Microvita: where Mind Dissolves into Wonder

An introduction to the theory of microvita and its relationship with mind, consciousness, science, and civilization.

by Marcus Bussey

The image of the machine has had a profound impact on our culture and the way it both creates and describes itself. It is hard to overestimate the power that this single image has had on the history of the 20th century. It has been the ruling god of modernism.

While the enduring image of the Titanic casts a long shadow, the economic machine that created it still worships progress and believes in its ultimate triumph. As if to prove this point the Titanic has become a parable of human, not mechanistic, folly which generates fat incomes for those able to tell the story anew. The machine is unstoppable. It inhabits both our fears and our hopes and has become the object of some of the most powerful imagery in popular culture for both what is desirable and what is most to be feared. This ambivalence is at the heart of the image’s power and longevity.

One way in which this metaphor has invaded our lives and consciousnesses is in how we construct time. Time supplies the human energy that runs the machine. Time is at the basis of our economy. We buy and sell it in order to live. People with time either have lots or little money. For the majority of people in the middle, time is precious indeed, and there never seems to be enough of it! In our mechanistic world-view time has been commodified and must be accounted for. Wasting time is a sin.

Getting Involved
Human beings live according to metaphors and images that are culturally received. The Machine is perhaps the most powerful of these. These images carry huge power in the values and desires they promote.

From a Neo-Humanistic perspective these images are highly charged with microvita that shape the aspirations and realities of millions of people. Culture, be it human culture or pseudo-culture, is the expression of these microvita at work within the collective and individual lives of us all. Microvita, a concept developed by Indian philosopher P.R.Sarkar, are essentially the building blocks of the universe. Much smaller than atoms, they are the bridge between consciousness and matter. Hence this ancient dualism ceases to distort our perception of reality. The material world, the psychic world of thought and the spiritual world are all part of one whole, merely being different places in a continuum from crude to subtle.

There is much talk about the immanence of, and need for, a shift in our model of an ideal society. There is no shortage of insightful and clever critiques of current civilizational practices and there are budding movements all around the globe screaming out that we do not need to follow the logic of the machine; there is another way to live. Feminism has identified deep structural issues of gender, post-modernists have pointed to the misplaced human compulsion to surrender autonomy to centers of meaning that masquerade as Truth, Marxists have identified structures of class and economics that inhibit the expression of human potential, Proutists point to the silence of the spirit and the prime role of the individual in the reclamation of self and future, while futurists are pointing out that the impoverishment of social and cultural imagination are depriving future generations of a healthy balanced world. The list could go on.

The point is that we are at a civilizational cross-roads and that there are enough indicators (ecological, cultural, economic and psychological) for us to recognize that the proverbial writing is on the wall. As human beings we are faced with the choice of getting involved in the struggle to shape a desired future for all or in each of us bunkering down and worrying solely about one’s own backyard. As a teacher of children I have felt pressure to engage in the future in an active way that sees beyond curriculum and organizational constraints. One aspect of this process is seeking to understand how microvita works within my culture and my classroom.

If consciousness has a subtle physical manifestation (microvita) and if there are positive and negative forms of this microvita and if ideas (a form of consciousness) are also microvita, then learning is about the transference of microvita; and cultures can be seen as the sum total of the microvita in operation within the field of human experience.

Sarkar as he developed this idea used as his frame of reference the Indic model of Tantra. He saw social structures as ‘collective plexii’ (in Tantric terms, chakras) that could be influenced by positive and negative microvita just like the physical plexii or chakras within humans. Society here is a body of organic inter-relationships as opposed to a machine. Equating society to the human body is an ancient, powerful metaphor that lets us think about change from an organic perspective rather than a managerial one.

What are these collective plexii in society? To Sarkar they are any grouping of people: the family, school, work place, office, corporation, locality, state, nation, religion, etc. As with the plexii or chakras of the human body so also with the collective body. Here we find some chakras are more significant in providing the momentum for positive change. Education, schools and classrooms are well placed to disseminate microvita. Yet schools always reflect the dominant values of society rather than challenging them or taking them in different directions.

Sarkar’s theory defines social structures, for the first time, in terms of the consciousness they reflect as opposed to the features they display. Sure, schools are bureaucracies; they are usually hierarchically structured and authoritarian; and they are essentially conservative and they have hidden and well as explicit curricula. We can search for answers within the fields of political science, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, sociology, economics, and history but so far we have not sought for answers within a model that has such a mysterious base as spirituality.

Sohail Inayatullah argues that “the way in which one frames a problem changes the policy solution and the actors responsible for creating transformation.” He offers four layers of analysis within our experience of reality to support this view:

• Layer 1: Litany, superficial and disconnected. Deals with quantitative trends and problems. The domain of the mass media and party politics.
• Layer 2: Social, offers some in-depth analysis at a social, historical, economic and cultural level. This is the domain of most academic work and of policy institutes.
• Layer 3: Structural, looks at the deeper issues of structure, discourse and world view. Here the point is that discourse and the language of discourse constitute the issues under examination.
• Layer 4: Myth and Metaphor. Here we find the deep stories that define and frame our emotional responses to issues, the unconscious dimension.

By bringing microvita and collective plexii into an analysis of social structure and change we can move from the second and third layers of analysis to the fourth level where the water is murky and less easily penetrated by empirical analysis. What is significant is that real change is only born at this level of ‘reality’.

Thus the deep, often unconscious, aspirations of those seeking change are important. Without this intimate relationship between change and those changing, the experience is simply change from the top and it will fail because only the form is altered, not the spirit.

Shaping the Future

Consciousness is rooted in the fourth layer. Paradoxically it pervades all we do and yet is the most elusive force to identify and describe because we seek to identify it with first, second and third layer tools. The most interesting challenges to the present crisis (if I can use such a purple term) are coming from those seeking to generate change from the fourth layer. The English poet Robert Graves in his book, The White Goddess, describes, amongst other things, the struggle between two peoples and their mythologies. He said they felt they were locked in a battle between the elements of their world; the poetry of the time is rich in images of trees, which represented different language systems, locked in a deadly battle for supremacy. This was their way of describing the deep tension and distress such a paradigm creates.

Today we are engaged in such a struggle. It is a struggle for the power to shape the future. There are many heroes and villains. And the roles are cast so that truth and honour are apportioned according to where you stand. For example, Matthew Fox is, to the Catholic church, a heretic priest and excommunicate who got too close to the fire of new age theology; but to many others he is an enlightened and brave helmsman to a happy and more whole tomorrow. Similarly, science has thinkers like Rachel Carson and Rupert Sheldrake who challenge the deep structures and dominant values and power structures of their discipline. Sarkar, as a mystic and philosopher, has challenged both the models of East and West by stepping into the light and offering ancient Tantric solutions and insights in the form of Prout and Neo-Humanism to many pressing social, ecological and cultural issues.

The spiritual frame which has shaped his ideas makes for a deeper perception of the ‘real’. Microvita as an abstract but potent force is one such example of this deeper idea at work. When we read social institutions such as bureaucracies and schools, political parties, cultures and neighborhoods as ‘collective plexii’ and start to ponder the effects of microvita on them then we can also begin to reframe our solutions so that we embrace action rooted in consciousness.

The implications of microvita theory for social renewal are great. The current political obsession with changing forms has proven that no change really results from this legerdemain. People within institutions need to be inspired with the desire to change and empowered with the skills to effect change from within. It seems to me that such a mix of inspiration and skill will emerge over time as more and more people question and resist the forces at work within institutions. It is likely that history - societal and evolutionary forces - will also help this process along with a few sharp blows to stir up our ire and tear away our lethargy and inertia.

To return to my brief description of the modernist concept of time, as a teacher I am a prisoner of the time constraints that a managerial curriculum places on my classroom. To make an opening for positive microvita in our classroom I need to embrace a more spacious curriculum that allows for creative and spiritual explorations of our selves and our world. To do this effectively I need to develop within myself the sensitivities that sustain spiritual and creative pursuits in order to model and demonstrate them in the class. I also need the strength and inspiration to sustain the change and necessary chaos that will come with the initial attempt to shift the underpinnings of the class to more spacious endeavours. I will also need the determination and courage to stand up to the pressures and doubts of the broader school and parent culture that is so powerful in demanding adherence to the status quo.
From our current perspective microvita may be mysterious but they are not undetectable. The more subtle the mind, the deeper the vision, and the more sensitive it is to microvita. The best rule of thumb is that when you sense expansion, and hope; a thirst to know and share in the wonder of the universe; greater awareness and sensitivity to ones’ environment; the capacity to transcend the prejudices of race, gender and creed, class and caste; the desire to ‘go forth’ and help and the absence of fear in doing so; then you are under the influence of positive microvita. Negative microvita is that which instills narrowness and fear, hatred and division in the mind.

I feel that if I can transform my small area of existence even slightly then I am helping in the overall shift towards a more equitable and safer future. It is important to realize that such an effort is not grounded in some superstitious folly (remember it was folly that sank the Titanic) but is one reading of the deep mythic level of being that works with shadows, and echoes, chaos and mystery.

Creative and meditative processes best capture this dimension, as they are non-linear, expansive and generate hope. So I will end with a passage from the New Zealand novelist Margaret Mahy who in writing for adolescents spread some positive microvita with these wondrous words:

“The first scientists had all been imagination men. Following after them, Tycho discovered a strange thing. It was impossible for explanation to make anything commonplace to him. The more clearly things revealed themselves the more intensely mysterious they became. The very moment when he felt he had things most clearly in his sights was the very moment they silently dissolved back into wonder so he could not dispose of mystery, only move more deeply into it."

Marcus Bussey is an educator and futurist with articles and book chapters published in the areas of education, art history, spirituality, PROUT theory and futures. He is currently principal of Harmony Montessori School, Buderim, Queensland, Australia. He can be reached on at: info at futuresevocative.com