Consent is a very tricky issue. How do I know if consent is real or even possible? How do I tell if what I am consenting to and what you think I am consenting to are the same? What recourse do I have to change my mind and take back my consent midstream for any particular action, including a dramatic personal or global event? When all is said and done, what does consent really mean?
My fundamental premise, which probably seems counter-intuitive at the start, is that nothing – and I mean nothing! – happens without collaboration and consent from friends and foes alike. The fortunate, the damned, the victorious, the suffering, the freed, the oppressed – all must give consent in some form at deeper levels of awareness. In order for an event to “break through” from mere potentiality into a shared physical reality there must be mutual consent on some level.
In my worldview this deeper level of consent is lodged in a realm of consciousness where the greater good is known by all and understood to be without contradiction. It is the stuff of dreams and daydreams and yearnings and complex theatrical productions. It is not an imposed Platonic absolute but a shimmering, pulsating action that is continuously re-framing and refreshing itself based on the awareness and behavior of all its component parts. Each of us dives into that unconscious or semi-conscious realm many times a day and many more times at night when our usual filters and controls fade into the background or disappear altogether. As we step back and discover the broader framework of our collective action, we understand how adversaries could come to be perceived as allies for our development and the exploration and reaffirmation of our purpose. We are known to each other in that realm outside of time and space. Apparent contradictions are understood and resolved: we can agree to take on various roles that ultimately serve the greater good, even if service means taking on the role of “bad guy” or gal for a limited period of time. We may be victim in one moment and perpetrator in the next; leader in one context and follower in another; revered sage in one domain and ridiculed fool in yet another.
I may no longer be alone in thinking this way: more and more mainstream scientists, philosophers and ordinary people are sharing a similar perspective about the awe-inspiring synchrony, as well as terrifying dystopian behavior expressed in the material world as we know it.
Consent is emotional and subjective, offered in the service of a greater good that may not be realized or recognized for a very long time. It may result in joy or pain, comfort or horror, even life or death. For me, the greater good can be described as a conscious or subconscious resonance of shared well-being; it is not a specific social ideal or material destination. Rather, it is a journey towards an individual or collective feeling of fulfillment, and there are infinite ways to get there. We may initially find that resonance only within ourselves, but as our energetic signature radiates outward, our feeling tone perhaps attracts and links first with those of like mind, and then farther outward until we encounter resistance and threat. Finally, however, we find a place where everyone, including friends, adversaries and full-out enemies, are connected and smile simultaneously when we hear a hauntingly familiar and mutually pleasurable sound that for all of us is Home.
Whatever perspective we hold at any given moment, individual qualities combine with collective ones until we find a temporary “sweet spot,” a shimmering tone of unspeakable beauty that we all share and find appealing because the beauty speaks to a part of us that is our common identity.
Alas, such a moment of conscious unified consent usually lasts but a fleeting instant. Sooner or later, however, we learn that impermanence may be our most precious gift of all because we get to leave and return, agree and disagree endless times from endless perspectives! We are not condemned to eternal limitation, nor to reward or punishment based on what we thought was best at any particular time or limited range of awareness. As Maya Angelou said, “When we know better, we do better.” We dart in and out of understanding the way hummingbirds dart in and out of flowers in search of their sweet nectar.
Consent means that we do not have to be, nor can we remain forever oppressed or forever victorious. Even when we feel as if we want to stay where we are forever, inevitably the yearning to experience new challenges takes over and we find ourselves running off to new adventures. If we learned safety, we might become curious about the experience of those who lack it; if we learned poverty, we might become curious about the experience of those who want for nothing. Thank goodness, nothing in our three-dimensional world or in that invisible realm is set in stone or eternally limited! This is true free will in action, true consent expressed. This is the deepest meaning of the assertion that we can and do live in a “safe universe.” The probabilities and mechanics of our multiverse are increasingly and similarly described by mainstream scientists and spiritual teachers, in sharp contrast to countless unsafe images projected at us from every corner of our world.
Quite literally, in my view, we do get to have it all – one way or the other, sooner or later, in time and space or outside of it. We get to know not only what is or was or will be, but also what might have been or might be still. We experience the possible, the probable, the likely, and the actual, over and over and over again in any moment or hour or day or century. This is the gift of self-awareness, of consciousness, of consent. Our consent to take part in the greater good, in the resonance of shared well-being, permits us unlimited experience in unlimited roles from unlimited vantage points. This is the deeper meaning of consent and the reason we can stop avoiding or denying our participation in mass events we do not like. Such events give us the opportunity to find out who we are and for that we are eventually grateful. Another way to put it, as my father liked to say, is this: “All is revealed.” Through mutual consent we are revealed to ourselves and to others, as they are to us.
Understanding these deeper levels of consent actually returns our power to us. Sooner or later we must embrace our agency and mastery, even if some of our shared creations make us horrified and ashamed of what we have built. The good news is this: just as we can create anything, we can also transform anything – including horror – into a moment of unspeakable beauty when with one voice we say “Aaaaaaahhhh” or “Enough!” We can even fall back for a time in awe, into the silence of the void where nothing at all is expressed outwardly and where consent therefore has no meaning. No meaning, that is, until the desire for individualized expression begins to stir again and we look for new consensual partners to produce yet another series of “passion plays.” How fortunate we are for the gift and the grace and the responsibility that comes with consent!