Duane Elgin


American Author, Futurist, Speaker, Educator, Consultant and Media Activist concerning "Voluntary Simplicity"

Author Quotes

Physicists talk about the basic building block of this reality as being the photon, which is light. Now that means we already live in an ecology of light, that we already are beings of light, right now. It's just that it's fairly dense here. So you could say that the endpoint of evolution is already in front of us, in that sense. As we fulfill our potential for knowing that we know, often this awakening is described as being bathed by a light with immense wisdom and compassion. I feel that we are immersed in that light right now in the midst of a living universe. Evolution seeks to allow that light to flow into our being and then out into expression in the world. Now, is that the final endpoint of evolution? I don't think so. What I think is happening is something perhaps even more extraordinary. As we come to our center of knowing that we know, that's really just the beginning of evolution. When we are stabilized in our own deeper sense of self, we can then move in the deep ecologies of eternity as conscious, active, co-creative participants. So rather than the endpoint, it's really the starting point. I think the cosmos is a place for life-forms to come to self-referencing knowing freely. Realizing our potential for double wisdom marks the beginning point of a whole new phase of evolution.

I think it's very important to look at nature's designs as we try to understand our evolutionary journey. And if we come into alignment with nature, my sense is that our evolutionary journey is going to be much easier and smoother. If you look at what nature's doing, whether at the atomic level, the human level, or the galactic, you see this common signature, a common shape that emerges, which, in a static form, looks like a doughnut and in its dynamic form could look like a tornado, a hurricane, or a whirlpool. Called a "torus," this is the simplest structure of a self-organizing system. Atoms have that structure; galaxies have that structure. And so what I infer is that at every level the universe has a central project, and what the universe is doing is creating self-organizing systems. Now Homo sapiens sapiens is the capacity to be consciously self-organizing. If you know that you know, you have the capacity to center yourself, to organize yourself, and to take charge of your life. Becoming a fulfilled Homo sapiens sapiens is the fulfillment of what the universe is all about. So as it turns out, we have given ourselves a name that is completely in alignment with the fulfillment of the universe's common purpose.

We are not simply hitting an environmental wall, or the limits to physical growth, but we are hitting an evolutionary wall, which is the limit of our traditional image of who we think we are as a species, and the limit of that form of growth. And we are also hitting the limits of our life stories as nations, as races, as ethnic groups. We need to find our larger story as a human family. So when we look at our sense of identity as a species and our need for a larger story, then that invites us to look into the so-called spiritual realm.

The next opportunity trend is the emergence of simpler ways of living that put less stress on the earth. These lifestyles of simplicity are not so much driven by sacrifice as they are by a new sense of where satisfaction is to be found. What I see emerging in the world now is what I call the "garden of simplicity." There are some people who are practicing a more frugal simplicity by cutting back on their spending and decreasing the impact of their consumption on the earth. They're choosing to live simply, in Gandhi's words, so that others may simply live. Someone else may be practicing a "political simplicity," feeling that we have to organize our collective lives in a way that enables us to live lightly and sustainably on the earth-and that means changes in our transportation, education, media, and so on. There's also an approach that I call "soulful simplicity," which means approaching life as a meditation and cultivating our experience of intimate connection with all that exists.

There is the idea of a living universe. Science has traditionally regarded the universe as nonliving at its foundations, but it's extraordinary that now, at the frontiers of science, we're beginning to find out that the universe itself is functioning as if it were a living system. For example, the physics theory of nonlocality tells us that the universe is connected with itself, despite its enormous size. And physicists say that there are enormous amounts of energy at the foundations of the universe, the so-called zero-point energy. Also, consciousness appears to be present at every level of the universe, from the atomic scale (and the behavior of electrons that seem to have a mind of their own) on up through the human scale. So the universe has the properties of a living system; life exists within life. This is an amazing miracle, and as we discover this, I think that it is going to begin to shift who we think we are and what we think our life-journey is about. It's transformative. The idea and the experience of a living universe is a powerful recontextualization of who we think we are and where we think we're going.

I feel that there are a number of equally powerful opportunity trends that are cooking away in the world that have the power to transform what could be an extraordinary evolutionary crash into an evolutionary bounce. The first is the power of perception, the capacity to see the universe as a living system. The second is the power of choice, the power to choose different ways of life. The third is the power of communication, the power to use these incredible tools of communication for purposes way beyond commerce. And the fourth is the power of love, the ability to bring a spirit of reconciliation into relationships of all kinds. We could speak about each of these, but collectively they are an extraordinary force for transformation in the world.

What we're really facing is the convergence of a number of powerful trends-climate change, species extinction, the spread of poverty, and the growth in population. All of these factors could develop individually, but what's unique about our time is that the world has become a closed system. There's no place to escape, and all of these powerful forces are beginning to impinge upon one another and reinforce one another. Our situation is something like a set of rubber bands that you stretch out and out and out until they reach the limit of their elasticity, which is the breaking point of the system. My sense is that we still have a fair amount of elasticity in the world system. It's going to be another couple of decades until we reach the breaking point.

I think the collective unconscious is actually becoming the Collective Consciousness. With the mass media, every time we watch some event, whether it's a mass sporting event or it's the president speaking about one thing or another, we are tuning in with our collective consciousness to a happening in the world. In the past, we didn't have that ability. And so in a way, we have been awakening a capacity for reflective consciousness at a social level unbeknownst to humanity. It's an almost invisible process of bio-osmosis; we are developing a new capacity for witnessing, for being an observing species, and this is transformative.

There is a field of energy that permeates the universe. This is understood by science, and now what we're beginning to discover is that field of energy is alive. One of its qualities is sentience or consciousness, and we can interact with that field. We're not just closed off in our physical bodies. We have the capacity to interact with the larger field of consciousness; it permeates our lives and touches us day-in and day-out. If there is needless suffering happening in the world, it tinges and colors the ocean of consciousness that we swim in, and we imbibe this daily. So, if we can create a world without undue suffering--one where we're not killing off all of these species and harming one another--it will change the atmosphere of our lives.

If we see the universe as not simply a bunch of dead matter and empty space but actually a living system, then our story may well be one of learning how to live together in a living universe. If we don't have a story to guide us into the future, we're going to pull back into our smaller life stories of the past--stories of nationalism, of ethnic groups, of tribal groups, of geographic groups--and instead of pulling together in cooperation we're going to pull apart in conflict. What I am suggesting is to step back and see the universe as our original, larger home. If we are going to pull together as a human family for a promising future, this is an inclusive project; no one is left out.

Is the universe dead or alive at it's foundation? This is a powerful question. Be prepared for strong points of view; people often have an immediate response. Some people view the universe as non-living at the foundations, see space as empty, matter as inert, and believe that we as living creatures have evolved from empty space and inert matter. “It is nothing more than fantasy and superstition to think the whole universe is alive.” Other people respond instantly, saying, “Of course it's alive, how could you think otherwise? It is incomprehensible that the experiences of awe evoked by the universe could arise unless the universe around us is alive

Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition. It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions. It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose. Of course, as different people have different purposes in life, what is relevant to the purpose of one person might not be relevant to the purpose of another....The degree of simplification is a matter for each individual to settle for himself.

The essence of voluntary simplicity is living in a way what is outwardly simple and inwardly rich.

Living simply is not about living in poverty or self-inflicted deprivation. It's about living an examined life where one has determined what is truly important and enough … and then just let go of all the rest.

Satisfactions are the fulfillment of the heart. Dissatisfactions are the fumbling of the mind.

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American Author, Futurist, Speaker, Educator, Consultant and Media Activist concerning "Voluntary Simplicity"