Author, philosopher and systems scientist, Ervin Laszlo has pointed out that if it is good for the whole, it is good for its parts. Flipping this arrangement, unfortunately, doesn’t necessarily bring about similar results. What is good for the individual is not necessarily always good for the whole. We have evolved with a survival instinct that in our early evolution was necessary for our species to flourish. However, as we approach a population of 8 billion people, it is time to put in the work to elevate our consciousness beyond fear and separation and toward unified coherence.
To do this, we need to hold up examples of transformative stories and diverse forms of expression that reflect a shift toward global unity consciousness. The stories we tell and the characters we emulate create powerful emotional ties to beliefs and values.
For the majority of us, the plot line and characters within these classic tales have long involved a solitary individual, confronted with a challenge, requiring a journey to overcome an obstacle and return transformed. It is an effective story arc and one that has been critically important in our personal evolution. But in this new way forward, perhaps it’s time to shift our perspective. How would our global culture transform if we were to shift this narrative to feature the collective embarking on the ultimate heroic journey of change, rather than playing to the ego of a rugged individual going at it alone? In this context, acts of “heroism” are grounded in compassion, purposeful-action, deep listening and collaboration for the good of the whole rather than the survival of the individual.
The Age of Heroic Collaboration
By reframing the context of what has long been defined as a “hero’s journey,” we can provide the stories and living examples of collaboration necessary to change the world. Fortunately, we have plenty of people embodying a new story of heroism within the framework of holism that we can look to for guidance.
Duane’s story is one of perseverance, built upon years of commitment, service and values honoring the good of the whole. In 2001, Duane received an honorary Doctor of Philosophy from the California Institute of Integral Studies in recognition for his work for “ecological and spiritual transformation.” He also received the International Goi Peace Award in Japan in 2006, in recognition of his contribution to a global “vision, consciousness, and lifestyle” that fosters a “more sustainable and spiritual culture.”
For over 50 years, his work as an anti-war activist, environmentalist and researcher have all been guided by the foundational question; “Who are we in this journey?” Duane explains:
“Who are we on this journey? Are we just physical bodies in a short lifetime trying to advance our egos, or is there some deeper, larger journey we are on? And what is the journey? The journey is to discover and learn that we are in a living universe. We are beings of profound aliveness, far beyond what we currently recognize in a materialistic world, and as we open to this aliveness that we each, uniquely embody, we then come into relationship with the larger aliveness and a light goes on.”
The classical hero’s journey is so often about the great searching road of an individual, overcoming personal obstacles for personal transformation. While this is a beautiful and necessary experience, in the context of the Holomovement, we have an opportunity to reframe what it means to embark on a heroic journey and the necessary connection this involves with each other, the planet and our personal sense of purpose in line with the greater good of the whole.
Duane’s commitment to environmentalism and using the tools of mass media to inspire and invite collaborative action all exemplify purposeful work within our collective heroic journey. As Duane shared during our conversation; “We are beyond heroes now, this is the age of collaboration.”
A Lifetime Commitment to the Collective
His journey has not been without adversity and personal transformation. As a pre-med student during the Vietnam War, he was asked to take his first of many ethical stands. After living half a year in France as a student, and countless conversations with a Jesuit Priest named Daniel Berrigan who lived in the same student building, Duane returned to the United States with a change of focus on his original career path. It was at this time that Duane closed his chapter as a pre-med student and began his journey in conscious work. As he states; “I shifted from physical healing to social healing.” Finishing his undergraduate education, Duane went on to the University of Pennsylvania earning an MBA from the Wharton School and an MA in economic history.
In 1972, Duane began work as a senior researcher on the staff of the “Presidential Commission on Population Growth and the American Future” in Washington, DC. It would prove to be an invaluable experience, as well as disheartening, as Duane shares in his book “Choosing Earth;” “I was surprised to see the extent to which policies are dominated by short-term considerations and the power of special interests.”
After leaving Washington and moving to California, Duane began work as a senior social scientist in the “futures group” of the Stanford Research Institute (SRI International) think-tank. In the years that followed, he co-authored a number of studies of the long-range future as well as co-authored a pioneering study with Joseph Campbell and a team of scholars called “Changing Images of Man.” His years of collective research and experience further emphasized humanity’s need to make remarkable changes environmentally, culturally and personally if we were to avoid destroying the biosphere and our species.
While at SRI, Duane was asked to be a subject in psychic research “exploring humanity’s intuitive skills and psychic potentials.” One of four participants in experiments involving both “receiving” and “sending” aspects of consciousness, Duane repeatedly experienced a profound understanding that “the world is alive and permeated with consciousness and subtle energy. Our physical body provides a stable foundation for learning about the nature of consciousness, which is not limited to our body, but extends into the universe as an ever-present intelligent knowing and aliveness.”
Choosing Earth and Other Inspired Writings of Wisdom
Duane’s commitment to research and writing have been shaped by his many experiences and a profound connection to our planet and the need for a “planetary-scale voice” for our the Earth. As an author, Duane sets the standard for the cooperative spirit of the Holomovement with the publication of his many influential books. His book “Voluntary Simplicity,” first published in 1981, centers around a life of outward simplicity while creating a rich inner life. His insights couldn’t be more relevant for our current time. If the wealth of the developed world could be used more toward the global good and less towards the accumulation of unnecessary material possession, that alone would bring a huge planetary and cultural shift. If our Hollywood heroes would buy a smaller mansion or one less SUV and donate the difference to a good social cause, our old paradigm heroes would have less material responsibilities to worry about.
Another of Duane’s landmark publications was “The Living Universe” (2009), inspired by his time at SRI, explaining how our universe has the qualities of a living being. His insights provide a compelling and compassionate base for a new worldview in which the entire universe, including seemingly inanimate physical objects, are actually alive and evolving, changing the traditional perspective that most of the universe is made of inert matter and empty space. Elgin’s vision of a living universe is now slowly becoming the base understanding of a living energetic field of existence as the true nature of reality.
Choosing Earth is his current anchor point in his endeavors to aid our global family in this next transition. As co-director, Duane is engaged in Choosing Earth’s project goal to “to foster understanding of the magnitude, speed and depth of challenges confronting humanity and the creative opportunities for transformation. This fiery transition is calling forth our collective maturity and inviting humanity to grow in conscious regard for the well-being of all life.”
Duane’s tireless endeavors and lifetime commitment in aiding the collective’s heroic journey in saving our planet and our species is a remarkable testament to what is possible when we follow our sense of purpose. His most recent book “Choosing Earth” (revised edition 2022) “looks a half-century into the future to explore humanity’s journey of collective initiation and transformation as we move through decades of breakdown and collapse to a more mature, planetary community.” Duane has generously shared this book for free as a pdf download available here. You can also watch the documentary video on Choosing Earth which was directed by Coleen LeDrew Elgin. Finally, there is a link to courses and workshops offered by Duane and his wife Coleen. Please enjoy these resources as you explore the new world of the hero’s journey that honors the path of the collective becoming ever more whole and compassionate.
Thus, a new story of heroism is required, one that reflects the collective transformative adventure rather than the lone ranger overcoming adversity. We can no longer glorify individualism. We have to participate in our communities rather than withdraw from them. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. eloquently states it another way; “… ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But the good Samaritan came by and he reversed the question. Not ‘What will happen to me if I stop to help this man?’ but ‘What will happen to this man if I do not stop to help him?’
The question of our time is now “what can I do to contribute to the whole and how can the whole be healed through our contributions?” Yes, we have our autonomy and unique, individual gifts but we can also take heart in knowing when we are able to lift the veil of separation we are held by and within a Field of Oneness. This understanding is also reflected in The Holomovement, both in David Bohm’s initial definition and in this present-day incarnation, reminding us that our transformative pursuit is not the lonely journey we often believe it to be. This is not the journey of the singular, lone hero we have been taught. This is all of us on a heroic journey together.