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Alchemic Times – seeing beyond the illusion of separation

July 4, 2017


There’s an old saying ‘may you live in interesting times’. When someone said that to you it was seen as both a blessing and curse, because to live in interesting times means to deal with danger and opportunity, to embrace simultaneous breakdown and breakthrough.  Which is exactly what this trilemma of social, economic and environmental crises is asking, is demanding, of us.

Our tried-and-tested modes and methods, our constructs and constrictions, the very habituations and acculturations we have become so inured in, are melting amid the alchemic heat of the moment.  This metamorphic moment is now. This is humanity’s hour of reckoning.  Each of us is being called to act as conscious conspirators, catalysts in this chemistry.

The ancient Greeks referred to such a time as Kairos, a supreme moment which is not adequately acted upon may pass us by.

The good news is, myriad disciplines at the forefront of Western science – such as quantum physics, facilitation ecology, depth psychology and neurobiology – are discovering with increasingly sensitive instruments and sophisticated experiments the innate inter-relationality of life, the weave-and-weft of the world, the intricate sacredness of nature. The hand of science is reaching out to shake the hand of spirituality once again.

This of course is not new. This discovery of inter-relationality is as fresh as it is ancient. The timeless prophets, philosophers, poets, seers and shaman throughout the ages have long understood this innate interconnectedness of life.

Let’s take Pythagoras, a wise old man who stood at the fountain-head of Western philosophy, at the threshold of myth and history, over 500 years before the birth of Christ. Known as the long-haired Samian, with his long white beard and long grey hair, he spent many years with the Magi of Babylonia and the priests and priestesses of Egypt before founding his community of Pythagoreans in the East Aegean sea. The sole purpose of this community, and the essence of his rich and deep philosophy, was to learn to become in harmony with life, to attune ourselves with the wisdom innate within Nature, to immerse ourselves in and become vessels for the sacredness pervading this universe.

The Music of the Spheres; as above so below: From the rhythms of the planets in our solar system to the proportions within our own human bodies; from the rhythms of our musical scales to the resonances within our own cells: the systemic sacredness of life.  To open ourselves up to this Music and to learn to attune within this Dance of Life was the ultimate goal of philosophy for Pythagoras, whose work went on to inspire many great philosophers after him such as Parmenides of Elea and Plato of Athens, the founding fathers of our Western philosophy, science and civilisation.

Pythagoras is thought to have been the first person to have called himself a philosopher, originating the word from the marriage of two Greek words ‘philia’ and ‘Sophia’. In ancient Greek, the word ‘philia’ meant to love, embody, embrace, to have a reciprocating friendship with, and yet it was more than that, it was a cosmic law of love, of ‘Harmonia’, that word meaning more to the ancient Greeks than the word ‘harmony’ does justice to today. To deeply attune with, open up to, and embody this Sophia, this Goddess of Wisdom pervading our reality, as deep as She is wide. To allow ourselves to become ever more transparent to the transcendent, ever more intimate with the immanent nature of Sophia was the ultimate goal of philosophy for these great minds at the foundations of Western philosophy, science and civilisation.

And yet, over time in the West, we have tended towards a philosophy of rationalism and a science of materialism, increasingly characterised by an overly dominant left-brained way of attending that grasps at things, defines, objectifies and compartmentalises things. It takes things out of their lived-in fluid connective context and draws hard-line definitive boundaries around them so that we can make sense of this interconnectedness. This way of attending goes hand-in-hand with a heightened, accentuated ego-awareness that seeks separation and polarisation. This ability to separate and objectify the world is an important part of what makes us human, its enabled us to develop this techno-sphere in our midst with all the advances in modern medicine, transportation and technology that we all enjoy. This way of attending only becomes a problem for us when it seeks to dominate to such an extent that it crowds out our other natural ways of knowing and so undermines our humanity, corrupting our worldview with definitions and abstractions that then tyrannise over us.

It would seem from the findings of world-leading neuroscientists, that this is exactly what is increasingly unfolding in our modern mentality. It leads to what Albert Einstein insightfully calls an optical delusion of consciousness, whereupon we get caught up in an illusory hall-of-mirrors of our own making, creating a sense of separation from nature, which leads to deep psychic atrophy within us.

It is this out-of-kilter way of attending that is at the heart of our challenges today. This sense of separateness is corrupting our worldview and undermining our sense of place and purpose within this world. It leads to increasing fear, anxiety, egotism, individualism. It’s this that lies at the root of our crises.

We still serve up to our children in our schools today a recipe of Neo-Darwinism, where we view life as steeped in dog-eat-dog competition, a war of each against all, where the whole process of evolution is seen through the lens of selfish ascendency, and the unit of evolution is perceived as the ‘selfish gene’.  This is a deeply divisive logic and woefully inadequate, yet it underpins much of our socio-economic, political, educational and organisational logic today.

So often we unwittingly apply the same logic that created our problems in the first place to our well-intended solutions. We simply do not have time for this any longer. It’s time to get radical, to deal with the root cause as well as the carcinogenic effects of this flawed worldview.

Our embodied engagement with life, our sense of the innate sacredness, the interconnectedness, the weave and weft of this world, informs our way of being-and-doing. From a more eco-logical or eco-poetic being-in-this-world, that harmonises our natural ways of knowing (the intuitive, the rational, the emotional, and the sensorial) we permit a wiser logic to be applied to our solutions beyond the level of consciousness that created the problems in the first place.

Separateness to Interconnectedness

As I mentioned, the good news is there are myriad disciplines at the vanguard of Western science re-discovering this worldview of interconnectedness, proving through reductive repeatable experiments what we have intuited for millennia. Let’s explore some examples to bring this alive:

Let’s take a tree, say an English oak tree in an English woodland. Using our old Neo-Darwinian logic this tree would at best only be interested in its genetic off-spring, the acorn.  We now know through experiments that use radioactive tracing throughout the forest floor, that this oak tree is actually sharing nutrients with a holly sapling in a different part of the forest, that areas rich in minerals are exchanging with areas poor in minerals. We really struggle to understand what’s going on here using our old logic.

Let’s take our human bodies. You and me, sitting here reading this. We now know that at least 90% of the cells in our bodies aren’t even human. Without the help of these non-human cells we would utterly fail at life!

Now let’s drill down and examine these cells. We find that each cell is surrounded by a semi-permeable membrane, an intelligent interface that is continuously participating with its environment. This energetic exchange is a hallmark of life. In fact, the closer we look, we begin to realise that hard-line definitive boundaries that we create in our minds to make sense of the world, are assumptions of convenience. In reality, such hard-line boundaries don’t exist anywhere except in our minds. Everything has varying degrees of semi-permeability, varying levels of inter-relationality. It is what the naturalist poet Wordsworth points to when he said, ‘In Nature everything is distinct, yet nothing defined in absolute singleness.’

Let’s drill down even further to the genes within the cell. What we now find is not the ‘unit of selfish ascendency’ that Neo-Darwinism would have us believe. No, we find dynamic localities continuously participating, learning, engaging with their environment. What we assumed was 97% ‘junk DNA’ we now realise is engaging with a non-local quantum field. At this essential level within us, we sense a non-local ‘spiritual’ participation taking place.  These findings at the fore-front of meta-genetics are transforming our worldview.

Now, let’s drill down even further to the atoms and sub-atomic particles within the cells. What we find are not the ‘hard massy impenetrable objects’ of Newtonian physics. No, we find quark strings, vibrations of light each humming away to their own unique tune. At the most fundamental level we find this Music of the Sphere, this Dance of Life. And for many of the scientists who find this, they have mystical experiences that change their worldview for ever.  David Bohm for instance, a brilliant 20th century scientist, sensed the ‘ground-of-all-being’ where all form is informed by the formlessness pervading our entire universe.  Every atom within every cell within every body is dancing within an all-pervasive quantum vacuum or zero-point energy field.  This ‘dark energy’ that pervades this very room, that pervades all of life, is what the mystics seers and philosophers have long understood as the Akasha, Divine Ground, Motherly Space, Tao, Shekinah, Sacred Feminine, Sophia, it’s all the same thing. Science is shaking hands with spirituality; with it our worldview transforms.

Let’s take a moment to pause and breathe into what we are uncovering here.

At the most fundamental level, energetic vibrations that make up the appearance of matter to our senses all originate from, and are informed by, an all-pervasive presence: space.

The binary separation we make in rationalistic science that space is nothing and energy is something is once again an assumption of convenience that in reality does not actually exist.  The perplexing paradox so often stated in physics papers of seemingly more and more space and less and less energy – for instance, 99.99% space and a bit of energy – is transcended as soon as we realise that in actual reality space and energy are not separate at all. The separation we create in our own minds in order to enable our mathematical propositions to work is an assumption, a useful assumption, unless we allow it to tyrannise over us. It would seem that actually the energetic vibration humming away with its own unique tune is actually 100% space plus energy, never separate from this all-pervasive spaciousness in our midst. (For more on this scientific understanding of space as inclusive of all form, see Dr Alan Rayner’s work on Natural Inclusion.)

A metaphor might be helpful here. Take the wave on the ocean.  Each wave has its own unique tune, its own form. No two waves are the same. And yet the wave is never separate from the ocean.  This is the same for the energetic vibrations within our cells. Everything is immersed within this ocean of inter-being, never separate from it. It is only our self-reflexive objectifying minds that create this sense of separation.

We now know that through time-honoured bodywork exercises and contemplative practices – such as meditation, prayer, chanting, T’ai chi, Chi Gung, yoga, dancing, singing, making love, etc. – we can allow our ‘bodyminds’ to cohere within themselves, so that our left and right brain hemispheres cohere and our head, heart and gut neural networks entrain. With this, we can now scientifically prove that our physiology and psychology transforms, we shift from a state of incoherent dis-ease into a state of wellbeing, which allows us to attend to the world in ways that are proven to be more compassionate and wise. As we attune ourselves, we attune more deeply with this all-pervasive presence, this Sophia is our midst. With this consciousness, our methods of leading, operating and organising tend towards harmony with Nature.

And so the rather good news, in these times of tumultuous breakdown/breakthrough, is that we need do nothing more nor nothing less than to open up to more of our innate humanity, so that we can begin to live up to our names as Homo Sapiens ‘wise beings’, in-so-doing increasing our wellbeing and our capacity to love ourselves, each other and the world all around and within us.

In the profound yet simple words of Mother Teresa, ‘we cannot do great things, only small things with great love’.

Hear and your soul shall sing, says the Book of Isaiah.

Learn how to see, and realise everything connects with everything else, says the great Renaissance man Da Vinci.

Look deep, deep, deep into nature and you will understand everything better, says the brilliant scientist Einstein.  He also notes that,

‘the intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind its faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.’

Sometimes we need a genius to point out what is before our very eyes.  We have created ways of operating and organising that honour the servant to such an extent – the rational mind with its to-do lists, project management focus engineering solutions – that we have starved ourselves at source, forgetting our sacred gift as we suffocate our souls.  This is what needs to be addressed in these pivotal times for humanity.

My work is mainly in business. In the corridors of power, corporate boardrooms and conference halls that I speak and advise at, I sense winds of change. It’s not just the superficial tip of the iceberg that is transforming, in terms of our structures and strictures, but also deep shifts within us at partly unconscious levels, challenging our sense of place and purpose within this interconnected and deeply sacred world.

As the well-respect business futurist John Naisbitt notes, ‘the most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology, they will occur because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.’

And so I would like to share a short vignette about the caterpillar’s metamorphosis to the butterfly because I believe it speaks on many levels of what we are experiencing today.

In the early stages of the caterpillar’s metamorphosis, it undergoes a breakdown stage, where upon the structures of old begin to dissolve. It is amid this breakdown that ‘imaginal cells’ – which are always present within the caterpillar, always present within our human systems – begin to form imaginal grouping. Yet, the caterpillar still inured in the logic of yesterday, sees these groupings as a threat to the status quo and so fights them with vital energies, antibodies and such like. But these imaginal cells persist in their deep knowing and courageous leadership in calling forth the emergent future.  Soon a tipping point begins to be reached; a threshold begins to be crossed, within the consciousness of the caterpillar, within the consciousness of our own human systems, we begin to see these groupings for what they really are: prototyping the future. And with that, vital energy is no longer used to undermine these groupings but to help them and quite quickly the metamorphic process unfolds.

To summarise, we are in the midst of a metamorphosis. Profound shifts are affecting us at deep and partly unconscious levels calling in to question the ways in which we create and deliver value, and our sense of place and purpose in this world. The more conscious we can be of these deep shifts in our worldview from separateness to connectedness, and our sense of place and purpose within this sentient and wise world, the more able we will be to transform ourselves, our systems and our civilisation.

As the French philosopher Marcel Proust said:

‘The greatest voyage of our life-times is not in the seeking of new landscapes, but in the seeing with new eyes.’

To explore ‘the new paradigm’ further, join the Face Book community here

Giles Hutchins is author of The Illusion of Separation (Floris Books), and is also a speaker and adviser on the future of business, a future inspired by and in harmony with Nature. He blogs at and is Chairman of The Future Fit Leadership Academy


One Comment leave one →
  1. July 5, 2017 2:48 am

    Beautiful and evocative Giles. Thanks for being one of the imaginal cells in our culture, and for doing this through the weaving of science and spirituality to demonstrate clearly how this new story of inter-being is coming in to being.

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