Collective effervescence…

In his book – The Anxious Generation – Jonathan Haidt speaks about “drawing on wisdom from ancient traditions and modern psychology to tray to make sense of how phone-based life affects people spiritually by blocking or counteracting six spiritual practices: shared sacredness; embodiment; stillness, silence, and focus; self-transcendence; being slow to anger, quick to forgive; and finding awe in nature.”

I too have touched upon each of these topics, albeit not in a connected manner. As I went through Jonathan’s recommendations, I realized a common thread that is worth exploring from the Sanatana schools of thought.

Let’s look at the first spiritual practice – shared sacredness.

Philosophers have long argued that we exist on two levels – one at an individual level where we are more concerned with our day-to-day lives – our wealth, our health and our reputations. The second, at a level where collective interests predominate. A simple example is our recent celebrations (a bit over the top actually) when India won the T20 World Cup – a collective thrill and euphoria that stays for a few hours or days and then settles as we go on with our daily lives. However, that experience does bring us together, doesn’t it? There is a term for this – it’s called “collective effervescence”.

Sanatana Dharma does not directly address the concept of “collective effervescence” as it is understood in modern social science. However, it does provide insights into the nature of human society, morality, and the role of the divine that can shed light on this phenomenon.

While Sanatana Dharma emphasizes individual spiritual development, it also recognizes the vital role of community and social harmony. The concept of Varnas outlines a social structure based on one’s natural aptitudes and duties to society. This system encourages each individual to fulfill their role within the broader community for the greater good.

Sanatana Dharma acknowledges the power of collective spiritual experiences, such as those found in festivals like Durga Puja, Jagannath Yatra and Ganesh Chaturthi, pilgrimages, and other collective rituals such as kirtans. These events can foster a sense of unity, shared purpose, and connection to the divine that transcends individual boundaries. 

So much knowledge that is now being rediscovered, isn’t it?