Group Consciousness

The whole tide of energy that is driving the universe, certainly our solar system, is that of an age in which group consciousness is going to become more and more an undeniable fact.

Robert: Hello and welcome to Inner Sight. Today’s topic is the group. What we’re going to speak about is how the group relates to the self. It’s just amazing how modern-day science, physics in particular, is coming to a conclusion that we’re all related, that we’re all one. That’s kind of a startling discovery because it confirms something that the ancients said years ago, and many of our greatest spiritual leaders were of the opinion that we are all united; all one. By their comments, we know that they thought that was an important concept. I like this comment from the writings of Alice Bailey, found in the book Education in the New Age: “Through education, self-consciousness must be unfolded until one recognizes that one is a part of a greater whole. He blends then with the group interests, activities, and objectives, and he eventually becomes group conscious. This is love. Self-interest becomes group interest. Such should be the major objective of true education.” She wrote that at a time well before quantum physics came out with the discovery that humanity is all one and that we’re all connected. How is group consciousness different from individual consciousness? 

Sarah: Both are needed, I would say. Both are appropriate at different stages of one’s development. The little child becomes conscious that he or she is a an independent being and becomes aware that he is a self, a personality, and that’s a necessary stage. It leads to what they call the “terrible twos” when the child says, “I want, I want, I will,” and it’s very difficult to get them to see beyond the needs and demands of their little being. It’s what distinguishes the human being from a herd of sheep: that we are conscious of ourselves as a unique being. But beyond that there’s the stage, as you said, the realization that we all are part of something much greater, that “we’re all interconnected,” as you put it. As Alice Bailey said, the real goal of education is to help the human being to become aware of this, to develop this sense of group consciousness. It’s the real thrust of what should be motivating the educational system and all teachers. 

Dale: Yes, we’re moving very gradually and at a slow pace, from essentially a self-centeredness to a group-centered orientation. I think we sort of take it for granted that this is happening in the world, but it’s really designed this way; that human consciousness is evolving and what we’re aiming for is this sense of the group. The group is so much more prominent in the world today—in other words, group activity and group work. It’s very apparent that that’s the direction we’re moving in. 

Robert: Yes, I see. Sarah, you were mentioning how it’s more or less a step in personal evolution. When one starts out it’s perfectly normal to look upon oneself as being just an entity unto oneself, and it’s all right when we’re young to be egocentric in our love, but there’s something wrong when we reach a stage of maturity and everything is only about what I want. So, we’re looking at this as a step in the evolution of the self. Is there anything in particular that explains the growth of group consciousness happening now? 

Sarah: Well, according to the Ageless Wisdom teachings, we’re moving into a new age, as it’s fondly and sometimes derisively called. The Ageless Wisdom says that we’re transiting into the age of Aquarius, which isn’t as exotic or mysterious as it sounds. What that means to those who have some understanding of the meaning behind that name, is that it’s an age of brotherhood, of group relationships, of a consciousness of belonging to one’s fellow human beings. The whole tide of energy that is driving the universe, certainly our solar system, is that of an age in which group consciousness is going to become more and more an undeniable fact. We’ve come out of an age in which the development of the individual was the major goal and ideal, and that had its very positive aspects. There have been tremendous achievements done on behalf of humanity by great individuals and it’s the glory of the past two thousand years that we can cite these tremendous accomplishments in science and art and so on. Now we’re moving into an age in which group efforts are going to be the goal. 

Dale: Right, and the forerunners of group work were, of course, Christ and Buddha. They both had small groups around them and that’s how they accomplished their work. Christ had a group of disciples and apostles, and the Buddha had a group of arhats. They all worked together. Christ couldn’t have done his work without a group of disciples that would go out into the world and spread the gospel. It was very necessary. He didn’t do it all by himself. Of course, he was the focal point, but it was the combined efforts of all the disciples together that really anchored Christianity in the world. 

Sarah: So, they were sort of a prototype of what’s becoming more and more noticeable now—the group effort on behalf of humanity.  

Robert: What would motivate someone to move from a concept of self, where one is egocentric, to a point where one looks to the group as an extension of the self, where one reaches the point of caring about the group as much as oneself? What would bring someone along that path, to reach that point of evolvement? 

Sarah: It’s the opening of the heart I think, more than anything. You certainly need a mind to function intelligently, as an individual, and as a member of a group, but the opening of the heart is what gives that sense of inclusiveness, of sympathy, of compassion for people, particularly for those who aren’t known personally to oneself. That ability to identify with someone and say, “there but for the grace of God go I,” and to really feel their plight, that’s the effect of the heart. When the heart begins to awaken you develop a sense of being related to and interlinked with others. It may not be in a universal sense; I don’t want to be overly idealistic about this. Certainly, most of us can point to people all around us whom we don’t feel identified with and don’t feel in tune with, and I think that’s normal, but we begin by using our imagination, trying to extend our consciousness to identify with what we think is happening to another person and entering into their woes and their longings. 

Dale: Right, and I think that identification process begins at home in the family. That’s probably the first group that one becomes aware of. You have the parents and the child, or maybe more than one child, and that’s the basic group. The group consciousness develops when the family does things together for the interest of the family as a whole. They’ll come together and do family things, go on outings and on trips together. For example, if a family decides to go to visit the zoo on Saturday, but all of a sudden Dad decides that he’d rather stay home and watch the football game. Well, Dad’s not being very group conscious here, so the mother and the child have to go off by themselves to the zoo, while Dad stays home and watches football. He is expressing more of his own particular interest in himself, and not on the love of the family. I think that the family group is really where the first testing ground comes in, and it’s very important to start right there, and that begins to open the heart, when you do things together as a family. 

Robert: I think one of the concerns of people is that they’re going to give up their own individuality and their self-identity, that it’s going to in some way be surrendered if they look upon the group as being an extension of themselves. Could you comment on that? 

Sarah: Well, it’s a natural fear or anxiety that you would have to suspend your own inner integrity to be a part of a group. But actually, the only really contributing functioning member of a group is one who does have a sense of their own integrity and knows their own thoughts, standards, and point of view. That’s their unique contribution to the group. You can’t just give up your conscience, your sense of right and wrong, and your experience that you’re drawing on, as a member of a group. That’s your contribution to the group! So, you don’t sacrifice your individuality. You can’t if you want to be a fully functioning member of the group. On the other hand, you will find that by incorporating yourself and your energies into the group, that something is drawn out of you that you might not have known was there or been able to summon up as an individual. This is something I think we don’t appreciate enough: what the group—family, workplace, community, or whatever it is—can evoke from the individual is quite powerful. We need each other. 

Dale: Right, and the group becomes much more dynamic because that energy of the individual collectively gives more dynamism to the group work and the group interest. 

Sarah: One example of how this works is when there’s a disaster of some sort. For example, what’s happened in India with the earthquake where people by crisis are drawn into a community spirit and a desire to help each other, which is quite noble and almost miraculous. People who hadn’t known each other will make incredible sacrifices to help. I was reading in the paper about people coming from all over India, which is a huge country, traveling a couple of days on the train on what they call hard seats, the cheaper fares, and bringing whatever they can: food, clothing, money, to the disaster area and helping dig people out. This is something that is an expression of the capacity of the group to evoke the best from within the individual. 

Robert: That’s interesting. Do you have any other practical indications that people are becoming more group conscious, because it brings to mind a number of things for me. I recently saw on the History Channel, how young men during World War II, on D-Day, actually jumped on top of hand grenades, saving the lives of over twenty men in their squad. I suppose that would be a dramatic example of people who, in an instant, extended their concept of self to that of the group, seeing themselves as part of the group, wanting to save it and thus sacrificing their own lives. Of course, then we have the dramatic example of Jesus Christ, where his life was sacrificed for the good of humanity. Do we have any other examples, maybe not so dramatic as the ones I just mentioned? 

Dale: Well, there is a lot of group activity going on in the world today. There are special interest groups and team sports, those things are all indicative of the growth of the group.  

Robert: I think you’re right; that really encourages people to identify with a group and to take the concept of self and bring it into a larger area. Sports are very good in that way, because they encourage group consciousness and feeling another person’s pain, being able to empathize with other people and also being able to celebrate the joy that other people might experience, and their success. What if someone lives alone and works independently? Is he or she part of any group? 

Sarah: Yes, but they may not think of it. They may think of themselves as being independent and rather isolated. But if you bring some creative imagination to it, you can realize that even if you’re self-employed and a single person, you’re a part of a group. If you live, for example, in an apartment building, you have neighbors, you have people who are affected by the way you live your life. Just think of somebody who bangs closet doors at midnight and you’ll become aware that you’re not alone in the world; there are people around you. Yet, amazingly, there are a lot of people that live just that way without a thought in their heads about the fact that there are others who are affected by the way they live their lives. On a more positive note, there are such things as community gardens that are forming in the city, and neighborhood watch programs. Those are things that people can participate in, even if they’re single people and living alone. I think the idea is to learn to think in terms of having a group and expecting to recognize it, and then you will begin to see that you are in fact part of many groups. An example that comes to mind is about a woman who had died, who was written up in the newspapers for her extraordinary effort on behalf of opera lovers. She was a single woman who for years apparently organised the waiting line of people who wanted standing room only tickets for the opera. It was a mess of a line when she first encountered it, and people would not take their turn and they jumped the line and other people were pushed behind. She, with her will, decided that her project in life was to organize this line and for years she had a system that ensured that first come, first served, where everybody got their seats and it was fair and organized. She created a group out of her love for opera. So that’s an example. 

Robert: I guess there’s probably a lot of examples of practical indications that people are becoming more group conscious. It might be worth going into some of those too because I think for some people it’s a new concept. 

Sarah: Yes, well, one of the most familiar is what started in the earlier part of last century—the growth of labour unions. Those were the forming of groups by people who felt they were not getting their rights and their just treatment on the part of their employers. The Cycle of Conferences that the UN has held show groups coming together for the environment, women’s rights, sustainability population growth. Another example is the twelve step programs that have helped people come together as groups to solve their addictions, and so on. Another example is the sister city programs that have formed between two cities very far away from each other. Not too long ago there was an article about a city in Wisconsin that formed a sister city relationship with a city in Russia, and this group of people in both countries collaborated to improve medical care in the Russian city and it was extraordinary what they accomplished with some money, but mostly just a great deal of love, commitment, and sharing of ideas. 

Dale: You can’t do much of anything today without working with a group, at least if you want to get something accomplished. It seems to be that that’s the only way to get tasks done these days.  

Robert: From what I see, it’s a step along the path of spiritual evolution, to advance from being egocentric and only thinking of the physical entity that is you and extending it to a group and feeling a responsibility for that group. Like the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the squads they were with; that showed responsibility for other people and seemed as though they saw the group as an extension of themselves. I see that as a step in spiritual development. Is there any room or need for any kind of authority in a group? 

Sarah: Well, I think the woman that I mentioned who organised the opera ticket line is an example. Somebody has to organize, set standards, and make decisions. That does not mean that there is a place for dictators anymore in group life. But when you don’t have some kind of organization and some kind of decision-making process specified in a group, it can be a little more difficult. Usually then you revert to the majority rules, and sometimes that creates its own kind of tyranny. If the minority is in fact more correct in its position, the majority can become a kind of a tyranny. So yes, my thinking is that you do need a kind of an authority. But it has to be the right kind of authority. The writings of Alice Bailey say the only true authority is the authority of the soul, which is the authority of love. 

Dale: Yes, you need an authority of some kind, but not an authoritarian. We’ve had a lot of that, and experience shows that those groups collapse on themselves once the authority disappears. The group purpose kind of peters out and dissipates. That gets back to the point, too, that if the group has a particular interest that it is trying to carry out, then that interest can be worked out no matter who’s at the centre point. The interest of the group becomes paramount and not the individual at the centre and I think that’s the key difference we see today. 

Sarah: And that’s what real leadership is: being able to determine the group’s orientation and the group’s intention and helping the group to express that. That’s what real leadership is—not imposing one’s personal will on it but evoking this recognition from within the group. 

Robert: Many people think of freedom as the highest ideal a human being can aspire to. Do you agree with that? 

Sarah: No. In this country particularly, freedom is an ideal that is reverently treated, and of course I think it’s obvious why it’s so desired. We all want our freedom, but freedom always has certain limitations on it when one comes to the group. Was it Abraham Lincoln who said “One man’s freedom stops where another man’s freedom begins”? We can’t just have personal licence and be a member of a group, particularly on the spiritual path. You realize that the path of spiritual awakening is trod by a group, not by an individual alone. You are always together with others who are heading toward the same light as you are, and you are not only aware of them, but you are obligated to help them, and you cannot think of yourself as being isolated. 

Dale: That sounds like a theme for another program. I think we should work at that a little more. 

Robert: I think the highest form of group definition and identifying with the group is probably that of our great spiritual leaders, Buddha, and Christ, who identified with all life forms. Group consciousness is an element of the soul. You can’t think of yourself as an isolated individual and also consider yourself a spiritual person. In closing, we’d like you to ponder on this thought. Goodwill is the touchstone that will transform the world. There is a world prayer called the Great Invocation. It is a call for light, love, and goodwill to flow into the world and into our hearts. Let’s listen for a moment to these powerful words. 

Sarah: Closes the program by reciting the adapted version of the Great Invocation

(This is an edited transcript of a recorded radio program called “Inner Sight”. This conversation was recorded between the host, Robert Anderson, and the then President and Vice-President of Lucis Trust, Sarah and Dale McKechnie.)

(Transcribed and edited by Carla McLeod)




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