Did you ever see the movie The Sixth Sense? It’s a psychological thriller written and directed by M. Night Shyalaman and released in 1999. I and many others found it a very interesting film and if you haven’t seen it yet you may want to skip the rest of this paragraph because I’m going to spoil the surprise ending. Both the audience and one of the main characters, a Dr. Malcolm Crowe, spend most of the film believing he is still alive. He has conversations with a nine year old boy throughout the story. At the very end he comes to the shocking, and redeeming, realization that he is in fact dead. This realization allows him to release himself and his very much alive but still mourning wife to move on.
The implication here—and this has been supported by a significant number of those who claim to have seen ghosts—is that the sheer force of denial and will can create a kind of virtual representation of something real. I’ve come across a number of descriptions of ghosts as people who have died, often traumatically, and haven’t been able to come to terms with their death. They somehow manage to keep a faint version of themselves clinging to the material realm, but of course are unable to act. It’s a frozen, stuck state of mind.
That central theme in The Sixth Sense stands as an apt metaphor for an extremely common and often poorly understood psychological pattern. We tend to hang onto things after they no longer serve us or have life for us. And we do this to the great detriment of our ability to deal effectively with the present. There are oft repeated and quite understandable reasons we do this—issues of fear, force of habit, comfort, and the like. As a prime example, we’ve all seen it or been through it ourselves in relationships. The energy is gone but the status quo lingers on.
The metaphor can also be shifted from the individual level to the societal and even planetary level. I’m sure you’re well aware of the pervasive intensity of our conditioning to see the world in certain ways, to define what we believe is real and of value. These patterns of belief are undeniably powerful, irrational, and often not even consciously recognized. A very simple and mundane example from my own life that hints at this power is that to this day I’m nagged by the pull to finish all the food on my dinner plate, just as I was taught by my mother some half a century ago. Imagine the power and slipperiness of conditioned beliefs which determine the central supporting premises of the way we live our lives.
There’s widespread—though clearly not universal—agreement in a culture about what reality looks like and what we have to do to accommodate our more or less agreed upon descriptions of reality. We carry in our marrow these myths, if you will, about what to expect from life and what is expected from us. They’re powerfully reinforced by both the wider and more local environments. If you see everyone around you behaving in certain ways, buying certain things, raising their children in certain ways, and so on, you tend to absorb all that as normal and expected. This whole process usually happens below the level of conscious awareness.
Do you see where I’m going with this? If you’ve read anything else at the Returning to Sacred World site, or if you’ve read my book (O Books, Nov. 2010) of the same name, you know that my central concern is the spiritual healing and renewal many of us see as our most urgent priority for the planet. Our intuition, our visions, a plentiful number of indigenous prophecies, and observation of the evidence all around us tell us that to have a sane and sustainable future, our species needs a major wake-up call and a radical reprioritization of values.
I was talking with my friend Nancy Littlefish after a ceremony recently about the state of this crisis and transformation process and she made a comment that stuck with me. She said a lot of us see that the old paradigm is already dead and gone and that, just like the illusion of Dr. Crowe in the movie, it only appears to continue because of widespread clinging to the belief that it’s still alive. The belief that we are not more than isolated individual egos separate from from everything else and that this Earth is nothing more than a resource for our comfort and pleasure—has had its day. The sooner large numbers of us recognize that and understand how badly disconnected and out of balance we’ve become, the greater the likelihood we’ll be able to do enough about it to redirect the momentum of human activity before the planet reaches a tipping point.
Clearly, releasing our attachments is no easy task for most of us. I could almost envision powerful ritual ceremonies in which we rant and shriek and wail and grieve as we say our goodbyes to all these attachments and to the culture of entertainment and commodity fetishism, then open our arms and offer it all up to the sky Gods and turn our full and free attention to the emerging spiritual reality and the task at hand. One metaphor for that task is to recognize that we have made a huge mess as we’ve run roughshod over the planet asserting our domination, and now have to clean up the mess. The mess extends from the thought patterns in our minds to the political, social, spiritual, and geological environment altogether.
I hope that all doesn’t sound too grim and serious. The willful ignorance that keeps people clinging to a dead paradigm and keeps the damage coming is truly outrageous and heartbreaking. But it certainly isn’t through grim earnestness that we’re going to pull ourselves out of “the muck and mire of the dark age,” as a line in a Buddhist prayer goes. A central principle of the renaissance and recovery is joy: joy and delight in this incredible gift we call life, heart-opening gratitude for the brilliance and beauty of it. Or as the legendary Wavy Gravy once said in regard to charity work, “If you can’t laugh about it, it just isn’t funny.”
It’s that vision of a world that honors and does justice to the brilliance of the Creator that keeps people toiling away to spread the message. Presumably it’s also why you’ve taken the time to read this. There are a thousand and one ways to say it and show it, not least of which is acting from the conviction that the authentic reality we envision is already here. One way or the other, those of us who can have to help the rest of the folks see that the jig is up, that they’re released from the illusions that no longer serve us, and that they’re free to move on.