Our true nature and power
We are enabled to apprehend at all what is sublime and noble only by the perpetual instilling and drenching of the reality that surrounds us.
Henry David Thoreau
For those of us who have grown up in
the Industrial Growth Society,
the view of reality that breaks upon us now is breathtakingly new.
It comes from contemporary science and finds support in ancient spiritual traditions. It helps us understand our relationship to the world and awaken to powers within us for its healing. Liberating us from constricted notions of who we are and what we need, it brings us home to our true nature—in league with the stars and trees of our thrumming universe. It is basic to the Great Turning and fundamental to the work this course presents.
We people of "Western Civilization" have struggled to master the natural world around us. We have studied the Earth and the cosmos, attempting to discover the essential building blocks of life that we might manipulate them into more efficient mechanisms to provide for our wants and needs. We have acted as if we could know and control the world from the outside, as if we were separate from it. We came to think of ourselves as made of better stuff than the animals and plants and rocks and water around us. And our technologies of the last centuries amplified disastrously the ecological effects of that assumption.
Perhaps we made our biggest error in thinking of the world as made of "stuff" to begin with. Fortunately—and paradoxically—our very search for mastery and knowledge through science has itself brought us to the dawning realization that the world, indeed the universe, seems not to be composed of "stuff" at all. Each time we have grasped what appeared to be a "basic building block," it has dissolved into a dance of energy and relationship, with no real substance at all! And so we awaken today to a new kind of knowledge, a developing comprehension of our radical interrelatedness to everything in the universe.