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Collective Consciousness

Collective consciousness is important not only for a balanced moral and social functioning of a nation, but also for national existence and stability. Religion and moral character are central to the spirit and foundation of a nation’s collective consciousness. As opposed to the wrong actions and immoral behavior seen in mob movements, the actions of disciplined and cautious individuals with collective consciousness are priceless and attain extraordinary achievements.
| M. Fethullah Gulen | Issue 153 (May - Jun 2023)

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Collective Consciousness

In This Article

  • While it is possible at opportune times to introduce change, efforts in that direction more often than not bring about nothing due to masses which cannot control their excitement and leaders who cannot restrain their greed.
  • “Collective consciousness” is different than mob psychology. It demands careful reflection, calculation of the past and present together, and the ability to see the pieces together with the whole.
  • The modest characters of collective consciousness are as much related to the future of society as they are to its present. This is why at times they cry out their thoughts heroically, while at other times they keep quiet and endure unimaginable derision and insult, so the future generations are not harmed.

The most stressful periods in the lives of nations are during social change and regeneration. Similar to the metamorphosis experienced by some living creatures, the process of renewal includes pain, difficulty, waves of indignation – it is a time when certain things need to be left behind and others taken on. With events that cause mass tension, it is inevitable that there will be individual and social crises. Also, if changes are enacted based on unproven practices, there will often be mistakes; from time to time, reason and judgment can be defeated by emotion. If such changes are to be implemented, their boundaries can be over-stepped and general harmony can be turned upside-down squeezed in the framework of shallow, small projects. Contrary to the general expectation, unimaginable hardships can be met; consequently, the masses, and especially those in power, act emotionally instead of reasonably, often causing serious devastation.

In periods of reconstruction or revolution, events may overlap with a certain, surprising fate, giving people opportune moments to act. While it is possible at such times to introduce change, efforts in that direction more often than not bring about nothing due to masses which cannot control their excitement and leaders who cannot restrain their greed; eventually, society reverts to the old order. For one thing, during times of change and revolution, individuals behave differently than during normal times. When individuals become an inseparable member of a mass that move in a certain direction and sweep away whatever comes their way, act as one collective creature. Having experienced a mental change, these people act under the influence of mob psychology rather than with a sober mind as individuals, and they do everything according to its directives.

This mob psychology is completely different from “collective consciousness” which I have always recommended, with its characteristics of careful reflection, calculation of the past and present together, and the ability to see the pieces together with the whole. But it is a way of comprehension and action. In one of these there is feeling and excitement and, consequently, imbalance; in the other logic, judgment, discipline and caution are basic. If outwardly, both states and styles of behavior appear to promise the same things for the future, it is inevitable that in one of these, results contrary to the movement’s essence and goals will occur, while in the other, mistakes and fiascos are avoided.

Collective consciousness is important not only for a balanced moral and social functioning of a nation, but also for national existence and stability. Religion and moral character are central to the spirit and foundation of a nation’s collective consciousness. As opposed to the wrong actions and immoral behavior seen in mob movements, the actions of disciplined and cautious individuals with collective consciousness are priceless and attain extraordinary achievements.

Breakthroughs and movements realized by aiming at high ideals and lofty purposes always knead individuals by shaping them into social creatures. If the planners of any movement give value to reason over emotion, judgment over enthusiasm, experience and observation over passion, and if they can realize their projects in the light of the divine message, they will succeed to lead even masses which often act with emotions to stability and moderation. This may help them be allies with those more advanced in caution and thought to form a broad base. Thus, by sharing this understanding and being transformed in the crucible of collective consciousness, even those who are not as prominent intellectually and in thought can rise to become fellow individuals of an ideal society.

Even if all developments of a revolution or rebirth appear to have come forth magically, it is possible to see all of them in connection to a vital origin. This origin is a nation’s moral values and character nurtured with a faithful spirit. A nation’s moral values make individuals of that nation, from past to present, share the same feelings and thoughts, act with the same considerations, live the same excitement, fight for the same values, and compete to realize the same ideals.

There are other factors at work that have an influence over individuals and masses, but none can compare to a nation’s connections to its roots of spirit and essence. Individuals who continue their bond with material and spiritual dynamics from the past can attain a similar fervor with their forefathers; they can display heroic achievements as were achieved in the past and based on that they can put forth a new way of thinking and brand-new criteria that can affect the whole world’s social landscape.

The world is going through rapid changes and transformations. While walking towards a future in which consecutive revolutions will be lived, it is as important as to invite people to faith, and perhaps more important, to protect the nation’s spirit; to bring individuals and the masses to an understanding on an axis of caution and calmness; to not permit ideas, tendencies and behavior that will drag the masses to outbursts and provocation; and to dissuade any  incendiary groups. In regard to feeling and thought, the masses, who can easily fall from love to hate, from togetherness to separation, and from common action to dispersion, absolutely should not be allowed to be pushed towards haste or, the influence of adventurous spirits. Nor should they be pushed towards anything that denigrates them or their collectivity. Their gaze should constantly be turned towards the sincere representatives of the Divine revelation and the Prophet tradition. In these enlightened pillars of collective consciousness, effacement, humility, and modesty prevail over vanity; self-sacrifice over selfishness; and social good over personal interests.

These modest characters are as much related to the future of society as they are to its present. This is why at times they cry out their thoughts heroically, while at other times they keep quiet and endure unimaginable derision and insult, so the future generations are not harmed. They imprison their bubbling magna-like feelings and excitement in their bosoms and then, as if nothing had happened, they move on. These sensitive spirits act with the consciousness of duty and the exhilaration of worship, giving up their own joy for the sake of others’ happiness. They do not expect thanks from anyone for the things they have done. They consider not running to help those in need to be an unforgivable deficiency and disloyalty; they take themselves to account without any hesitation.

They always live with hope and do not fail to evaluate the material-spiritual dynamics of their plans and projects, which were conceived according to their hopes. Their only expectations are attaining a level of true sincerity in their actions and God’s pleasure. They always consider the rewards and favors that come in return for their service and unwanted pains with either a concern that they may be a means of trial for which they may lose in the Hereafter, or as a means of gratitude of God’s blessings. Swallowing their fears and expressing their joy as a song of trust in God, they murmur and live cautiously.

These people are not characters that just “surrender.” They submit (taslim) to their fate and leave their affairs to God (tafwid) only after they do whatever is necessary (tawakkul). They are extremely sensitive to what is happening around them, and as sharp and determined in their indignation. They absolutely do not act based on their emotions, either in worldly affairs or otherworldly matters, and they weigh their efforts and movements with divine commands. They take into consideration people’s comprehension levels, and take decisions accordingly. Determining the place and position of our existence in nature, they refrain from behavior that may result in opposition to phenomena and events, and they try to remain in conformity with the laws of creation.

Yes, in order to walk sure-footedly towards the enlightened future that we nurture with hope, I consider the following point, which could be expressed more broadly, of vital importance.

• Nations, particularly our intellectuals, should reach a reconciliation with the past.

• Historical dynamics and nation’s spiritual essence must be taken into consideration before future projects and reforms are introduced.

• Such projects and reforms should not be tarnished by political or personal interests.

• It is important to proceed with caution and preparation with the concern that there may be some complications in such efforts. Those who act upon their youth fervor and sense of adventure should not be given opportunity to spoil the process. Even when our honor and pride are wounded, we should temper our excitement with patience, and be willing to endure anything for the sake of this lofty goal.

• What do we want to build? This should be decided first if anything will be destroyed. If things that are old, crumbling, and out-of-date will be replaced, it should only be to build something better instead. Before destroying something, a model of what will be constructed must be introduced.

• Decisions and actions in every job should be nurtured with knowledge, wisdom, and caution; determination and effort should be supported by research and ability so that constructions are not followed by destructions.

There is no doubt that at this moment in history we are at a crossroads in which events seem to overlap in a certain fate. Being conscious of the delicacy of our state of being, if we can use great thought, careful planning, and prophetic resolve, we can emerge from this period as a star of good fortune.

I fully believe that we will overcome our current misery, our social and economic inconsistencies, and the disorder constantly enflamed by internal and external agents of sedition. There is a bottom to every fall; events never continued along the same road; nights never do not last forever; when the time came, ruins were rebuilt. With the turning of the cycle, those who once cried were able to laugh; nights were defeated by days; and everyplace shone with light.


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