The Return of TransOcc

Four years after Occupy Wall Street came to Dartmouth and gave birth to the illustrious Upper Valley Occupy (think grey-haired activists popping out of the woodwork to learn hand signals and democratic group process) . . . Four years after Occupy’s contemplative branch split off to form ‘Transformational Occupy’ and launched a multi-year inquiry into the philosophy and method of spiritual activism, and two years after its inevitable dissolution, members of the once mighty ‘TransOcc’ have recently come together again with new voices in the movement, determined to articulate the platform of Transformational Activism on ‘paper’ for all to see.  

This time, we are a bit more seasoned and secure in our convictions that the platform we, and so many others, have been discussing is historic and real. We are a bit more mature. And this time, we have at our disposal all those years of conversations.

What did we learn?

If you must know, I will tell you. For there was one insight, after years of conversation, that rose to the top. It is this: For the conversation about transformational change to become clear and intelligible, it must begin with a belief in a philosophy of Oneness. It must begin with the idea that we are all emerging in each moment from a unified Source, and that due to this, we all are radically interconnected with one another and all of creation. In other words, whenever this understanding was the starting place, the conversation was rich and productive. The understanding of the elements of the conversation (elements like elevating the ‘social field’, non-dual action, raising consciousness at personal, group and societal levels, leading by example and building the world we hoped to inhabit, and collective consciousness all fell easily into place and the conversation could make its way in a logical and cohesive way.

And yet, we have never managed to name this belief. Is it Neoplatonism? Or Vedanta, as they say in the East? Is it the Perennial Philosophy, in the words of Aldous Huxley? Monastic Idealism? Monotheism? Perhaps it’s all of these things, but alas, these names are dry. And unfortunately, they are also controversial.

The joyful emotion at the heart of this understanding is somehow squashed by a title or simple declarative statement. And without a way of expressing the joy of being connected to the whole Universe of stars and creatures, how can we hope to capture or express the meaning of this emerging understanding of ourselves and the world in which we live? In this post-materialist, post post-modern, post-theistic worldview, we have no Handel’s Messiah, no Saint Matthew’s Passion, no gospel choir. Or we have these things, and perhaps are nourished and encouraged by them, but they seem to speak to us from across an intellectual divide. They call to us from an intellectual commitment that we ourselves are reluctant to make. For a time now, so many spiritual thinkers of today are hesitant to personalize that which gives birth to us all.  And so those traditions which do express the emotional dimensions of our recognition of our participation in Unity may do so in an idiom that took root before the industrial revolution, before philosophical materialism invaded every corner of Western thought. Today, as we have not yet reinvented this ability, this emerging worldview, which must carry us into the sustainable culture of the future, remains without its full voice.    

And yet, when we gathered this month as a reconstituted group for the purpose of understanding and giving voice to this view and this way of advancing social transition, we managed to connect. Up on the wall, hung a large sheet of paper, a map of the conversation and a relic from the TransOcc of old. In the center were written the words “ONENESS, Greater depth is greater proximity, greater power and greater value.” No one seemed to disagree. I can’t help but view this as a sign that the return of TransOcc is happening at just the right time.

simon dennis