According to Merriam Webster, the word proactive was introduced into the English language in 1933. My online dictionary defines the word this way:
Creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.
That sounds like a good way to live a life, to me. Here are some synonyms. Some of these words are out of common usage by now:
Farseeing, farsighted, forehanded, foreseeing, forethoughtful, forward, forward-looking, prescient, foresighted, provident, visionary.
The more I think about that word, the more significant it becomes in my own awareness. It goes right to the heart of the shift that’s occurring in human consciousness. Proactivity implies that we move from being someone who experiences themselves as being affected by everything that happens, and having their experience determined by what happens around them, to the experience of creating what’s happening.
The winged serpent is an ancient symbol for enlightened consciousness. In the Aztec tradition, it is known as Quetzalcoatl, but the symbol is certainly more widespread than that. The winged serpent conveys the understanding that human consciousness is created to live in the air, above things, able to see what is happening on earth, but not enmeshed in it. The image carries many of the same meanings that the synonyms for the word proactive speak to: visionary, foresighted, farseeing, like a winged serpent.
The story of Adam and Eve in the Bible is thought of as a religious story, and it’s often thought of as the story of a big no-no, named by the Church as original sin. As a traditional religious story it does not carry much relevance for someone on a spiritual journey today. But if you crack the code, if you understand the ancient symbology contained in the story, it becomes a powerful parable for the issues that are at play in a person’s life every day.
When I read the story in the early chapters of Genesis, I begin to wonder how it was originally told. Was it in Hebrew? Was there some earlier language in which it was told? And how was it originally set forth? In Hebrew characters after being brought forward in an oral tradition over many years? Or was the original story set forth in an ancient language that looked more like pictures than an alphabet? I can imagine the tree, the Garden, the man and woman and the serpent portrayed in pictographs.
However it was originally told, the story of Adam and Eve was the ancients’ way of speaking about proactivity, and the consequences of losing it. The story begins with this statement:
And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
The east is the place of the rising sun, and thus a symbol for the future. So this statement is saying that as human beings we are designed to live with a consciousness of the potential that lies in the future. That consciousness is spoken of as being surrounded by a garden, which implies a fertile awareness of what could manifest in our life, as a person and as the human race.
The story of Adam and Eve traces the loss of consciousness of potential. It traces how a person can change from being proactive to being reactive. In the story, consciousness is portrayed by a serpent. But this is not a winged serpent. With the loss of proactivity, the serpent has no wings. It is not moving free in the air of spirit.
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.
Here is the ancients’ diagnosis of what is wrong with human consciousness. There is a loss of awareness of potentiality, leading to overwhelm with the events of life. This loss of awareness is portrayed in the story as if God has caused it, which should not be surprising. When a person moves from proactivity to reactivity, they experience life as something happening to them.
Reactivity is the experience of living in the past, dealing with events after they have occurred. It is the experience of being “behind the eight ball.” The movement in consciousness to proactivity takes a person from the past to the present moment. But that alone is not enough. Proactivity requires that a person’s awareness move from the past, through the present and into the world of potential, so that they become aware of what may unfold in physical form before it has occurred. Proactivity may be a premonition of things to come, so that a person pictures the event in their mind. But most often, it begins simply with an awareness of the essence of something—something beautiful that could be experienced fully in the world. This is what is seen from the viewpoint of the winged serpent, not the serpent that slithers through the dust of the ground.
At Sunrise Ranch, the budget process is coming up very soon. Just saying the word budget, I can feel all the dread that many people have of dealing with budgets. The accountants will be asking us how much money we expect to spend. That is the reactive experience.
This year I had this uplifting thought. It’s budget time! And why would I be excited about that? Because budgets are not really just about having to jot a number down for the accountants. This is about our proactive creation of the coming year. For me, when I tune into what will be possible next year at Sunrise Ranch, I think about all the dimensions of this place. What will the garden look like next year? What people will be coming next year? What conferences will we put on? What concerts will we have?
From the reactive standpoint, it all looks like labor. Proactivity transforms labor to creation. We say we are creator-beings, and it sounds wonderful. Truly we are creator-beings, not just laboring beings. We have the opportunity to bring together all the factors of creation—all the factors that are present on earth and all the heavenly energies. We can bring it all together and let magic occur, so that something glorious manifests. But that won’t be our experience if we are living in the past, reacting to what has already happened, or resigned to make the best of it.
There is a difference between spiritual surrender and acquiescence. Acquiescence is giving up. It is resignation. It is an attempt to come to terms with all that someone else has created that I’ve got to deal with, and trying to be okay with it. That isn’t very inspiring.
Surrender is something altogether different. Surrender includes the acceptance of what is happening—and if I’m behind the eight ball I’ve got to accept that and deal with that. But, more importantly, it is surrender to the creative spirit that is coming through me that will create something different in the future. That is real surrender. Real surrender leads to proactivity. Real surrender takes our conscious awareness into the air of the spirit. It leads us to an awareness of what could be in the world if we only played our part in letting it appear.