The Road
Published on July 21, 2016

The Road

The Road

“It's your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, But no one can walk it for you.” -  Rumi

Pain is something that manifests itself in many ways. Many a time it shows up in psychosomatic symptoms in us. Excessive anger, hatred, helpless frustration …all of these have an effect on our mind and our bodies. I also would like to include our consciousness in this list. In normal parlance ‘mind’ can be a very nebulous term and can stretch to include thoughts, reasoning, totality of human behavior ,cognition, activity of the brain, personal identity, autobiographical memory etc.

However consciousness is a more specific term, related to the experiences human have through interactions with the world and with our own internal states. It is more about what we are aware of, rather than what actually happens.

The mind always has a psychology because it is a product of time and outer experiences, which leave their characteristic marks on it. Modern science identifies the mind and consciousness and equates the faculty of thinking with the power of awareness. In my view, the scope of the term consciousness remains limited when it is linked at the level of the self to the mind and the brain and therefore society takes recourse to improving the mental and emotional functioning through altering the brain chemistry with pharma preparations. My brothers and sisters that are seeing violence day in and day out undergo traumatic pain for which the antidote is the pharma compounds which has become a life line for living through the nightmare that is now life.

Apart from the individual consciousness that each of us has, there is also a collective consciousness. This is like a sort of invisible field that surrounds the planet in which all gathered knowledge is available.  Look at the ant world for example. All the ants instinctively do things without going to a school to learn what they should do or not do. Agreed, their brain capacity is nowhere near the human brain capacity. They draw upon the collective experiences of all the ants and go about their work. What is marvellous is the fact that they know when their queen dies even if the queen has been removed from the nest and kept at a distance. They stop work when they sense the death of their queen.

Equally well known is the ‘hundredth monkey effect” which comes from the collective consciousness. Let me elaborate. Scientists that were studying macaques on the Japanese islands a few decades ago observed that the monkeys ignored fruits washed ashore on the beach as they were covered with sand. However, a lone female monkey that instinctively knew what needed to be done, picked up the fruit, went to the well, washed it and ate it. Soon, others; especially the younger macaques, ‘aped’ this behaviour and enjoyed the fruits. What is interesting is how when a switch happened in the consciousness of the group, all the monkeys switched over to washing their fruit and the effect spread to other groups on other islands that were not even in contact with each other.

Each individual in the society with the individual consciousness is also in contact with the collective consciousness. All our knowledge, thoughts and intentions are part of this. It determines who we are, as a species and what our world looks like. When an individual has a new idea, then from that moment on it is a part of the collective consciousness and it is easier for others to have the same idea.

Collective consciousness then is a fundamental sociological concept that refers to a set of shared beliefs, ideas, attitudes and knowledge and it informs our sense of belonging, identity and behaviour. Our society is being pulled in different directions by different stakeholders with different agendas. Going by the ‘Hundredth monkey effect’ it is not surprising that even small children and women are joining the angry mobs. In this new world order, psyches feel a sense of solidarity with each other depending on the direction they feel pulled to Durkheim who worked on the concept of collective consciousness concluded that society exists because unique individuals feel a sense of solidarity with each other. This is why we can form collectives and work together to achieve community and functional societies. The collective consciousness, or conscience collective as he wrote it in French, is the source of this solidarity. Durkheim explains that the phenomenon is "the totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of a society." Durkheim observed that in traditional or primitive societies, religious symbols, discourse, beliefs and rituals fostered the collective consciousness. In such cases, where  social groups were quite homogenous (not distinct by race or class for example), the collective consciousness resulted in what Durkheim termed a "mechanical solidarity"--in effect an automatic binding together of people into a collective through their shared values, beliefs, and practices.

 Durkheim observed that in the modern, industrialized societies that characterized Western Europe and the young United States when he wrote, which functioned via a division of labor, an "organic solidarity" emerged based on the mutual reliance individuals and groups had on others in order to allow for a society to function. In cases such as these, religion still played an important role in producing collective consciousness among groups of people affiliated with various religions, but other social institutions and structures would also work to produce the collective consciousness necessary for this more complex form of solidarity, and rituals outside of religion would play important roles in reaffirming it.

These other institutions include the state (which fosters patriotism and nationalism), news and popular media (which spreads all kinds of ideas and practices, from how to dress, to who to vote for, to how to date and be married), education (which molds us into compliant citizens and workers), and the police and judiciary (which shape our notions of right and wrong, and direct our behavior through threat of or actual physical force), among others. Rituals that serve to reaffirm the collective conscious range from parades and holiday celebrations to sporting events, weddings, grooming ourselves according to gender norms, and even shopping.

In either case--primitive or modern societies—collective consciousness is something "common to the whole of society," as Durkheim put it. It is not an individual condition or phenomenon, but a social one. As a social phenomenon, it is "diffused across society as a whole," and "has a life of its own." It is through collective consciousness that values, beliefs, and traditions can be passed down through generations. Though individual people live and die, this collection of intangible things, are cemented in our social institutions and thus exist independent of individual people. Most important to understand is that collective consciousness is the result of social forces that are external to the individual, that course through society, and that work together to create the social phenomenon of the shared set of beliefs, values, and ideas that compose it. We individuals internalize these and thus make the collective consciousness a reality by doing so, and we reaffirm and reproduce it by living in ways that reflect it.

We are all hurting inside.... We want peace, we want love, and we wantchange. But for this we need to get outside our head to find a road ofclarity, sensibility, and grace. Nothing will come to us before that moment - and when we are perfectly clear that peace, love, attainment and change lie on our shoulders (ours and ours alone) we can join forces collectively to move on as a society.

Rumi says “May be you are searching among the branches, for what appears only in the roots” and “Remember, the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.”

Let’s collectively start inside, be that female monkey to engineercollective peace with the techniques given to us by our mystics.

A writer, thinker, published author, and an educationist, Dr. Farooq Ahmad Wasil, is GLOBAL HEAD low cost schools, GEMS Education, Dubai, UAE. He has over 3 decades of experience in the field of education – setting up, operating and managing schools. You can contact him at farooq.wasil@gmail.com

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