It was 2:30 in the morning. I sat on my meditation cushion, wrapped in a blanket against the chill of the house and looked out the window towards the West. The city was asleep. I sat quietly with a profound ache in my heart, looking deeply into the world . . . the lights of the city glimmering innocently in the overcast dark of this November night.
I had awakened to pee. It was election night in the United States and the last we’d heard before my husband and I had gone to bed was that a certain Clinton win was not happening. In the middle of the night, my curiosity got the best of me and I jiggled my computer awake and Googled up “U.S. Elections.” In a second, reality shifted. Donald Trump had indeed won the election.
At the same moment, carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere were continuing to exceed 400 parts per million — a critical threshold crossed just one month before. This level is a crossing that environmental scientists have said will begin an irreversible domino-like process of climate change that is ominous though impossible to predict.
Way back in 2001, cultural historian Richard Tarnas wrote a seminal article titled “Is the Modern Psyche Undergoing a Rite of Passage?” In this brilliant piece, Tarnas makes a case for the clash of two opposing modern cultural narratives — the ascent of human prowess made evident in the Enlightenment the and ever-forward press of technology, and the soul-killing fall of man from his former “oneness with nature and with being.” It seemed like there were two separate camps in the West; people either ascribed to one view of reality or the other. This paradoxical dissonance has created an impasse in our culture, a stuckness of epic proportions. However, as with any leap in consciousness, paradox is wrestled with until the only sane option dawns on us. We must take a new, larger view — one that is able to include and transcend seemingly irreconcilable opposites. A larger perspective allows what previously could only be viewed as an intractable conundrum to now be seen as an interconnected whole.
In the work of cultural anthropologists (such as Frenchman Arnold van Gennep) and mythologists (such as Joseph Campbell and Michael Meade), the three-part stages of any rite of passage have been defined as: 1. Separation 2. Liminality (a.k.a Threshold) and 3. Return. These stages are processes inherent in the design of creation and are either consciously undertaken or will attempt to be acted out unconsciously. The full three-part process must be achieved in some way if a new level of growth is to be successfully achieved.
As below, so above: The collective organism that is the human race also always has and will continue to go through its evolutionary stages, which will also reflect that archetypal pattern of separation, threshold and return. We are facing a leap in the collective consciousness, a point where opposing aspects of our shared humanity must be integrated and made whole if we are to move forward and not destroy ourselves.
So where does this collective shift leave the individual . . . those of us who are kept up in the night?
As above, so below: Perhaps our greatest work is to evolve our personal consciousness and integrate that which is opposing inside ourselves — to integrate our personal shadow so that we are capable of seeing our collective shadow; and so to be able to encompass the ‘other’ with compassion, while standing strongly for our ever-widening perspective and the values we hold (which may seem to oppose values of the ‘other’).
There are many paths to achieve a level of personal evolution of this nature. Those of us who feel the call may be well served by participating in a contemporary rites of passage ceremony; and those who guide this ceremony may well be called upon to speak out and make our service known to a hungry world.
Since the early 1970’s, there has been a growing underground movement in America of contemporary rites of passage for modern people. This nature-based, secular “ceremony” marks the shift in the predictable and healthy stages of psycho-spiritual evolution that all human beings naturally go through. This ceremony enacts the three stages of a rite of passage — devoid of cultural trappings and instead geared toward the psychologically-oriented modern human mind. It is both a modern and a very ancient practice whose design holds some unknowable power for bringing forth the authentic, innate genius that lies within each of us. It is one tool to assist us in seeing who we are, shadow and all.
Those of us who have been trained in the ways and mysteries of contemporary rites of passage work will recognize what is going on at this period in history. The human race is in a threshold time — a time of testing that is required for the next phase of development to brought forth. An authentic threshold is truly challenging, and emerging successfully is never guaranteed. But the potential for humanity is seen in all the little green shoots popping up everywhere — new ways of structuring economies, radically clean energy sources, super-efficient technology and communications networks, re-thinking investment and business values, new human capacities and higher states of consciousness, as a norm. (Do check out the hyperlinks . . . cool stuff.)
A great threshold time is upon us. Let us awaken with haste and echo the call to all those whose souls can hear. Now is the time to actively evolve ourselves, joyfully, so that our species may fulfill the spectacular potential that awaits us in the dawn that will surely come.