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on the book Consciousness in Action
by Andrew Beath
I contend that real prosperity is a function of the depth of ones
gratitude for the gift of life and appreciation for the natural
world. Lasting social prosperity stems from generosity and concern
for others. Personal prosperity comes from being kind and thrives
on an open mind, surprise and spontaneity. This, multiplied by millions
of individuals, results in a compassionate society and an eco-economy,
one that cycles through production and the use of products in ways
that are sustainable and healthy for not only humans, but also for
all of the Earth’s many living beings.
To be prosperous is to know one’s soul. To create a prosperous
society is to live in ways that help to heal our culture and our
planet. It is a lifelong personal process, a fascinating adventure
whose essence I refer to as natural harmony—the mutually beneficial
reciprocity woven into the web of life that has allowed life on
Earth to endure and evolve over billions of years.
The 13th century Zen philosopher, Dogen, defined enlightenment
as “intimacy with all things.” To me this means that
the more we live in ways that honor our relationship to each other
and the natural environment the more fulfilling our life becomes.
But, at present we are engaged in the opposite—addictive forms
consumption that ruin personal and planetary health.
Our emotional and psychological insatiability, the force behind
our production/consumption economy, is motivated by feelings of
isolation and insufficiency—and by the illusion that something
from outside us can fill the emptiness within. But intimacy produces
internal prosperity, creating openings for love. And what we love
we want to protect.
In my recently published book, Consciousness in Action (Lantern
Books, May, 2005) I propose that our prosperity depends on our planet’s
health and that creating a healthier culture and environment will
require a series of individual and society-wide awakenings based
on a more profound understanding of our interrelationship with all
life—a deepening of intimacy.
I use the term “liberation pathways” to describe the
many processes that can expand our awareness, heal our wounds, reduce
our fears and, thereby, create intimacy and ally us with natural
harmony. With the ecological destruction steaming ahead, is there
time to complete this process? I don’t know, but that’s
what makes participation in the adventure even more compelling.
The personal transformation sections of Consciousness in Action
are structured around a gestalt that I call “the seven attributes
of conscious activism”.
My definition of conscious activism is engagement in the world
that expresses and reveals our most profound understanding of the
nature of reality. I was discussing these ideas with Ram Dass, an
accomplished spiritual teacher, and he offered his own definition:
conscious activism is helping to liberate the compassionate heart
of every individual.
Activism for progressive social change is needed on several fronts:
non-violent action in the field to protest or prevent activities
that are destroying the “commons”; the development of
technologies and organizations of people dedicated to finding alternatives
to those means of production that are gnawing away the health of
the Earth; and the expansion of awakened awareness— the change
of consciousness— that creates “a vision that all living
things can share”, resulting in a sustainable, mutually beneficial
My own sense of prosperity is generated from the recognition that
to live in appreciation of interrelationship and intimacy is the
most fulfilling way to be alive.
This is also a common thread in the comments of the people whose
life examples I use in the book to elaborate the seven attributes.
Their stories ground the philosophy in very personal ways and provide
guidance to the reader.
We examine how, to a large extent, our modern lives and presumptions
about reality are shaped by economics, politics, and Madison Avenue
images. How we perceive the world, our attitude toward it, is shaping
the physical and biological character of our planet. Our worldview
is literally creating the Earth’s future. Our level of appreciation
or disdain for the Earth’s healthy functioning is determining
the extent of additional global warming, ozone holes and species
extinctions. To cannibalize the Earth in order to produce “goods”
(an ironic term) is to create poverty, not prosperity. Thus, we
see how our internal turmoil is imposed on our external world.
For an economy to be both prosperous and sustainable it must employ
healthy means of production, distribution, recycling and waste disposal
that is cyclically regenerative. No matter how high our personal
income we can not be prosperous while we disrupt our climate, toxify
our air, pollute our water and make our children ill from their
In our rush for profits through ownership and control of the means
of production, we have forgotten the concept of the “commons”,
that is, the atmosphere, the oceans, rivers and lakes, the magnificent
forests, mountains and open plains, and the many creatures that
inhabit these areas. For example, huge factory ships with massive
drag nets scrape the seabed indiscriminately gathering all kinds
of aquatic species causing fish populations to collapse in many
areas of open-ocean.
What is the prognosis? What means of salvation could potentially
direct us toward a healthy relationship with the Earth and bring
forth a prosperous future? To address these questions it is helpful
to consider that the destruction we have perpetrated on the planet
is catalyzing the next step in the evolution of human consciousness.
Damage we are causing is the impetus driving evolutionary change
and is itself evidence of birth pains associated with the delivery
of the next generation of consciousness, which will replace the
The book examines how the pressures of our human-nature relationship
catalyze each step forward in the evolution of human consciousness.
Our current evolutionary awakenings are coming from new insights
about our interrelationship with the Earth’s dynamic living
systems. Thus, we are on the cusp of a new era, born of our excesses.
There is the prospect of a whole new economy waiting to provide
a more authentic prosperity, one that makes products and services
without exacting hidden costs of waste and wastelands for our children
to clean up. The revamping of each harmful industry will create
a multitude of healthy jobs while acknowledging the importance of
protecting the commons.
Discovering that a greater life-depth is waiting to be experienced
changes one’s priorities, which in turn provides freedom to
explore our deeper potential and more fully recognize the world’s
sacred nature. When this insight reaches enough people, our cultural
definition of prosperity will inevitably shift away from the worship
of fame, fortune and power, toward one that values harmonious interrelationships.
All the pieces are in place, the wisdom is at hand, to turn the
wheel of human destiny away from consumption and toward appreciation
for all life. It just requires enough of us to recognize that living
in intimacy is mutually beneficial for everything—and in the
process we’ll discover that spending one’s life this
way is about as prosperous as one can be.
Andrew Beath founded the non-profit EarthWays in 1987 which has
initiated projects to protect wilderness and assist indigenous communities
in many countries. He has recently started several “centers
for conscious activism”. To investigate his book, go to: www.consciousnessinaction.com.