Let us call this approach storyteller consciousness. Instead of seeking to describe a reality already out there, we will be aware that we create reality through our story about it. In science, storyteller consciousness means being aware of the creative nature of theories and experiments, whose very language encodes deep assumptions about self and universe. In technology, it is to see our choices as a way to define our relationship with each other and the rest of life. It asks the question, “Who are we creating ourselves as?” The forms and institutions of politics and government will change most radically of all, as we begin to disbelieve in our labels, categories, and abstractions, and come into contact with human reality. All of these forms and institutions are themselves stories. America is a story. France is a story. The law is a story. Words and symbols, that is all, with no more meaning than what we agree upon. Our mistake has been not in telling stories, only in thinking they are real. When we let go of that, we will be able to play with them consciously and let them go when they no longer serve us. I think there are stories that will serve the world much better than the ones we have right now. But I leave it to others to tell the story of a future politics and government aligned with what I have already described of the Age of Reunion.
Over thousands of years, the creative play of story-telling has come to enslave us, and we have lost the storyteller’s consciousness. Finally we are awakening, as the effort to maintain the pretense overwhelms us. We cannot maintain the story any more. The story of linearity, the story of separation, the lonely story of a discrete self marooned in a world of other. The story that we are not storytellers, not authors but mere reporters, describing what is, reacting, managing, controlling. We are awakening from that story now, the story that we are not the authors of our world and of our lives.
Indeed it is in our personal lives that the enslavement to unconscious stories has been the most devastating. We live in a fabricated world of interpretation that we mistake for reality. We live in a world of judgments and imposed meanings. Maybe Dad shouted at me a lot, and since I was three I made it mean that I am bad. She left you, and you interpreted it as a betrayal, and made it mean you are unworthy of love, and so you find yourself holding on, manipulating, controlling. We live in our stories, which then create events to justify themselves and strengthen our enslavement.
The origins and multitudinous variations of these stories are beyond the scope of this book; often they are extremely subtle and, because they conform to larger cultural stories of self, wholly invisible. Like the broader, cultural stories, they enslave us only to the extent that they are unconscious. I am advocating the enlightenment and not the abolition of our stories. Yes, we can come back to the present moment, the present experience, and release all judgment if we so choose, just as we can return if we choose to the lingua adamica. However, we are not meant to stay there. We are meant to foray into three-dimensional reality, space and linear time, and to create beauty with their tools. We are meant to create meaning and create stories. I am not advocating that we surrender our existence as time-bound material beings, just as I do not propose that we abdicate the gifts of culture and technology that make us human. No longer, though, need we be enslaved to those meanings, to those stories, or to our technology. To enter the Age of Reunion is to awaken to our power as conscious creators.
Although I do not claim to have mastered them, I would like to share with you some principles that have been personally useful to me in becoming the conscious creator of my stories. After all, the collective transformation I speak of will only come through a coalescence of many personal transformations. In this book I have mentioned three cultural stories that many of us have deeply internalized. The first is the Newtonian world of force and mass, which manifests in our personal lives as a feeling of compulsion and powerlessness. In language it appears in words like, “have to”, “can’t”, “must”, “should”, “I will try”, and “you made me”. The second is the Cartesian split of ourselves into body and soul, a good part and a bad part. It manifests in life as a constant struggle of self-denial and perpetual sacrifice of the present for the future, producing a battle against desire and the imposition of the civilized and conditioned over the natural and the wild. In language, it again manifests as “should” and “shouldn’t”. The third story is that of separation and scarcity. Manifesting in phrases like “can afford to”, it disbelieves in our connection to the universe and all life that brings our gifts inevitably back to ourselves, which would make control and domination are unnecessary.
Even naming these stories and observing them in operation already makes them less powerful. However, I have found it useful to deliberately undo them through the way I speak to myself and others. We can use words in ways that deny the stories that enslave us, and thus accelerate our freedom. For example, Marshall Rosenberg suggests rephrasing every “have to” sentence as “I choose to… because…” Here is a personal example. I used to say, “Even though I hate it, I have to give grades.” When I rephrased it as “I choose to give grades because I am afraid I will lose my job if I don’t,” everything became much clearer. I realized that my job was much less important to me than my sense of integrity, which for me personally was violated by giving grades, and so I decided to leave academia. By thinking in terms of “have to” we surrender our power. The very words carry within them an assumption of powerlessness. Another substitution I’ve been making is to replace “you should” with “you could”, and “I should” with “I can” or “I want to”. You can also experiment by abolishing “I will try…” from your lexicon, especially the lexicon of your internal dialog, and replace it simply with “I will…” If you are true to your word, you will think very carefully before agreeing to anything. “I will try” can be a cop-out, a polite way of saying you won’t actually do it. It also encodes an assumption of helplessness, a world of external forces that thwart our creativity. All of this deserves a much more thorough discussion than I am giving it, but that will have to await a future book. For now, simply observe that a wholly different way of thinking underlies “I can”, “I choose to”, and “I want to”. The story of powerlessness cannot be told with them.
Here is another kind of empowerment, relating to the second internalized story I mentioned. In contrast to my personal age of reason that I described in Chapter Three, I no longer attempt to justify with reasons everything I do. Instead I say, “I did it because I wanted to.” What! That’s not allowed, is it? We can’t follow desire, can we? That resistance to desire is another manifestation of the body-soul division. The good part, the higher part, the spiritual part—the mind and the will—must master the bad part, the fleshly desires. Sacrifice now for a future reward. It is just another variation of the mentality of agriculture, channeled through religion and education, that still dominates us today. Yet Heaven remains forever just around the corner.
Traditional cultures recognized an importance to stories beyond mere reportage or children’s entertainment. Story-telling was also a sacred function that carried the spirit of the people and created their world. It is not only the sounds of the lingua adamica that have a sacred generative power; our stories do as well. Today we wield that power unconsciously, thus creating unintended effects. We do not know our own power, the power of word. In a way, all speech is a story, because all speech creates a new addition to the world of representation. All speech therefore bears a generative power, just as the Native Americans believed, because we enact that world of representation. We live our story, we stamp it onto the world. Why, then, do our words seem so impotent today? It is because, just as our great immersive cultural stories and ideologies are invisible to us, we use words unconsciously too. It is not conscious lying that is weak, it is unconscious lying. A deliberate lie is still a conscious act of world-creation. Many if not all of the disempowering forms of speech described above are unconscious lies. If you would like to restore to your words their generative power, you must treat them as golden. One weakening form of speech is swearing. “Fuck.” What are we really saying when we make a sacred life-creating pleasure into a vulgar term of deprecation? “Damn.” Do we really wish eternal torment on someone? No, we are speaking unconsciously. Other weakening forms of speech include gossip, small talk, and various forms of negativity. I won’t go into detail here, but I invite you to consider: what world-creating story are we telling when we speak like that? For words to truly be powerful, we must align them with our creative intention. Only then can we create the stories of our lives.
Unconscious lying sabotages our credibility to ourselves and others. If we cultivate the habit of speaking truthfully and treating our word as golden, then when we declare great things, they will come to pass. The more we realize the power of our words, the more mindful our speech becomes; the more mindful our speech, the greater the power of our words. We condition ourselves to our words always coming true, and foster a deep confidence in the magical creative power of our speech.
Whether on the collective or personal level, storyteller consciousness is inseparable from the new sense of self that defines the Age of Reunion. It depends on a blurring of the defining distinction of the Age of Separation, between the observer in here and the objective world out there. It will emerge spontaneously, in tandem with the crisis-induced disintegration of the illusion of separation. The story of powerlessness and separation simply won’t be captivating anymore! In its place we will have a story of connectedness, of interbeing, of participation in the all-encompassing circle of the gift. And part of this story is actually a meta-story, a story about stories that invests all of our stories with creative power and motivates us to be conscious in their telling.
If I have been vague about what this will actually look like in the future, it is probably because the society that may be built around storyteller consciousness centuries hence is so unlike what we have today that I hardly dare describe it on paper. Instead of the present demarcation between drama and real life, future society will consist of stories within stories within stories, plays within plays within plays without any sense that one is “for real” and one is not. Life will be all play, and all play will be in earnest. We might commit to some of these stories as deeply as a human being can commit to anything, as passionately as the greatest artist cares about his greatest masterpiece. Each life will be a masterpiece, and some of our collective projects will span generations and alter the fabric of (what we call) reality. This will be the eventual fulfillment of the Age of Reunion, when we come into full, conscious co-creative partnership with the universe itself. In the meantime, in the next century or so, great storytellers will emerge to inspire us with beautiful and believable stories of what life can be, visions of the world we can create. Those stories will have roles for each of us that draw upon our gifts and develop our potential. It is happening already. Have you heard the casting call? A beautiful life is being offered, if we can only find the courage.
Charles Eisenstein, The Ascent of Humanity.
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