The responsibility of a democratic society
What is the responsibility of a democratic society as a whole? Let us go back and look at history. There have been eras of almost complete chaos where there was no rule of law and where the people never knew when they might be attacked by an outside enemy and their lives might be destroyed in an instant. You may ask yourselves today why people so willingly submitted to the Catholic church, to the feudal system, to the kings of the Middle Ages.
You can barely understand (in the modern, western world) that these people had for a long time lived in societies where the ordinary person had very little protection against either bands of robbers or even bigger invasions from various forces. They gave up their freedom in order to be protected and have the kind of stability that they, after all, did have in many periods. There were, of course, also periods where neither the church nor the feudal lords could guarantee people’s safety. But people still thought that the safety was so important that they saw no other option than submitting themselves to the elite.
This is something we have transcended with democracy, but there have been different stages in the evolution of society. You can go back to a point where the main issue was physical protection, physical survival. Then, beginning with the industrial revolution and forward, it was not so much physical survival or physical protection; it was more having the material needs fulfilled (those who are beyond the need for protection and survival). Now, many of the more affluent, many of the older, democracies have reached a new stage, but they have not become aware that they have reached that new stage, and that is why the democratic governments are not living up to their responsibility towards their citizens.
If you employ the pyramid of needs defined by Maslow, you can see that the highest of all needs is the need for self-actualization. We could also say in a more universal way that there are many people in democratic nations who are not quite ready for self-actualization, but they are ready to step up to a level that is beyond this quest for material affluence and security.
Democracies must fulfill people’s higher needs
Many of you can look back to your parents’ or grandparents’ generation who lived in the difficult years during the 1930’s or during the Second World War. For them, poverty was such an issue that the main vision and dream they had in life was to have enough food, have a place to live, and even have money left over to do something more enjoyable. This need, in many nations, gradually became fulfilled during the 50’s and 60’s. Then, people went into desiring not only the necessities of life fulfilled, but having more affluence so they could also have a certain luxury of material goods. Again, this can be seen as a natural stage.
Now, in many of the older democracies, people have had such affluence for so long that they begin to take it for granted. When the people begin to take something for granted, it is no longer promoting growth in awareness, it is no longer helping them raise the collective consciousness. On the contrary, it can actually cause a lowering of the collective consciousness in the sense that when people take something for granted, they go into a blind alley in their growth and they are no longer appreciating what they have. If you do not appreciate what you have, you cannot actually multiply it. That is one of the reasons why, in some of these nations, you have seen the economy starting to contract. It is again because people are simply not appreciating it and they are not willing to step up to the next level so there cannot be an acceleration.
When you have the knowledge that you are not going to be killed by some war or an invasion by barbarian tribes, when you have your material needs fulfilled or even when you have enough money to buy various kinds of luxuries, what is the next step up? Well, ultimately it is self-actualization but many people have to go through a phase before that because they are not quite ready and consciously engaging in a path of systematically and consciously raising their consciousness. The intermediate stage that, in universal terms, people are ready to lock in to is that the next natural step is that people come to feel good about themselves, not about their outer situation or their society but about themselves as an individual, as a conscious being. This is something that many, many people are ready to see. It is very simply that we have now been focused on material welfare for decades and the next natural step in the evolution of democracy is that we focus on psychological welfare.
Psychological welfare as the next step
What will it take to promote psychological, mental welfare among the people in a free democratic nation who have more material affluence than they actually know what to do with? It will take that we begin a discussion of what kind of beings we actually are. More than that, it will actually take that people begin to question the approach that we have had so far to understanding reality, understanding the universe, understanding ourselves.
Most people are not familiar with philosophy so here is a very quick crash course in western philosophy. About twenty-five hundred years ago there were some philosophers in Greece, in Athens, such as Socrates and Plato and Aristotle. The two main philosophers of the Greek era, Plato and Aristotle, actually represent two different approaches. The approach and the main philosophy of Plato was that beyond the material universe is a realm where there exists ideal forms. These ideal forms are what have manifested all of the physical forms we see at this level. Plato was open to the existence of a realm beyond, and his main approach to philosophy was that if we wanted to understand the physical world, we had to understand the realm of ideal forms and how they had manifested the forms we see in the physical.
His own student, Aristotle, took philosophy in a different direction by focusing on the material world and actually saying that it should be possible to explain and understand everything in the material world by only looking at the material world. It was not necessary to look beyond to some realm that we could not directly perceive with our senses. Aristotle thought that we can understand the world through what we can see or perceive through the senses. Plato said that the soul comes into embodiment with certain knowledge and ideas into it. Aristotle said that the soul is a blank slate, and as the child grows and receives sensory impressions, then the soul starts gaining content.
For many, many years, even centuries, the Greek philosophers had relatively little influence on the rest of the world. There was even a time where they were forcefully suppressed by the Catholic church because it was seen as incompatible with Christianity. Then, there came a point where a philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, started to study Aristotle and created a new philosophical system where he sought to unify Aristotle and Catholic Christianity. This brought the awareness of Aristotle to the western world, and when scientists began to have conflict with religion, then the people who took over science and set the stage for scientific philosophy, they built on Aristotle and the idea that you can understand the material world by looking only at the material world.
The very foundation for science since then has been precisely this: To study only the material world and to actually believe that it is possible to come up with what they call a “theory of everything” where you find some material condition that can explain everything that is happening in the universe. This is a philosophical and scientific blind alley, and there are many, many people in embodiment who are ready to see this—to awaken from this illusion. Just like you see in the fairy tale where they all believe the emperor was wearing these fanciful clothes until the little boy cried out: “But the emperor has nothing on.”
The emperors of scientific materialism truly have nothing on. This becomes clear when you realize a very simple fact. The focus on material welfare has not automatically brought psychological welfare. No matter how much material affluence people have, it does not automatically make them feel good about themselves. It does not automatically make them happy.
Helping people feel good about themselves
If we are a truly responsible, democratic society, if we want to do what is best for our own citizens, we need to step up to where we can focus on psychological welfare and helping all people feel good about themselves. This is not some far-flung spiritual goal about reaching higher states of consciousness. It is quite universal for people to realize that why shouldn’t people feel good about themselves?
In most of the affluent democracies, there has been an increase in the frequency of mental illness. Many people are unhappy, many people are dissatisfied. In fact, it seems like the more affluent people get, the more dissatisfied they become. You can start simply asking why this is so. Therefore, you can recognize a very simple fact: that people are not material beings. If they were, then once they had the affluent material conditions, they should automatically be happy and feel good about themselves. The very fact that the affluence materially does not lead to them feeling good, shows that people have needs that are not material. This then, leads to the recognition that human beings are conscious beings and that how you feel about yourself, whether you are happy or not, is determined by consciousness.
There has been a rise in mental illness, depression or unhappiness. Pharmaceutical companies have been frantically trying to create this wonder drug where you just take a pill and then you are happy. They have not been able to come up with one, and more and more healthcare professionals are beginning to realize that we cannot use drugs to overcome mental illness and the rise in mental illness. This shows you that there is no material mechanism in the physical body that guarantees that you feel good about yourself. Feeling good about yourself is a condition that exists in consciousness and therefore must be brought about at the level of your consciousness—not at the level of your physical body.
This can lead on to a critical examination of another principle brought out by Aristotle and adopted by materialistic science. It is simply this: every thing in the world can be broken down into smaller, more basic components. If we understand the basic components out of which a thing is made, then we can understand the thing. In other words, for every whole, this whole is made up of smaller components. If we understand those components and how they work, then we can understand the whole.
The whole is not a physical thing
This is why scientists have been studying the physical brain in order to find out how the human psyche works. They think that consciousness is produced by the brain. The brain has smaller components. If we find out how those components work, then we must understand how consciousness works and what makes people happy and what does not. It is not a big leap to take this experience and realize that the very fact that people are not happy proves that you cannot understand a human being by looking at the material components in the brain. You can expand this to recognize that you actually can never understand a whole by looking only at the individual, smaller components. You cannot understand the entire universe by looking at atoms and sub-atomic particles. There is no smallest possible particle that you can find that will allow you to understand the totality of the universe—because the universe is a whole.
Where does a “whole” exist? It exists only in consciousness. You can look at all of the cells, all of the neurons, all of the connections in the physical brain of a human being but they will not in themselves make up the totality – the whole – of a person. You can look at all of the components of the universe and they do not make up the totality of the universe. Therefore, it is very, very realistic, and it is a very small switch for people, to actually realize that our attempt to understand the whole by looking only at the components is flawed from the beginning. It will never take us to an understanding of the whole. We need to step up and look at the whole and we can do this because we are conscious beings.
We have the capacity of consciousness to understand the whole but we cannot do this through the current scientific methods. We cannot do this through the analytical, intellectual mind, which is designed to look at the details, and categorize the details, and organize the details. In the process of doing so, the analytical mind loses the whole. We can only look at the whole through what is popularly called intuition, but which is actually a much more multi-faceted ability. It is ultimately the Conscious You’s ability to step outside of the four lower bodies and look at the world from a different perspective. The essence of the Conscious You is its ability to look at a whole, its ability to put two things together and see a whole.
Here is a very simple analogy. If you take an old-fashioned newspaper photograph, you can take a magnifying glass and you can see that these are individual black dots that make up the photograph. If you imagine being very close to the photograph, all you see are the black dots. When you step back far enough, then you see that the individual black dots form a picture. If you take a picture of a rose, and if scientists go in and look at the black dots, and analyze each and every black dot, could they see the whole picture, could they by looking at the individual black dots ever construe that they make up the image of a rose? You cannot, by looking at the components, see the totality, see the whole.
From physical to psychological needs
This is the approach that democratic nations have so far had to serving their citizens: You are trying to look at the individual components of a human being, the material, physical components. You can do this very well for material needs. You can look at the body and what it needs in terms of nutrition and exercise and this and that, and you can come up with a whole list of this. When it comes to psychological welfare, you cannot promote psychological welfare without looking at the whole, without understanding the whole of what is a human being and how does it function.
Society needs to wake up and realize that the next step for democracy is to make people feel good about themselves. We can only do this when we adopt what we might call a more holistic approach and look at human beings as more than the components of their physical brains. Truly, if this shift can happen, or rather when it will happen, then it opens up so many perspectives for how society can begin to redefine what is truly the goal of a democratic society.
For example, we have a right to be free of exploitation. This very tendency to look at the details and to ignore the whole is actually something that is put upon people and put upon societies by a small elite. They may not necessarily be malicious when you look at the people, but they have a very, very limited vision. At the same time, they also have a very, very big pride and sense that they know better because they are the intellectual elite who are able to decide that God does not exist. Therefore, society should move away from any form of religion and spirituality, and society should be entirely materialistic because that is just the way the world is.
They feel they are capable of deciding on behalf of society and so you need to look at the fact here that there has formed this intellectual power elite. Although there are other power elites who have more clandestine intentions, this power elite – on the surface – they have benign intentions. The fact of the matter is that they are not so benign because they are willing to ignore the well-being of all people in society in order to promote their materialistic ideology. They do not care about the fact that people are dissatisfied, that people are becoming depressed, that there are more and more psychological problems, or that people are not feeling good about themselves. They are so fanatically promoting their materialistic idea that they do not care about human beings because the idea has become more important than the individual. This is a very insidious form of exploitation.