One of the great joys of my life is when my life experiences or my personal studies allow me to become aware of some connection that I didn’t know about previously. The pleasure I derive from such connections is so great that I suspect it will always drive me to be a lifelong learner.
That moment when one can say “a-ha!” – in that instant there is both a logical understanding and a visceral awareness of the oneness of life. I know and teach that all of life is interconnected, yet the insightful experiences of seeing new connections seems to take that awareness to even deeper levels.
For the past few years, I’ve been enjoying a number of the recorded college classes offered by the company called “The Great Courses”. I’ve written a number of times about one of my favorites – “Big History” – and devote a whole chapter to that topic in my upcoming new book mentioned below.
I just recently finished a course entitled “Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations” which gave an overview of humanity’s early societies in the Middle East. It started with earliest civilizations in the river valleys of the Tigris, Euphrates, Nile and Indus around 3500 BC and ended about 480 BC with the fall of the Persian Empire.
As a student and teacher of Spiral Dynamics, I love considering the worldviews which must’ve been in play during the time of these cultures. I surmised that the rise of the first civilizations came after early humanity had moved out of both our beige instinctive meme and our purple clannish meme in into the red “power gods” egocentric meme. People began to band together in larger city states, but generally they were under the rule of some powerful leader. Society was unequal and groups who were conquered frequently had their possessions and lives taken from them. An individual life was not worth very much and it was very much a world of the haves and have-nots. This may not sound great from our 21st century perspective, but this stage of our development was necessary in order for our later growth to occur.
Yet in spite of its inequities there was positive growth during this time. Periods of war and conquering were frequently followed by periods of administration and laws and commerce. The brutal manner in which the Assyrian leaders created their Empire gave way to a more humane way of treatment when the Persian Empire arose. With the ending of the Persian Empire, the next great civilization to arise was the ancient Greeks and their accomplishments built upon the developments of these more ancient societies.
In hinting at what new things were on the horizon coming out of the early Greeks, during the final lesson from the course, the professor shared the following quote from the Greek philosopher Demosthenes:
“The whole life of men, Athenians, whether they dwell in a large state or a small one, is governed by nature and by the laws. Of these, nature is something irregular and incalculable, and peculiar to each individual; but the laws are something universal, definite, and the same for all. Now nature, if it be evil, often chooses wrong, and that is why you will find men of an evil nature committing errors. But the laws desire what is just and honorable and salutary. They seek for it and when they find it, they set it forth as a general commandment, equal and identical for all. The law is that which all men ought to obey for many reasons, but above all, because every law is the invention and a gift of the gods.”
I like this quote because it points out several pertinent things. One, it acknowledged that the Greeks would move humanity more deeply into the “rule of law” where agreed upon standards of action and consequences replaced the arbitrary treatment that came during earlier governments controlled by powerful rulers. Secondly, Demosthenes points humanity towards a higher path where we see there is equal treatment for all people and that our obeying the laws provide a moral benefit. In Spiral Dynamics terms, we were moving into the blue purposeful meme of “truth force” where laws enforced principles of righteous living. This was the next important step in our evolutionary development.
Finally, I see in this quote from Demosthenes an acknowledgment of the long-standing internal dilemma that humanity has faced – being controlled by our animalistic past while also being called to our spiritual future. According to Demosthenes all of us are governed by nature and by the laws. Our nature comes from our physical characteristics – our DNA, brains, hormones and so on – as well as our learned tendencies – those things we’ve picked up from our human society that allow us to interact with it effectively. There is no doubt that each and every one of us is controlled each day by this nature – and as Demosthenes says our nature can cause us to make wrong choices.
Yet we are more than our nature, we are also what I am calling here spiritual beings or as Demosthenes said, we are governed by laws which are “the invention and a gift of the gods.” Now I know when he says “laws”, he was probably talking about our legal system of written rules. But he indicates that the creation of these rules came from somewhere beyond humanity. Yes, humans thought up the laws and wrote them down and implemented them. But there was something beyond us pushing us to higher levels of development, to higher levels of equitable treatment for all people. Where did that impetus come from? Where does our desire for fairness and equity originate? A gift of the gods, perhaps? From our higher, spiritual self?
The connection that came for me from this course and especially this quote from Demosthenes relates to the fact that humanity has long been on this evolutionary path moving through eons of time controlled by our physical nature, our actions dictated by our animalistic side – but that our growth is marked by a realization that something is springing forth from within us calling us to a higher expression. This force appears to be externally pulling on us at times and internally pushing us from within at other times. But there is no doubt we are being “forced to grow”.
This past week I sent off to my editor my upcoming new book entitled Our Spiritual Evolution – Transcending the Third Dimension. The key message of this book is our movement along this evolutionary path – navigating the dynamic tension between our animalistic past and our spiritual future. More on that book in the near future!
Yet everywhere I look are these connections – such as this course and this quote – serving as reminders to me of our oneness. We are all being forced to grow. We are all being asked to relinquish being controlled by our “nature” and to turn towards what we know are the higher possibilities for all of humanity and our planet. We are all being called to become aware of the fact that we are spiritual beings all connected. With that awareness comes a desire to create a world of equity and fairness, where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. The creation of that world is the next great gift of the gods.
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!