First “Kaboom,” Then “Aha!”
Book Review by Dave Platter
Consciousness in Action: The Power of Beauty,
Love and Courage in a Violent Time by Andrew Beath (Lantern Books, 2005). $17.95 paperback.
Consciousness In Action is an important book, to be sure. Anyone who
has ever felt despair at the self-denying way with which our society
plunders the planet will receive reassurance in its pages. Author Andrew
Beath has filled them not only with his ideas, but with the stories
of 15 equally inspiring leaders and activists, including Julia Butterfly
Hill, Joanna Macy and Ralph Metzner.
Beath’s thesis is that we are letting ourselves in for a global environmental
catastrophe. There is disruption of the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and
biosphere. This is no surprise. What comes next, however, is not the gnashing
of teeth and rending of garments you might expect. He doesn’t quite say
it outright, but you get the sense Beath thinks the ecological crisis is a good
thing. Like alcoholics hitting bottom or teenage delinquents receiving their
comeuppance, Beath believes we humans have to be confronted with disaster before
we will wake up. “One optimistic perspective is that the destruction caused
by human activity is evidence of birth pains associated with the delivery of
the next generation of consciousness,” he writes. “We are on the
cusp of a new era, born of our excesses, because we spoil the nest of our creation.”
After a few billion deaths from war and privation, perhaps necessity will force
us to see the error of our ways and to change our relationship to the rest of
nature. Beath writes, “The only way to end destructive human tendencies
like ecological degradation and economic imbalance is for individuals to undergo
spiritual self-examination and recognize their responsibility to nature”
In a sort of list that reminds me of Buddhism, he goes on to describe the seven
attributes needed to arrive at this change of consciousness: nonviolence, not
knowing, introspection, eros, no enemy, vision, and being joyful.
With Consciousness In Action, Andrew Beath consolidates a huge range of societal
shortcomings into a relatively small volume. He also provides a kindhearted primer
for activists on how to be both righteous and conscientious. But, too often Beath
glosses over supporting evidence and arguments to arrive breathlessly at his
conclusions. He’s like a preacher directing his sermon to the choir.
Still, it is hard not to get a sensuous thrill from the poetic, rolling language
uses to rightfully condemn the consumerism, violence, short-sightedness and
greed of our civilization.
Dave Platter is a writer and publicist living in New York. He is the founding
principal of Publitas LLC, which represents a diverse clientele, including Buddhists,
yoga studios, magazines and real estate agencies. For more information visit