Is it true? – Such a great question to ask yourself and others, when faced with an unpleasant experience or insecure feelings. As a race we’re notoriously bad at determining the difference between something feeling real and it being true.
According to Hans Rosling in his book “Factfulness: ten reasons we’re wrong about the world – and why things are better than you think”, we are worse than chimpanzees at determining facts about our world! He says: “Every group of people I ask thinks the world is more frightening, more violent, and more hopeless – in short, more dramatic – than it really is.” These groups include scientists, politicians and business leaders. He gives the reason as being a systemic misinterpretation of what we think; we are seduced by a powerful illusion.
It turns out that this illusion is even more pervasive than we could possibly imagine. There is only one fundamental reason why we’re so often wrong about the world – we believe our thinking is true, when in fact nothing we think can be objectively true.
Neuroscience has made great strides forward; a recent feature article in the February 2020 edition of the New Scientist reveals the current scientific understanding of reality. “We are now at a point where it is equally credible to claim that reality is entirely dependant on subjective experience, or entirely independent of it. Reality has never felt so unreal.” Putting this another way, are time, space and matter creations of consciousness or the other way around? It is actually great news for humanity that this debate is now in the scientific realm. For millennia it has been the preserve of religion and has fuelled wars and cultivated fear across divides, which are themselves part of the illusion.
There are three main requirements to being fascinated about this question of truth versus reality – curiosity, humility and compassion. I welcome the scientific exploration, and will be leaving it to others with bigger brains to continue. There is in my view a far quicker philosophical route to the truth, open to us all, irrespective of intellect, profession, age and background. That is to see for ourselves the magic that lies behind our personal thinking; that space within us before our personality and our ideas of self; where personal thoughts are absent.
Intuitively, we already know that our personal thinking is in flux, it’s inconsistent and although it feels real it can’t be objectively true because we all have separate realities.
How is this helpful? Many commentators are now pointing in this direction and yet still missing the magic. In their seminal book “Spiritual Capital: wealth we can live by” Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall implore us to face up to the unsustainability of capitalism and business-as-usual. “At the heart of capitalism and business as usual lies a very narrow definition of what it means to be human and to engage in human enterprise. Human beings are measured by thirst for profit and by capacity to consume.” This narrow approach breeds fear, competitiveness, stress and corrupted self-interest. They encourage us to embrace a new concept of wealth that enriches rather than impoverishes the human spirit, which they refer to as spiritual capital. And they introduce a third intelligence to sit along side intellect (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ), which they call spiritual intelligence (SQ). If we wish to improve the plight of humanity, we need to grow and nurture our spiritual intelligence.
Developing spiritual intelligence and spiritual capital are even more relevant today, as we deal with the impact of coronavirus and the obvious inequalities in society, giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. There is a real sense of people wanting to change for the better as we emerge from lockdown.
Organisations with an emphasis on high spiritual capital preserve and renew resources, they see future generations as stakeholders and they address inequality and anger. Leaders with high spiritual intelligence see leadership as a vocation, they inspire others and breed a sense of hope. There is much to be gained by moving in this direction.
Zohar and Marshall emphasise the importance of dialogue as a major factor in creating a shift towards a culture of spiritual capital. They say: “If, deep inside ourselves and in our approach to others, we replaced knowing with finding out, answers with questions, winning or losing with sharing, power with respect and love, and proving points with exploring possibilities and listening, then I think we really could change ourselves and the world.”
Standard cultural change conjures up weighty programmes, elaborate communications and the potential for resistance, but what if it wasn’t that difficult? What if we could all take responsibility for our own shift in consciousness? Collectively we can achieve a simple step change in consciousness. That step change is to see the simple truth behind the phrase “just because it feels real, doesn’t mean it’s true.”
If there were such a thing as conditions to achieving this, here are my favourite contenders: –
- Embracing separate realities, knowing that nothing in our personal experience can be objectively true
- Sensing the difference between the depth of feeling that comes from being in the present as opposed to stuck in the future or the past, and seeing this as a clue to truth
- Opening up or surrendering to the infinite nature of universal intelligence, trusting wisdom in the moment is always available to us, so we can let go and be in the flow of life
- Listening for, acknowledging and nurturing those innate qualities in ourselves and others such as resilience, love, creativity and capacity for realisation; no-one can be broken and so no-one needs fixing
I want to live in a society that nurtures and values our innate spiritual intelligence alongside learned intellectual and emotional intelligence, where we collectively build for the benefit of everyone and the planet, so including future generations as opposed to the narrow, all-consuming model of business-as-usual capitalism. How about you?
The ideas in this blog are adapted from ‘Chapter 10 – No boundaries, never alone’; in my recently published book “More than you think”, in which I share stories and reflections on how the mind works from the inside out via 3 simple principles, Mind, Thought and Consciousness.