The Dharma Dynamics Online Programme
Inspired by the Unity Conference, London
I had the pleasure of attending the Unity Conference at the Hoare Memorial Hall, Church House, Westminster on Tuesday this week. The historic hall hosted both houses of Parliament during WWII, as well as the first meetings of the United Nations Preparatory Commission and Security Council. The hall seemed an appropriate place for the over 250 delegates to meet and discuss the current and future challenges facing the world and how we “can work together towards a more flourishing future for all on our planet”. The delegates, who were organisational and business leaders, inter-faith heads, politicians, artists, scientists, technologists, and social activists, were hosted by Dr Jude Currivan, Dr Alan Watkins and Lord Stone of Blackheath.
We had the pleasure of hearing a variety of speakers talk about human potential and the need for a step-change evolution in human consciousness in order to successfully respond the environmental, social and economic challenges ahead. A big theme in the day was “from emergency to emergence” and moving from crisis to the creation of new solutions inspired by old and new forms of wisdom. Dr Watkins’ call for “making wisdom the organising principle” of new systems caught my attention, in part for its correlation to the goal of our own wisdom research at Cranmore Foundation.
Both ancient and modern wisdom traditions teach us to cultivate an awareness of the underlying unity of all existence. Whether it’s the gnostic tradition, Vedanta or quantum physics, all traditions call us to an awakening of our common spirit and universal connection. The conference theme of Unity was also a call to recognise our common needs and our interdependence on each other, on nature and on spirit. As a cosmologist and ‘planetary healer futurist’, Dr Currivan’s presentation inspired the audience to consider the energetic possibilities of this cosmic unity and how it is the foundation for the necessary and destined evolution of human consciousness.
Another theme at the Unity conference, was the recognition that unity does not negate diversity but rather underpins it and gives it a platform for an infinite variety of creative expression — what you might call the beautiful dance of life. As I listened to the delegate presentations, I was reminded of Lord Chaitanya, the renaissance-era Bengali saint, reformer and avatar (1486-1534 CE) who taught the tenets of spiritual “oneness and difference”, or simultaneous unity in diversity. Some scholars say that Chaitanya’s teaching is the fullest evolvement of Vedanta philosophy. I pondered the apparent similarities between Chaitanya’s teaching and Dr Currivan’s idea that human consciousness must evolve to embrace unity-in-diversity. One has to be careful not to draw correlations where there are none, but I couldn’t ignore the parallel. Luckily, I found Dr Currivan’s new book “The Cosmic Hologram” in my conference goodie-bag at the end of the day. I look forward to reading it to see just how similar or dissimilar the two ideas might be. I am also interested to read about her thesis of the ‘in-formational’ structure of the universe being based in consciousness or super-consciousness. I’ll report back once I’ve read it.
The importance of cultivating our own individual consciousness to higher levels, in order to be effective change-agents, was explicit in much of the day’s dialogue. There was broad agreement that we have a responsibility to hone the quality of our consciousness, through our respective personal practices, if we hope to be effective in finding solutions. I found this quite refreshing. Rather than talking about the world’s problems and how we are going to fix things, using the ‘same quality of mind that created the problems’ (to paraphrase Einstein), there was a sober acknowledgement that the real work begins by first tilling our own inner garden.
We spent the afternoon in break-out groups discussing the challenges and envisioning what possible solutions might look like. We also asked how we might individually and collectively scale up and speed up a unified approach within, across and beyond our individual areas of expertise. The outcomes were synthesised by group leaders and shared with all the delegates at the end of the day. It was interesting to note the commonality of thinking between the groups which suggested, if you will, a kind of collective intelligence, an idea explored for its potential in Dr Watkins’ new book “Crowdocracy” (…also in the goodie bag!)
All in all, the day was illuminating, uplifting and sobering in equal measure. I left feeling inspired that a group like this is forming and hopeful that such collaborations will result in a new quality of unity-based solutions. In stepping out into a typically rainy London evening, I had a sense that efforts like the Unity conference might be part of the emergence of a new way of thinking for this and future generations. Could such thinking, based on wisdom ideas of our common unity, result in a Moon-shot-like project or Marshal Plan to save our only planet?
The Unity Conference was rich in content, ideas, inspiration and collaboration. It’s not possible to mention all of it in a short blog post, but on reflection a few highlights stand out. The oration of Rev Peter Owen-Jones was a heartfelt and moving call to “join the circle of life” and our place in nature. Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, offered a graphic depiction of our annual consumption and disposal of plastic bottles – “enough to extend half-way to the Sun!” Dr Tia Kansara called us to transcend our tendency to rank each other by origin and background, to stop ‘othering’ each other, and to connect deeply in a spirit of unity. The young Costas Georgiades is working on Lesbos to unify refugees in “trust and common cause”, raising their spirits by helping them build a sense of connection and belonging. Prof Elisabeth Sahtouris raised a voice for gender cooperation and Dr Jean Houston advocated for a natural harmony of science and spirituality. The Transition Choir of London performed a few times, singing the heartful uplifting songs of hope and comfort that they sing to those in hospices who are transitioning to the next life. I could not help but feel that Dr Currivan’s closing statement was angelically inspired. It was a heartfelt, persuasive call for a unity of spirit and thinking, a call to envision and work for a world where we all flourish in harmony with nature and each other.
Serendipity reconnected me with old friends Tim Westwell and Sebastian Pole of Pukka Herbs, giving us the chance to catch up, have lunch and share ideas in breakout sessions (see selfies). I think we need more conferences like the Unity Conference and more of the quality collaboration they can bring. A big thank you to Phillip Jones of Insight Media who connected me with Kit Thomas, wisdom filmmaker and director of The Circle of Wisdom, who arranged my invitation with the gracious Dr Currivan.
“Being well. Doing well.”
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