Thursday, November 10, 2005

Learning to Respect the Blue vMeme, Part One

There is very little that sets me off as quickly as religious fundamentalism. In fact, most Blue vMeme versions of religion have irritated me in ways that seem out of proportion to their influence. I assumed it was because I was raised Catholic. I was wrong.

It recently became clear to me that my hatred of the Blue vMeme was not about religion, or Republican politics, or that vMeme's general need for order and control. It was about me -- it was a classic case of projection. I have a very rigid inner critic (Blue vMeme rules and structures introjected as the superego), and when I see that rigidity mirrored in the world around me it triggers my own discomfort with having such an unyielding inner voice.

I recognize that the Blue vMeme is crucial to the health and development of the Spiral, although holding that as a thought and feeling it as a belief are two very different things. I have only recently been able to feel it as a belief.

I want to explore the role of the Blue vMeme in individual development (see Part Two), but in order to do that I am first going to post some thoughts from Elizabeth Debold published in the new issue of What Is Enlightenment? ("Spiritual But Not Religious"). I want to work from the macro (cultures) to the micro (individuals).

In this selection, Debold is talking about the Axial Age, the great period in human history when nearly all the world's great religious traditions emerged. Debold cites Robert Godwin (One Cosmos Under God), who has documented that era with precision and understanding.
Miraculously, as if in response to a crying human need, the great religious traditions either emerged or transformed in the span of about one thousand years to embrace humanity in a new vision of the future. The era is what historian Karl Jaspers identified as the Axial Age, seeing in it the dawning of "what was later to called reason and personality." We are still indebted to the insights of the sages and saints who walked on earth then: Lao-tzu, Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ, Socrates, Confucius, Jeremiah, and Muhammad. From approximately 800 BCE to 200 BCE, there was a dramatic shift away from identification with one's tribe and toward the development of individual consciousness--giving birth to the first truly individual sense of self. Before this, as Godwin explains, a human being "felt his own impulses were 'not truly part of the self, since they [were] not within man's conscious control.'" Tumultuous emotions, like rage, envy, and lust, were thought to be "a supernatural attack [by gods or demons] from the outside." So, for example, it wasn't your own lust driving you to distraction over an attractive neighbor, but the zing of Eros' arrow. It was only during the Axial Age that human beings gradually began to recognize, and take responsibility for, those forces of good and evil that they had projected onto the gods. As theologian Ewert Cousins tells us, "'Know thyself' became the watchword of Greece; the Upanishads identified the Atman, the transcendent center of the self. The Buddha charted the way of individual enlightenment; the Jewish prophets wakened individual moral responsibility." Practices of inquiry, meditation, petitionary prayer, and confession were developed to give humanity the practical means of cultivating an inner sense of responsibility and, most importantly, a moral conscience.
What she has revealed here is the shift from a Red-dominated world, still influenced by Purple magical thinking, to an emerging Blue worldview. In the next passage, she explains why this shift was crucial to the development of human beings in their quest toward the higher stages of evolution.

Strange as it may seem to us today, it was the development of an individual sense of conscience--accompanied by the painful experience of guilt--that enabled us to step out of the shadows and begin to author history. As long as we humans felt ourselves to be mere victims of powerful and uncontrollable forces, both internally and externally, there was no way to be responsible or to make choices that would lead toward salvation--in this life or the next. "Only an independent self has the power to recognize its guilt and confess its wrongdoing," write social scientists James and Evelyn Whitehead, and that recognition makes each person "responsible for his [or her] own actions." . . . . As Richard Tarnas writes in his brilliant opus The Passion of the Western Mind, "By granting immortality and value to the individual soul, Christianity encouraged the growth of the individual conscience, self-responsibility, and personal autonomy relative to temporal powers--all decisive traits for the formation of the Western character." . . . . But this [salvation] demanded strict obedience to one's relationship to God and to the extraordinary order of God's creation, manifested in the dazzling perfection of the Great Chain of Being [body, heart, mind, soul, spirit]. For the first time, we had a moral obligation to bring ourselves in line with that perfection. And if we broke that sacred covenant, thereby sinning, which literally means "missing the mark," we felt guilty, and that guilt propelled us to do right . . . .
This is the power of the Blue vMeme. What is missing from this discussion is the state of the world before the emergence of the world's great religions. It was the brutality of the Red life conditions that necessitated the emergence of Blue.

Imagine being bound in a rigid social hierarchy to the small group of people with whom you share a language and customs, living in a frighteningly violent and disease-ridden world teeming with demons and supernatural forces. Murder and mayhem are common; demonic forces throw people into uncontrollable rages and lusts. Strange and unpredictable things happen--your child is born deformed, bringing disfavor on your tribe, which leads to a drought that ruins the crops. You don't know why these things happen or whether your people will be successful in appeasing the gods. Skirmishes with other tribes may result in your death or your capture and enslavement. Most of your life is spent trying to avoid the wrath of the gods or anyone above you in the social hierarchy, as you toil in backbreaking labor just to eke out survival.
This the world of the Red vMeme. There are still hundreds of millions of people living exactly like this on the planet today. When well-meaning Green, with its hated of rigid moral structures and all forms of traditional religion, tries to help these people by removing the emerging Blue structures (which Green sees as oppressive) from their world, they are condemning these people to an endless existence in Red life conditions.

Blue emerges, as we saw above, precisely to ease human beings out of the violence and unpredictability of Red life conditions. Whether we like it or not, Blue offers stability, order, and, on the interior level, the first experience of a unique self that has value and worth before the eyes of God. These things are crucial to allowing a person or a culture to emerge from Red into Blue.

On the African continent today, Islam, Catholicism, and evangelical Christianity are competing for the souls of people who have only known a tribal existence. As much as some of us despise missionaries for the ways in which they destroy native cultures and traditions, the people they seek to convert need to be exposed to the Blue vMeme, and they need to be allowed to evolve through that stage of growth.

[Note: Red is a valuable and crucial stage in human evolution as well, marking the first emergence of the ego and the possibility of a distinct self that emerges in Blue. Humans need to experience Red in order to grow out of the "tribal mind" of the Purple vMeme, with its intense focus on the life of the tribe.]

Please see Part Two for the ways in which the Blue Meme works at the individual level.

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