“If a man would be alone, let him look at the stars,” philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his 1836 essay, Nature. “The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches.” Emerson considered the stars, through their “perpetual presence of the sublime,” as portals to complete absorption with something greater than ourselves.
“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years,” he adds, “how would men believe and adore and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”
Humans have gazed at the night’s sky in fascination for millenia. Its vastness, humbling. Its enigmatic expanse, awesome. Ancient civilisations, from the Mayans to the Babylonians, were starstruck and enchanted by the cosmos. The ancient Egyptians even used the stars to accurately align the Great Pyramids with the Earth’s four cardinal points.
I wonder what Emerson would think of modern culture. Common gaze is downcast, transfixed by admonishing smartphones. The stars’ sparkle is second-best. We don’t notice the great lengths they travel to illuminate the night’s sky. But the ancients prized something we fail to recognise. Stargazing is free therapy. And the cosmos reveals our true nature.
Spiritual growth is an unlearning process. Awakening into the true nature of reality requires constant unlearning of false beliefs and a re-discovery of the direct experience of the present moment. Conceptual reality is a house of mirrors, a myriad of illusion. Of all illusions, psychological time is the trickiest to detect.
Seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years… The passage of time is seemingly objective and compatible with experience. Events appear to unfold sequentially, superimposed onto the clock. But the past is a memory. The future is imagination. Life is eternally present, an infinite succession of Nows.
As Mark Twain said, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” So much of our attention and energy is spent on holding on to days-gone-by or worrying about things that may never materialise. How does life change, once liberated from these opposing forces?
We are told to be aware, to pay attention, to create space. Yet conscious engagement with thoughts, with the intention to change them skillfully, has immense benefits. Although counterintuitive, it boosts the ability to be mindful and accelerates spiritual growth.
Maturing the ego and cultivating a skilled, self-serving intellect, is just as rewarding as the transcendental elements of spiritual practice. But the message in the West is often black-or-white; the ego is all bad, the solution to troubling thoughts is always being in the Now.
Living in the present is simple and impossibly hard. The complexity of mind distracts in a multitude of ways. Neglecting the quality of thoughts makes presence much harder; if your thoughts work against you, the task is greater. Yet it’s rare to see spiritual guidance on techniques adjusting the thinking mind.
My Nan died at 9pm last night. I wasn’t at her bedside as she drew her last breath. I wasn’t comforting, talking, stroking her hair, holding her hand. I wasn’t with my dad or my mum or my sister, herself facing fear to share this sacred moment. I wasn’t with my aunts or my uncle or my cousins.
My Nan loved in presence. She liked to sit back, to observe, to drink in the atmosphere of family gatherings as mindfully as she’d drink her (specially selected) glass of Cherry Brandy each Christmas. As my awareness grew, I saw this clearer and clearer — she loved her family, us, deeply. So much so, being surrounded by us was all she required to be content, to remain hydrated.
In her final moments, she was surrounded by us. And I’m certain she felt this familiar presence, from those there physically, and those separated by distance but there in spirit, as the Derisz constellation drifts, from Bristol, across the world, to Manchester, to Berlin, to Melbourne, and now the stars.
My family is close in our unique way, as all constellations are unique. Being away from home, awaiting a ping from a phone usually on silent, thousands of miles away, an hour ahead of time, I realised more than ever how close our bond is. We’ve stuck and stick together, we share the highs, we share the lows. Today, we share the grief.
The Realm Of Dreams
My Nan’s breaths slowly shallowed as she faded, peacefully, passing in her sleep, after some days spent in the realm of dreams. A hospice in New York interviewed 14,000 dying patients. The study found, as they drifted in and out of consciousness, from one world to the next, the majority had exceptionally lucid, vibrant visions.
In these states, they had detailed conversations with deceased family members. They reflected on their lives, sort unfinished business. My Nan would’ve lived forever, if she could, but I have no doubt she was finding peace with what was — her physical body, the container of her essence, shutting down.
“Instead of having this fear of death,” said Dr. Christopher Kerr, who documents the hospice study with his team, “it almost transcends the fear of death to something bigger.” Patients report these near-universal dreams are “more real” and different from anything experience before. They offer relief. They offer healing.
Make no mistake — my Nan was getting shit done. She would move on from the physical plane, yes, but only when totally ready. I can picture her now, rolling up her sleeves, telling her son, my uncle Colin — it’s time to get to work. In our lifetime we may never know the full nature of this work, but her fight, resilience, tenacity, and will to keep going will benefit missions of another realm immensely.
May You Be Happy, May You Be Well
All of us had time to process; days passed after the inevitable became clear. It was painful to be away. But I had my time on Wednesday evening. I drifted, in and out of sleep, dazed by lifelike hallucinations. The dream world was vying for my attention.
It’s unlike me to be awake at such an hour, but come 2am, I brewed a mint tea, journalled my reflections, and sat in meditation. Intuitively, I knew; I wasn’t choosing this time or this moment — this time and this moment was choosing me.
My intention was to send loving kindness, compassion, and healing to my Nan, beyond time and space, communicating with her in the place she was, where dreams are lived and shared.
As my mind stilled, an electrifying vision appeared in my mind’s eye, full of life, accompanied by presence, causing a shift in perception, awakening of a deeper intelligence. There you were; sat in your chair, smiling, knowingly. I recited phrases of loving kindness: “May you be happy, may you be well, may you be peaceful, may you be loved.”
I hadn’t cried that day. But then there was the look — you know how it feels, when someone looks at you, attentively. A look felt across distance. A look, in this context, orchestrating a symphony of chills. As my Nan looked at me, completely at ease, a bright white light filled the room; a room so familiar, now drenched in an ethereal, timeless quality of another dimension.
“May we be happy, may we be well, may we be peaceful, may we be loved.”
Opening Our Hearts Through Grief
In that moment, I knew she was okay. I knew she was loved and loving, peaceful, understanding, wise, more alive and vibrant than her physical body ever could be. Her divine spark, previously in one form, now moving towards the light.
As we locked eyes and hugged and shared and smiled and cried, I wasn’t sure who was reassuring who. In truth, maybe we were reassuring each other. That’s what families do.
In the past grief has hardened me, made me put up barriers. It’s taken some work to break open that shell, to move through the pain. But I now understand death has the potential to open our hearts to what is most meaningful.
I am humbled, and I look forward to being with my family — to grieve, appreciate, express the deepest expressions of what it means to be human. To be there.
Black Friday has arrived! A day to hunt for deals and spend, spend, spend. Except for the occasional death or bone-breaking stampede, the day will pass by for most of us in a sea of seeming insignificance. Perhaps we’ll find a deal. Perhaps not. But look below the surface, and Black Friday is a symptom of something much, much darker — a culture dictated by the human ego.
Hypercapitalism is the product of this ego epidemic. Society is agonisingly disjointed from spirit, capitalism is the new God. As the headline suggests, I believe the epidemic of ego has primed hypercapitalism, paved the way for Trump and Brexit, and left us painfully disconnected from our true essence, our soul. I define ego as the illusion we are merely individual, material beings, existing in a dead, material universe.
I’ll argue hypercapitalism functions because it promises happiness, the most powerful drive of human nature. I’ll present two opposing “Tripartites” of happiness. This is reference to the Tripartite Agreement of 1936, where the US, UK and France entered an agreement to stabilize each other’s national currency. It’s also reference to three fundamental points in each model of happiness.
The Tripartite of Hypercapitalism frames happiness from an ego perspective. As is the nature of ego, it is fuelled by false promise of a future where happiness exists. On the contrary, the Tripartite of Genuine Contentment is a blueprint for finding lasting contentment in uncovering our true nature, where abundance, peace and contentment reside.
Conflict between the two Tripartites is causing a spiritual crisis. I argue the further we travel from our spiritual nature, towards hypercapitalism, the more suffering, confusion and disorientation we will endure. Admittedly, it’s an ambitious argument. But hear me out… And get used to the word Tripartite. I’ll use it frequently.
The Epidemic Of Ego Consumption
“We have made ego a cultural value.” Terence McKenna
Egoism frames the Earth as an external entity we happen to inhabit, like visitors passing through. This sense of separation negates our true nature as Mother Earth’s offspring, inseparable from the planet and the wider cosmos. Individuality breeds competition and consumption. We view the Earth as something to consume — look no further than fracking, deforestation or global warming for evidence of this ego-driven, warped sense of reality.
Capitalism isn’t inherently bad. It’s only a system. But our culture of consumption has created hypercapitalism, a term used to describe a society where commercial or business interests “penetrate every aspect of human experience.” Black Friday is a stark reminder the human experience is now deeply entrenched in consumption. Worse still, as individuals, we are encouraged to compete for our share of resources.
Human Nature Limited To Sensory Pleasure
Operating purely on the material plane, we severely limit happiness to sensory pleasures. When we rely on the senses for meaning, we require compliance from the external. And the ego is greedy. We have to consume incessantly. To compensate culturally, our senses are bombarded with information. Louder, faster, tastier, brighter, bigger. There’s nothing wrong with sensory pleasure, but relying on its rewards for happiness is a vicious cycle. We crave, consume, enjoy fleeting rewards, and crave some more. We are never satisfied.
The deepest depths of the human psyche thirsts for connection. It’s our nature to realise ourselves as part of a greater whole, to transcend individuality and connect with ourselves and the unity of our experience. Uncovering such connection is a meaningful endeavor. But when our true nature is seen restricted to egoic individualism, our thirst for connection leads to worshipping the very system promising reward from the external. Hypercapitalism is born.
The Tripartites Of Happiness
We all want to be happy. The beating heart of hypercapitalism is the promise of happiness. Crucially, it can only ever be a promise, it can never deliver lasting happiness. It requires our belief in the promise to function and keep the cogs turning. I refer to this as the Tripartite Of Hypercapitalism. Its three points are Quick Fixes, Comfort, and False Promises. Its centre is the human ego, which is attracted to the Tripartite like moth to a flame.
In opposition, our true essence and source of contentment can be summarised by the Tripartite of Genuine Contentment. Its three points are Resilience, Challenge, Truth. At its centre is the human spirit. These traits are primed for the heart, which is attracted to the Tripartite in a pull of knowing.
Worshipping The New Religion
In many ways, the Tripartite of Hypercapitalism functions like institutionalised religion. It is a belief system. Why? Because it promises happiness if you play by its rules. It does not encourage empowerment of the individual; it requires compliance. Even when we play by its rules, and feel happiness lacking, we conform through fear.
In contrast, the Tripartite of Genuine Contentment functions by encouraging individuals to try for themselves through direct experience. It is not a belief system and does not make promises. It provides guidance, not rules. Momentum along its path is encouraged by the positive results of experimentation, practice, and resilience.
Truth is not learned. It what remains after the learning, the beliefs, the bright lights of Black Friday sales fade. It’s what remains when everything we think we are has dissolved.
Cogs In A Soulless Machine
“There is an agony in the world that comes from the disequilibrium of and the lack of justice and the lack of responsible use of resources. That agony is going to keep manifesting in different ways. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. That to me is our humanness rising up to say: we’ve gotta be counted!” — Ram Dass
We’re minuscule cogs in a soulless, economic machine, a machine devoid of meaning. Intuitively, we know this. But inertia creeps. Ego-dictated culture is sleepwalking us into a consensus trance of crippling limitations. We’re brainwashed to believe consumption and materialism is the Holy Grail — if we acquire what we crave, we’ll be happy.
What encourages people to choose the challenging terrain of the Tripartite of Genuine Contentment? Without psychological crisis or impending physical death, the Tripartite of Hypercapitalism usually wins because it’s the path of least resistance; it provides comfort and encourages inertia. There’s no end destination — it’s a treadmill of False Promise.
Salvation in hypercapitalism is entering Paradise, commonly known as the 1%. This promise is a shrewd way to encourage the masses to buy into a system of equality, despite obvious signs such a system benefits only the smallest minority. We’re told that once you’re in, you’re in. Nothing is quite like being in. But 99% are out.
Dissonance Causing A Spiritual Crisis
Dissonance between both Tripartites causes a crisis of spirit. The farther we drift from our innate spiritual nature, the more more piercing the gut wrenching distance from the Tripartite of Genuine Contentment. But human nature knows Truth. We can try to deceive ourselves, but Truth has a way of seeping into our conscious minds, of reminding us of where we’re at.
Greed is killing the planet, and it’s killing us. Both physically — through cancer or diabetes or heart disease — and mentally, evidenced by the current and continually growing crisis of mental health, with the World Health Organization highlighting depression as the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.
Our hearts don’t comply with False Promises
I believe in our hearts we know there’s more. We feel beyond superficiality, distraction and comfort. Our hearts don’t comply with False Promises. Our guts don’t really believe in Quick Fixes. Dissonance may seep through in the sense of subtle discontent, low-level restlessness or the distant feeling “something” isn’t right.
For some, it bursts from the subconscious as depression or panic attacks, leading to breakdown. Disoriented and gasping for breath, these moments can be a breakthrough in noticing the dissonance between both Tripartites.
A psychological crisis makes us question the existential. This gifts us the opportunity to question the source of our suffering. Consequently, it may become clear the Tripartite of Hypercapitalism leads away from our innate nature. The profundity of this realisation is life changing. Suddenly, moving towards the challenging terrain of the Tripartite of Genuine Contentment, rejecting cultural values to unlearn and discover the values residing within, is essential.
The Responsibility of Happiness
Pay close attention to how you respond to this statement: you are completely responsible for your happiness. How does it feel? Chances are there’s a subtle knowing, perhaps detectable as an excitable murmur from distant awareness. Chances are, to some extent it’s obscured by fear. Taking responsibility for our own happiness means embracing the Tripartite of Genuine Contentment. That’s because we have zero control over the external.
The Tripartite of Hypercapitalism is enticing because it places responsibility for happiness outside of ourselves. Our worth and and well being dependends on what we consume, our status, power, material success, or how we compare to other individuals. Factor in Quick Fixes, Comfort and False Promises, and you can why the majority are pawns in this futile pursuit.
Not only does the Tripartite of Hypercapitalism make the False Promise of happiness. It promises immortality.
The Ultimate False Promise
“We do not realize that our so-called love and concern for the individual is simply the other face of our own fear of death or rejection.” — Alan Watts.
The Tripartite of Hypercapitalism is shiny. Pristine. Perfect. It’s iPhone augmented reality, Kim Kardashian’s photoshopped Instagram selfie. It’s the unspoken implication of the Fountain of Youth. Immortality is vital for hypercapitalism, because we cannot exchange currency from beyond the grave. It’s Alan Watts’ insight on the ego and fear of death applied to the cultural ego epidemic.
When we buy into immortality and bite Apple’s forbidden fruit — whether in money exchange or mentally complying with its ideology — we cut ourselves off from the nature of the soul. Death is inevitable. Yet the Tripartite of Hypercapitalism promises the undeliverable: follow its ideology, play the game, and you’ll escape death.
Ego Death And Denial
From anti-aging creams to portrayals of bodily perfection, the fear of decay scares us into investing. How many of us, if we knew we would die on Saturday, would care about Black Friday’s mega discounts? Faced with death we’d seek Truth. The greater intelligence within would give no option — our gaze would divert from the screen.
I’ve witnessed friends cry through dismay at the aging process on 21st birthdays. While that’s extreme, most of us deny death to some degree. This widespread delusion is romanticised by celebrity culture. The so-called 27 Club can be viewed through hypercapitalism as a promise of eternal youth. Those who’ve passed have become immortaly trapped within Spotify libraries, Netflix catalogues, passages read in Kindle’s dim backlight.
Viewed through the ego epidemic, this is not surprise. A common spiritual inscription is to “die before you die” to reach enlightenment. This isn’t a physical death — it’s the death of what the spiritual seeker saw themselves to be. When attachments die, freedom follows. But denial of life’s impermanence comes from fear. It enslaves us.
A Metaphor For The Totality Of The Earth
Let’s expand our awareness to the totality of Earth. Viewing the Earth as one organism, one being, it’s safe to say the Earth is sick. This sickness is the ego epidemic. Viewed on a global scale, Trump’s election fits this epidemic. He is a caricature of the ego’s fragility, fear, self-preservation and sense of destructive individuality. Brexit is another indication of the ego epidemic, driven by fear, pride and an extreme sense of isolation.
We are cells, with the ability to heal
When we gain clarity and ditch the junk we’ve been conditioned to believe, we realise working together isn’t a choice — it’s the only way of being. We are all part of one organism, the Earth. We can view this scaled down to the human organism. When we are wounded, our cells work together to heal us. To keep us alive, our heart doesn’t see itself better than our arteries and refuse to pump blood. An intelligence greater than the component parts is at work. The same goes for the world. We are cells, with the ability to heal.
The Innate Quality Of Human Experience
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” — T. S. Eliot
The Tripartite of Genuine Contentment gives us so, so much more. But, paradoxically, “more” is really “less.” One of the perplexities of the culture of hypercapitalism is how we are encouraged to seek qualities in the external that naturally reside within. Instead of consuming more and more, we need is to strip away the junk. We need to connect to our spiritual core, which contains an endless, vibrant supply of all the qualities we seek.
We cannot embrace both Tripartites at once. Embracing one means rejecting the other. Of course, we may oscillate between the two on our journey. But if we turn our attention to the Tripartite of Genuine Contentment, we’re rejecting the Tripartite of Hypercapitalism. Not only are we turning towards a path requiring time, effort, change and challenge, we’re actively rejecting Quick Fixes, Comfort and False Promises.
We reject culture. We reject everything we think we know. We embrace the uncertainty of challenge. We refuse to conform. In today’s world, this is a courageous move indeed. But it is essential to fully realise our potential to experience joy and deep contentment. It is essential to actualise our true human nature, to destroy invisible shackles. It is essential for the sake of the planet. And it is essential to be free.
Who Looks Outside Dreams, Who Looks Inside Awakes
One of the biggest rebellions of hypercapitalism is to look within for Truth. “Who looks outside dreams,” said Carl Jung. “Who looks inside awakes.” The world is a reflection of perception. Reality is a consensus perception, a shared agreement. Currently this agreement is filtered through ego. But once awakened, hypercapitalism loses its grip. Reality changes. The illusion is exposed. But then what? What lies beyond the illusion?
We need a bigger yes to shake us from apathy. We have to explore the richness of the human experience and feel it for ourselves. What happens when more of us awaken? What happens when masses find stillness within, spread compassion, love, joy, peace, harmony? What world can we create, what consensus reality can we manifest, if the collective perception sees the Earth as sacred?
Awakening to Truth is not an elusive mystery. Unlike capital or power, it cannot be saved for the 1%. We have the blueprint. We’ve had it for thousands of years. With the rise of technology, the blueprint is more accessible than ever.
When we experience our true nature as human beings as part of one organism, working together isn’t a choice — it’s the only option. Collectively transcending the ego epidemic and rejecting hypercapitalism isn’t just a nice ideology, it’s a crucial leap required in our evolution of consciousness.
If this switch is possible for one, it’s possible for all. And if it’s possible for all, the world can change.