The Fifth Element

February 17th, 2014



Over the last few weeks I have been doing a few fun and interesting work projects. I had been asked to be part of a trial consulting a small start-up business to see if their evolving project could be guided in terms of sustainability and resilience. More on this curious development later.



Work-shopping dynamic models in Stockholm

Work-shopping dynamic models in Stockholm



Not such a big, big world after all



As far as material resources go we live in a finite world. For the longest time the mantra of business and governments[1] has been ‘growth’. It has been used to reassure our poor, huddled masses and cashed up investors alike.



As Eckhart Tolle has amusingly pointed out however, like a frenzied, gambling addict we have become so attached to the egoistic, fear-based idea of growth that we cannot contemplate the other side of that curve: loss. We cannot even bring ourselves to call it that. Instead we hold tight to our illusory security blanket and call it ‘negative growth’.



But is endless, infinite growth sustainable in a world of finite resources? Surely at some point we need to collectively rein in our twin wild horses of fear and desire and let cooler, wiser or even kinder and gentler heads take the reins.



Tat Tvam Asi: “It is you.”



So who are these wiser heads? Look no further than your own Self. It is you.


Collectively, it us.


Our Open House last week with guest speaker Anna Emmelin from the Stockholm Resilience Center.

Our Open House last week with guest speaker Anna Emmelin from the Stockholm Resilience Center.



In the Vedic texts (Upanishads) there are four main phrases containing essential principles of wisdom (Mahavakyas). One of these concerns our illusion that we are a long way from the wisdom of our highest Self (Brahman).


The literal translation of Tat Tvam Asi is “That thou art.” or “It is you.” It reminds us to remember (literally: to put our separated pieces back together) who we are and what we really stand for. We may have acted unwisely for a while. We just need to wake up and remember what we always knew.


In the 2001 movie K-Pax, Kevin Spacey’s character, Prot, (who may or may not be an alien from a distant planet called K-Pax) is being questioned by a psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Powell (played by Jeff Bridges) about life on K-Pax having no rule of law:


Universal Pictures 2001. All rights reserved.

Universal Pictures 2001. All rights reserved.

Dr. Mark Powell: How do you know right from wrong?

Prot: Every being in the universe knows right from wrong, Mark.


Despite how we may try to legitimize some awful things we do to each other and our lovely planet we all really know what we are doing.


From there it is just a choice about what we do next.



The fifth element



Our Western democracy that holds sway in so-called first world countries has its roots in ancient Greece. The very word ‘democracy’ comes from the Greek word ‘demos’ meaning people. Philosophy and medicine (from whose ancient Greek father, Hippocrates, comes our Hippocratic Oath) was based around a four element system.


This ‘four-sided circle’ was very useful for its time. Humans were still a relatively small part of a big planet. Our goals were still very much survival and growth. This golden age of Greece was a launching pad for expansion and many empires to come.


Nowadays though, we are the big, bad dogs of the planet and we have suddenly found that the very tendencies that helped us get to this point are now a liability. We need to change gear. We need another element in the equation. A fifth element. Tat Tvam Asi. It is you.


An attack of love



It is just such a five element system that I have been introducing into these projects over the last week. Actually it was something I used when consulting a global corporation nearly a decade ago. While it was well and generously received the means to implement it were simply not in place then.


This fifth element contains the quality of universal consciousness. Within that is contained unconditional love. That is, love as a state of being, of awareness.


What if we passed every dynamic process, whether it be a business decision, a governmental law or a conflict negotiation and so on through such a filter? What if such a principle had equal weight with budgetary concerns, human resource management, product creation and waste disposal? What if it influenced every step of a process? How would that process look?


How might we even apply these same principles to decision making processes in government or environmental issues? How would this element effect a discussion about declaring war or drilling a protected area? After all, every being in the universe knows right from wrong  – so why are we not applying it in our formal processes?


A friend and colleague once proposed this idea about how our future might evolve: “What if there is no need to have a destructive revolution in order to change the way we do things? What if there was simply an attack of love, of happiness?”



“You may say that I’m a dreamer…”


Well, “…I’m not the only one.” if that is the case. The contribution of love is not as a sentimental emotion dismissed by the cynic[2]. It is an expression of higher consciousness, of awareness. Like the Bodhisattva vow, it wants everyone and everything to be included.


Therefore, in a dynamic system it focuses on maintaining the resilience of that system – its ability to not lose itself through challenge and change but to sustain its own integrity.  A resiliant system may support growth but its primary purpose is sustainablity. 


Sustainability of finite resources is the number one challenge we face in the 21st Century.


It is this fifth element that supports it.


Does not that sound a more realistic path than that of greed and fear posing as inevitability? After all love and joy – the signature of such a dynamic system – are more attractive than the tired, old alternatives.


I will keep you posted on developments in this process. Better yet, share your own.


In the meantime, here’s something to clap along to if you think happiness is the truth:





Till another Monday has you dancing down the street to meet another week on planet earth,

[1] Governments have, for some curious reason been convinced they need to be run like businesses

[2] A definition of a cynic is someone who tries to make the world as miserable for others as they have already made it for themselves





© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:

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