new models. We see that we are enclosed by these habitual responses, as in a shell. That they were once our protection, but are now our prison. And at last we begin to use our minds to free ourselves from this prison.
Thus, following separation, then identification, comes the rejection of mass consciousness as a directive force. At the same time, the individual, having gotten this far, knows that he cannot stand alone, and once more seeks out a group of like-minded people. To the average individual a group is something to join, where we attend meetings, pick up a few friends and generally have a pleasant happy time. What is a group in the sense in which we think of it? It is a collection of units, born within and rising above the mass consciousness, to come into an awareness, together, of the service they can render to humanity. It has a strong inner subjective life, out of which its objective service grows. It knows its destiny.
Groups reincarnate together to learn certain lessons, to do certain work. For some people, the life lessons are the important things, and they are placed where situations will develop in which such lessons can best be learned. For others, the group work is important, the individual progress less essential. Those whose bent is in the learning situation and should be taken as such. By most people, however, group work in this is not well understood. Frequently one leads editorials or articles on the dangers of losing one's individuality in a group the anonymity of the group, the conformity to the group, ect. Actually it is the fear of regressing into the heard-pattern of the mass which makes a person distrustful. And without more understanding he cannot take a step beyond, to realize the redemptive role of the group.
What, after all, is the cohesive factor in society? What holds it together? A common purpose a vision - first anchored into a small handful of people. Through this channel, into the mass consciousness, that vision is born. The mass provides the soil in which seeds if ideas are nurtured. It provides the abuses that are to be relieved. The ideas spring up in response to the pressures. As these ideas ferment and grow towards the light, they affect the mass, changing its content, redeeming it, integrating it. And out of that mass comes an integrated society, a civilisation. From a civilisation flowers a culture. And what is a culture but seed-groups of enlightened and spiritually oriented individuals through which the energies are channelled that work upon and through the mass consciousness, to up lift and redeem it?
This redemptive work in humanity is, as in the individual, marked by crises, tension and emergence. The crises is the conflict between old ways and new ones between old age tradition and new age vision between outworn patterns and new ones in process of being born. Without such crises, a break-through into a new level of thinking would scarcely be possible. Let us not be too quick, then, to deplore crises. They literally plow up fields of mass consciousness so that in the seed idea the tension of growth can take place.
One of these seed ideas is that of right human relations, and brotherhood. That particular idea has taken a lot of beating, but we are always confronted with the unthinkable alternatives of wrong human relations, and war. So, though our techniques leave a lot to be desired, the mass consciousness now holds the though of brotherhood. Another idea, more and more emphasised, is the need for better standards and values. Many of our institutions and practises are being re-examined to see what happened where we got off the track. We have lots and lots of committee meetings, but we also have lots and lots of crime and delinquency, loss of religious standards and educational values. This cleavage is wide, and may the more rapidly bring acceptance of a new world religious concept into the mass mind.
Men want a set of beliefs based on logical developments which they can follow. Away from dogma at times so unrealistic as to be absurd, man has turned to science, which can at least prove its conclusions and repeat its experiments to show the life processes at work. These do not, however, satisfy his aspirational needs. To the mass consciousness, symbols, numbers and forms do not necessarily signify beauty or fulfilment. Rather, they puzzle and confuse, and contribute to that chief characteristic of our age anxiety. Man will continue to be anxious and troubled until he finds once more his relationship with the Universe as an integral part of the working of the harmonious Whole, in a way that he can understand.
We have been told that in response to this need, teaching concerning the ancient Mysteries will once more become available. Her, within these timeless living acts man can re-discover his place in the Universe, the purpose of his life, and the goal to be attained. Anxiety is in reality then a blessing in disguise. For man's whole life is a search for meaning, and anxiety is the propulsive power that drives on the search.
Another seed idea now is the intense materialism which our highly developed industries have brought on. We have it, we like it, but we know there is something wrong with it. Inventive and alert human minds will always create things gadgets, automobiles, planes, housing, bridges, machinery, ect. They will invent more things which are better than the old ones. Whitehead remarked that man may not live by bread alone, but neither could he be nourished by the machinery which makes the bread. Nevertheless, this machinery makes products and the products have to be consumed and used, somewhere, sometime, by somebody. This procduction-consumption cycle is the inbreathing and out breathing of the trade and industrial life of our world. Without this exchange we could not survive and grow.
We also know that we are attracted by the glitter of all these wonderful things and no matter what we spend we can never possess them all. Intellectually we know better but emotionally, we are caught. Such is the glamour of the materialistic age we live in. Yet it is an illusion which can be dispelled. As we face our world responsibilities, and cope with world problems, we mature. We work out principles on which we can take our stand. We see our need to be free of world glamour. This though, too, then, is being seeded into the mass consciousness.
Keywords: Transcending Mass Consciousness, consciousness, life experience, Frances Segraves, Intuition, Intuitive, Articles, UK, South Africa, Cape Town