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  • Writer's pictureBarry Shirley


Hi Guys. In this August 2022 blog (Issue 31), I contemplate the subject of ‘Reaching a tipping point to spiritual awareness (individual and collective)’.

As in my previous blogs, I will draw on the views and opinions of past and current masters, sages, mystics, gurus, philosophers and generally wise people. I also tap into worldly belief systems, religions and philosophies to draw on ancient knowledge and wisdom. So, if you are beginning to realise there is more to this life than you think, and you have the merest hint of something happening in yourself – read on.

These monthly blog posts are designed for those interested in mindfulness/spirituality/philosophy and will only give you a taste of the information, knowledge and wisdom that is out there (and all points raised can easily be further researched). I must emphasise that I am simply coordinating the knowledge and information that I am able to access, gather and present with lots of excerpts. I will also include text from my previous blogs as appropriate.

No matter what stage of the journey you are on, do you recall a ‘tipping point’ where you either had an epiphany or such a preponderance of evidence that you just knew that there was something else to life? Something felt closely aligned but different, and that other people were writing or talking about this something and you were intrigued.

There may well have been a religion initially involved, as a catalyst, but not giving enough impetus to push you further along. This is how most people commence their particular spiritual journey and most of us have found out that religion (although it may serve a limited purpose) is basically given to you where spirituality is something that you find out for yourself.

During this particular time, you may have reached a ‘tipping point’ (or a point of no return). Generally, we call this stepped commencement a ‘spiritual journey’ or seeking ‘Self-awareness’ or seeking ‘Self – realisation’.

Whilst this is an individual’s awareness of consciousness, many commentators and researchers have proposed that there is a ‘collective energy’ or ‘collective consciousness’ that can influence the aspect of humanity’s journey. I will return to the individual aspect later in the blog. Consider an early scientific worldview, that the universe is as ‘clockwork universe’ – i.e. In the history of science, the clockwork universe compares the universe to a mechanical clock. It continues ticking along, as a perfect machine, with its gears governed by the laws of physics, making every aspect of the machine predictable. (Image: agsandrew/Shutterstock)

Continuing this theme, in order to understand a mechanism for global consciousness/awareness; Author Cheryl Hunt (Educator, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Exeter, UK and Chief Editor of the international, interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Spirituality ) writes; “whether the pandemic might have brought us to a long-predicted tipping point in human affairs – a time of ‘breakdown or breakthrough’ (Myers 1990, 180). The predicted breakdown is of the belief that we live in a ‘clockwork universe’. This image has held sway over Western philosophical, political and scientific developments since the seventeenth century (Dolnick 2012). It has created a mindset in which reality is ‘out there’ in a material world of separate ‘things’; human wants and needs are paramount; and values associated with competition, control and domination are more important than any other ways of thinking/being (Goerner 1999).”

She went on to say; “the breakthrough that many writers have envisaged is to an understanding that we inhabit a ‘holographic universe (Talbot 1991, 2). Such an understanding not only takes account of ongoing work in quantum physics, ecology, and systems and complexity theory, but it affirms a belief that underpins many spiritual and indigenous traditions – a belief in ‘oneness’ of all things. It has profound implications for life on this planet.

With this in mind, I was struck by a recent post on the online professional networking site, LinkedIn (Watters 2022), which pointed out that the ‘trinity of crises’ with which we are currently faced – war in Europe, the pandemic and climate emergency – constitutes a ‘meta crisis’.

Watters noted that ‘Crises are moments of danger and opportunity’, the danger being that ‘the intensity and immediate consequences of each crisis triggers our survival responses: blaming, attacking, defending, denying, shutting down’. The opportunity, he suggests, may lie in a ‘moment of awakening… a moment of choice. We humans are not just bundles of hopeless reactivity, bound by our past and condemned to a dismal future, because we can actively decide to answer the questions ‘Who do we choose to be?’ As Watters argues: - This is a species level question, but it is also a question that each of us must consider and answer as individuals”.

Hunt cites Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist in his book about the divided brain ‘The Master and His Emissary (2009 p8). And in the context that each human consciousness is not only embedded in each person but that it has a communal or shared element, now and through time. She states; “McGilchrist makes a similar point, noting: ‘When we look at our embodied selves, we look back into the past. But the past is no more dead than we are. The past is something we perform every living day, here and now…. Jung… surmised that much of our mental life, like our bodies, has ancient origins”.

Hunt continues; “these ancient origins are evident in the unfolding of the clockwork universe worldview that has, arguably, given shape to the current meta crisis. And understanding of religion and spirituality are inevitable embedded with them. In a speech attempting to ‘justify’ his invasion of Ukraine, Putin claimed on behalf of Russia that ‘Ukraine is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space’.

This claim apparently goes back to the year 988CE when Vladimir, pagan King of the Rus, became a convert to Christianity to secure his marriage to the sister of the Christian Emperor Basil II and a powerful political alliance with Byzantium. Having done so, he returned to Kyiv in triumph and summoned the whole city to the banks of the Dnieper River for a mass baptism. In consequence, Kyiv, established more than 600 years before Moscow, is ‘the site of the imagined mother church for all the Rus’ (Costello 2022, online)”.

And finally Hunt comments that: “Leustean (2022, online) argues that Putin’s attempt to ‘repossess’ this sacred site on behalf of Russia and to impose his own religious ideology on Ukraine by brute force constitutes ‘the first religious war in the twenty first century”. Chilling!!

There are a great number of articles, books and research on Critical Mass and Tipping Points. In 200, Malcolm Gladwell, author of the ‘The tipping Point’ : How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference’, described a tipping point as; “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point” – and that; “ideas and products and messages and behaviours spread just like viruses do” – “The world may seem like an immovable, implacable place – with the slightest push – in just the right place – it can be tipped.” (NB as a recent example look at the people’s revolution in Sri Lanka).

Various research has been done to confirm this concept. The Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute in New York discovered that critical mass occurs when just 10% of the population has an unshakable belief. And that once that number grows above 10%, the idea spreads like a flame (propagandists also capture negative unconscious behaviour with this phenomena).

An interesting article by Dr Deepak Chopra, MD also tackles this;

“A funny thing happened on the way to cosmic mind. There was a vision of it that captivated some of the greatest thinkers in the last century, but then the vision faded. In the current atmosphere of science, the notion of a conscious universe has been marginalized–you won’t see it mentioned in Nova programs (i.e. American science documentary TV series). Mindless materialism reigns among the stars and subatomic particles. We are back to a tightly enforced prejudice that is depressing considering that the most hallowed names among quantum pioneers, including Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger, took the possibility of cosmic mind seriously, and all but Einstein ultimately embraced it.

Why did we slip backward, and where do we go from here? A sizable cadre of younger physicists are asking these questions, but as science circles back to questions that were already answered a century ago, the whole focus may be wrong-headed. Facing a wall of resistance from mainstream science, perhaps we need to look elsewhere. If consciousness is going to reach a tipping point, it seems obvious that science isn’t going to generate it.

Only people will, out in the world living everyday lives. Populism makes intellectuals quite nervous–often with good reason–but it wasn’t intellectuals who gave us democracy, spirituality, art, and music. The human condition is influenced far more by a rising tide of collective change. Democracy needed to reach a turning point in order to become a given notion accepted by the majority of the human race. How can this happen with consciousness?

One thing is certain–at the present moment, a conscious universe represents a bridge too far. What needs to be accepted is consciousness itself, after which we can travel where the concept takes us. So, to ask the most basic question, what is consciousness? The simplest definition is awareness, although in many wisdom traditions to be conscious requires self-awareness. But let’s stick with the simplest definition. If consciousness is awareness, our everyday actions fall into one of three categories:

1. Unconscious actions–These are ruled by habit, biases, hidden beliefs, received opinion, and group thought, which intimidates and overrides individual thought.

2. Conscious actions – These occur when we take the influences just mentioned–the whole mental apparatus that makes people unconscious–and push them out of the way. A conscious act involves actually seeing the situation for what it is and shaping reality around direct experience.

3. Higher consciousness –This is the state where actions are motivated by inspiration, insight, spiritual awakening, sudden breakthroughs, and creativity. It’s a controversial aspect of the human mind, with dogmatic deniers on one side and the dogmatically religious on the other.

In the course of history, higher consciousness has played a huge role, and inspired teachers like Jesus and Buddha wanted to see society reconstructed so that the most awakened and self-aware states became the norm. This didn’t occur, and it would appear, if you are a dry-eyed realist, that it will never appear until the human race reaches a tipping point with the previous state–before higher consciousness, there must be consciousness.

The present moment is testing this hypothesis with mounting pressure. As climate change brings crisis and threat closer to everyone’s doorstep, we will be saved only by becoming conscious. Mass denial, stupidity, political resistance, selfishness, and us-versus-them thinking belong to the zone of unconscious actions. Thanks to the ecological disaster that looms over us, we can no longer afford to indulge in them. We’re still indulging, however, because it is very slow work to get people to abandon the comfort of unconsciousness. Once you are conscious, that comfort is seen for what it is, a fool’s paradise.

Enough people are conscious in every country that one can be optimistic about reaching a tipping point. The two biggest producers of greenhouse gases, the United States and China, are frustrating to observe, because they are rich enough to solve the problem but are also mired in the false comfort of unconscious attitudes. Different as the two societies are, as alien as one political system appears to the other, Chimerica, as the economist Niall Ferguson dubbed it, must rise to consciousness before the rest of the world can be rescued from catastrophe. After that tipping point is reached–no one can predict what massive disaster will finally make the difference–then the far-reaching implications of consciousness, including cosmic mind, will inevitably be uncovered”.

Also, see the book ‘Letting Go’ (2012) by the late Dr David Hawkins (page336 – map of consciousness). The Map of Consciousness is amongst other things, a self-awareness tool. It details 17 stages of consciousness together with their energy ‘calibration values’. Dr Hawkins’ goal in creating the Map of Consciousness was “to overcome the inherent limitation of the human mind, whereby falsity has been misidentified as truth”, his ultimate goal being to assist human evolution.

In ancient eastern philosophy we know of the natural laws, i.e. chakras, prana, qi, wu wei etc (depicting natural energies) and in recent times Quantum Physics has confirmed that we, and all matter, naturally contain electrical and electromagnetic energy. This infinite energy field is called ‘Zero Point Energy’.

Dr Tapan Das, Electrical Engineer/Scientist and author of ‘Solutions to the Mysteries of Consciousness’ (2018), suggests that the Big Bang theory assumes that the universe is created from nothing. Since something cannot be created out of nothing, he postulates that our universe was created from zero-point energy. And, that this zero-point energy is the supreme consciousness where our consciousness merges after every event.

In terms of the individual, what does it mean to be Self-aware or to be awake or to ‘find yourself’ or to go ‘soul searching”, or to ask, “who am I?” At some point in your life you will probably think there is more to your existence ‘than meets the eye’, especially when things appear to be going bad or negatively for you. We have all experienced the horrible effects of COVID-19 on our community (and still are) and some of us have had the opportunity to think more about lots of things in our lives.

Self-awareness is said to be a recognition of one’s environment and body and an ability to see yourself objectively. There is also a subjective aspect more along the lines of consciousness or inner self.

Many of us are endeavouring to discover the inner being that is said to exist in all of us – beyond the ego. This approach is also called reflection and is an important aspect throughout our lives.

There is a need to regularly look closely at ourselves (observe review and self-examine) and to consider how we have or have not been willing to learn more about our place in the order of all things. However, those that don’t have the inclination to try to understand themselves better may feel quite happy in continuing to see life though their ego filter and long held beliefs. It is all about choice and levels of curiosity!

It comes back to the old villain, our ego (which is said to be either at our lower level of our consciousness or in unconsciousness itself).

The renowned Author and Spiritual Teacher, Eckhart Tolle, has incredible knowledge about who we think we are and discussed this point extensively in his book ‘A New Earth’ (2005). He suggests, before we ask any other question, first ask the fundamental question of your life: Who am I?

He states; “Unconscious people – and many remain unconscious, trapped in their egos through their lives – will quickly tell you who they are: their name, their occupation, their personal history, the shape or state of their body, and whatever else they identify with. Others may appear to be more evolved because they think of themselves as an immortal soul or divine spirit. But do they really know themselves, or have they just added some spiritual-sounding concepts to the content of their mind?

Knowing yourself goes far deeper than the adoption of a set of ideas or beliefs. Spiritual ideas and beliefs may at best be helpful pointers, but in themselves they rarely have the power to dislodge the more firmly established core concepts of who you think you are, which are part of the conditioning of the human mind. Knowing yourself deeply has nothing to do with whatever ideas are floating around in your mind. Knowing yourself is to be rooted in Being, instead of lost in your mind.”

Basically, he is also saying that if you let your ego control you when you are under attack from the negative aspects of life and succumb to unhelpful emotions in reacting, then you may not grasp the question of truly knowing yourself.

Things will happen in life to rattle you, upset you, and how you respond (not react) might just determine how you truly know yourself. Learning to ‘be in the moment’ (i.e. experience right here and now, without any judgement!) and either to accept a situation or let go of one might just be the way to break away from the ego ‘autopilot’!

All this entails a high level of Self-awareness (and more of a spiritual awareness of the higher self) where you can attune to emotions and thoughts and respond in a calm and balanced way.

However, there is also a basic self-awareness which is more attuned to having a perception of your personality and attitudes and how you think you are received by others (the realities of being human?). This aspect is also called emotional intelligence and once again there is a large volume of work on this subject. Whilst it could well be a paradox, there is probably an ideal amalgam of the spiritual Self-awareness aspect and the emotional intelligence side of things which can serve your approach to life.

As Mark Twain said; “the two most important times in your life are the day you are born and the day you remember why.”

There is also a positive need to be highly Self-aware so that your ego doesn’t mess things up when certain triggers appear. You should perhaps learn to understand your weaknesses/blind spots/biases and reflect on situations that have challenged or upset you.

In a similar vein, some of us may also have the odd moving experience of something positive that appears to come from ‘deep within’ – maybe during a yoga session or meditation or just whilst enjoying a sunset/sunrise, a baby/small child, art etc. This might be called mystical or even momentary enlightenment or just unexplained.

Many deeply spiritual persons in the past have sometimes been referred to as mystics. These individuals are said to be able to recognise the mystery of the unity of all things. However, many more persons nowadays have a knowledge of wellbeing, philosophy, and metaphysics and can recognise these so-called mystery events.

Transformation Analogy (from Michael Bohuslav): Michelangelo (Italian sculptor, painter, architect - 1475/1564) began the task of transforming a block of Carrera marble into the beautiful statue of ‘David’. Before commencing, Michelangelo was reported to have said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it”. He then worked on the block and progressively removed the bits that weren’t ‘David’. The finished sculpture resulted in all the non- ‘David’ bits having been removed. In the analogy we can consider the body as a block of stone, regarding the mortal illusionary ‘Me’, (comprised of the physical body, 5 senses, the mind and the Ego - almost totally covering the Real Higher Self); A person can make decisions to chip away at that illusory covering to reveal the pure, perfect and complete aspect of the Higher Self (i.e. The inexhaustible energy of consciousness/soul).

As in the uncovering of the statue from the block of marble, the spiritual transformation begins with waking up, acquiring some knowledge and guidance – practicing equanimity - letting go of attachments – diminishing the ego and meditating in order to understand the final ‘product’ as unfettered access to the Higher Self - the immortal realised being.

In terms of helping to achieve self-awareness, I can recall a Dalai Lama quote that significantly affected me at the time; When asked what surprised him most about humanity he answered:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”


  • “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” — Carl Jung – Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst founder of analytical psychology – 1975/1961.

  • “Self – awareness is not self-centredness, and spirituality is not narcissism. Know thyself is not a narcissistic pursuit.” - Marianne Williamson – American author, spiritual leader and political activist – b.1952.

  • “Now is the time to unite the soul and the world.” – Rumi – Persian poet – 1207/1273.

  • “You don’t stop your desires (attachments) as long as you stay in a human body. You break identification with them. That’s all that’s required. It isn’t necessary to give up a thing. It’s necessary to give up attachment to the thing. That’s all that’s required.” – Ram Dass – aka Baba Ram Das (born Richard Alpert)– American spiritual leader, guru of modern yoga – 1931/2019.

  • “If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.” – Lao Tzu (or Lao-Tze) ancient Chinese philosopher – 6th century BCE.

  • “Ego implies unawareness. Awareness and ego cannot coexist.” – Eckhart Tolle. – German born spiritual teacher – author of seminal book ‘The Power of Now’ – b.1948.

Take away

  • Develop a mindset of peace, harmony and love and help shift the collective consciousness of the world.

  • Aspire to know yourself and challenge your beliefs – keep the ego at bay – stay humble.

  • A definite purpose in life is to become awake (or aware) to the higher Self. It is also a journey of transformation, to look within yourself.

  • Seek that deeper meaning to life - live your values and be the best version of yourself.

  • Also, try yoga, along with meditation – a natural combination for achieving overall well-being. If already practicing yoga and meditation – go deeper – both higher vibration activities! Nourish your mind body and spirit!

Compiled by Baz Shirley.


*See also:

Instagram: @bazabstractart - Facebook: Barry Shirley

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