Wednesday, December 31, 2008


And here we are...the last hours of 2008 have dawned and with them come the usual introspection and anticipation of transitioning into a new year. That it was a year of enormous impact and vast change, is beyond question. So, we all know what went wrong; but where to from here? As usual, there are more prophets and prognosticators than you can shake a stick at. Alas, scratch off the veneer and its the same old retreaded sales pitches disguised as solutions. There is, however, a movement that's asking some interesting questions about humanity's future. What will happen when we move from a monetary system to a resource based economy or apply technolgy on a massive scale without a profit motive, ensuring abundant resources that obviates the need to compete for them and negates the concept of trading labour for income?

Jacque Fresco is a visionary scientist who has actually set about proving these concepts. He has worked as both a designer and inventor in a wide range of fields spanning from biomedical innovations to totally integrated social systems. The Venus Project, and the non-profit organization Future By Design, reflects the culmination of Jacque Fresco’s life work: the integration of the best of science and technology into a comprehensive plan for a new society based on human and environmental concern. It is a global vision of hope for the future of humankind in our technological age. It is timeous, succinct and presents a clarity of vision that is undeniable:

It is now possible to achieve a society where people would be able to live longer, healthier, and more meaningfully productive lives. In such a society, the measure of success would be based upon the fulfillment of one’s individual pursuits rather than the acquisition of wealth, property, and power. Although many of the concepts presented here may appear as unattainable goals, all of the ideas are based upon known scientific principles. The social direction being proposed here has no parallel in history with any other previous political ideology or economic strategy. Establishing the parameters of this new civilization will require transcending many of the traditions, values, and methods of the past. The answers do not lie in debate or philosophical discussion of values, but rather in methodology. Thus what is needed is an operational definition of a better world, which is as follows: To constantly maximize existing and future technologies with the sole purpose of enhancing all human life and protecting the environment.

Science is replete with examples of experiments that have failed, as well as those that have been successful. In the development of the airplane, for example, there were thousands of failures before the first workable model was produced. All of the technology we use today, such as computers, cellular phones, the Internet, aircraft, and automobiles, are in a constant state of improvement and modification. Yet our social system and values remain largely static. The major reason for resisting change is that it tends to threaten the established interests. Actually, the fear of social change is somewhat unfounded when we consider that the entire history of civilization has been, in a sense, an experiment. Even the free-enterprise system, during its earliest stages, faced a multitude of problems much more severe than they are today. These included long work hours, exploitation of child labor, inadequate ventilation in industrial plants, lack of rights for women and minorities, hazardous conditions in mines, and racial prejudice.

It has often been observed that common crises create common bonds. While people seek advantage during the times of prosperity, shared suffering tends to draw people closer together. Once the threat is resolved, however, scarcity patterns once again begin to steer people back to their behaviors of seeking individual advantage. Indeed, it seems that the only force that would mobilize the world in a unified direction would be one that poses a common threat, such as a colossal meteor hurling towards the earth, or some other major catastrophic event. If such an event were to occur, all border disputes would become irrelevant in the face of impending disaster. While many would call upon divine intervention for salvation, all nations would surely combine their efforts and call upon science and technology to deal with this common threat. Bankers, lawyers, businessmen, and politicians would all be bypassed. Every resource would be harnessed and mobilized, without any concern for monetary cost or profit. Under this kind of threatening condition, most people realize where the key to their survival lies. As the amount of scientific information grows, nations and people are coming to realize that even in today's divided world there are, in fact, many common threats that transcend national boundaries. These include overpopulation, energy shortages, pollution, water shortages, economic catastrophe, the spread of uncontrollable disease and so forth. However, faced even with threats of this magnitude, which are common to all nations, the direction of human action will not be altered so long as powerful nations are able to maintain control of the limited resources available.

Many citizens throughout history have taken their politicians to task for actions that have not been entirely in society’s best interest. The reasons for this become clearer when one realizes that even in modern democracies, these leaders do not benefit the lives of the average person. Rather, they maintain the preferential positions of much of the established order. There are growing indications of awareness on the part of the people in many areas of the world that events have gone beyond the control of their political leaders. Everywhere we see political figures and parties come and go, political strategies adopted and discarded for their inability to satisfy the demands of one faction or another. The reason that its pointless appealing to your political representative, or any number of governmental agencies, is that they lack the necessary knowledge to deal with our problems. Their focus is to preserve existing systems, not to change them. It appears that there are few within present-day societies who want to phase themselves out. In modern industrial societies the cause of inaction lies within the cumbersome political process itself, an anachronism in an era when most decisions can be made on any important issue in a split second by the objective entry of relevant data into computers.

The ultimate survival of the human species depends upon planning on a global scale and to cooperatively seek out new alternatives with a relative orientation for improved social arrangements. If humankind is to achieve mutual prosperity, universal access to resources is essential. Along with the introduction of new paradigms towards human and environmental concern, there must be a methodology for making this a reality. If these ends are to be achieved, the monetary system must eventually be surpassed by a world resource-based economy. In order to effectively and economically utilize resources, the necessary cybernated and computerized technology could eventually be applied to ensure a higher standard of living for everyone. With the intelligent and humane application of science and technology, the nations of the world could guide and shape the future for the preservation of the environment and humankind. What is needed to attain a global society is a practical and internationally acceptable comprehensive blueprint. Also needed is an international planning council capable of translating the blueprint and the advantages that would be gained through world unification. This proposal could be presented in the vernacular, in a way that non-technical people can easily understand. In actuality, no one should make decisions as to how this blueprint will be designed. It must be based on the carrying capacity of our planet, its resources, human needs and the like. In order to sustain our civilization we must coordinate advanced technology and available resources in a total, humane, global systems approach.

There is no doubt that many of the professions that are familiar to us today will eventually be phased out. With the rate of change now taking place, a vast array of obsolete occupations will disappear more rapidly and more extensively than at any other time in history. In a society that applies a systems approach, these professions will be replaced by interdisciplinary teams – the systems analysts, computer programmers, operation researchers, and those who link the world together in vast communications networks that are assisted by high-speed digital computers. They will eventually lead us to large-scale computer-based methods of social operation. The process of social change must allow for changing conditions that would continuously update the design parameters and allow for the infusion of new technologies into emerging cultures. Design teams utilizing socially integrated computers could automatically be informed of new developments. As this process is continuously updated, it would generate a more appropriate code of conduct. By appropriate conduct we mean the necessary procedures to accomplish a given task. All the limitations imposed upon us by our present-day monetary system could be surpassed by adopting a global consensus for a worldwide resource-based economy, in which all the planetary resources are viewed and treated as the common heritage of all the earth's inhabitants. In this manner, the earth and our technological procedures could provide us with a limitless supply of material goods and services without the creation of debt or taxation whatsoever.

Although skillful advertisers lead us to believe otherwise, in today’s monetary-based economies, whenever new technology is introduced, the human consequences are of little concern to those introducing the technology - except, of course, as customers. In a monetary-based system, the major concerns of industry are profit, maintaining a competitive edge, and watching the bottom line, rather than the wellbeing of humanity. The social problems that arise from mass unemployment of people, who are rendered obsolete by the infusion of automation, are considered irrelevant, if they are considered at all. Any need that may be met is secondary to acquiring a profit for the business. If the profit is insufficient, the service will be withdrawn. What industry seeks to do is improve the competitive edge to increase the profit margin for their shareholders. It does not serve the interest of a monetary based society to engage in the production of goods and services to enhance the lives of people as a goal. With rising public concern regarding the greenhouse effect, acid rain, polluted air and water, etc. some companies are also beginning to realize that for sustained market presence it is in their best interest to heed social and environmental concerns.

Until the last few decades, the monetary system functioned to a degree. The global population of three billion was not over consuming world resources and energy, global warming was not evident, and air and water pollution were only recognized by a relative few. The start of the 21st century however finds global population at an exponentially rising six billion, with resources and energy supplies dwindling, global warming a reality, and pollution evident worldwide. Planet earth is in crises and the majority of world population cannot meet their basic needs because people do not have the means to purchase increasingly expensive resources. Money is now the determinant of people’s standard of living rather than the availability of resources. The monetary system is now an impediment to survival rather than a means of facilitating individual existence and growth. This imaginary tool has outlived its usefulness. All of the world's economic systems - socialism, communism, fascism, and even the vaunted free enterprise capitalist system - perpetuate social stratification, elitism, nationalism and racism, primarily based on economic disparity. As long as a social system uses money or barter, people and nations will seek to maintain positions of differential advantage. If they cannot do so by means of commerce they will resort to military intervention. The replacement system is therefor logically a resource-based economy. This global resource based economy would be gradually phased in while the monetary system is phased out.

To further clarify the concept of a resource based economy consider this example: A group of people is stranded on an island with enormous purchasing power including gold, silver and diamonds. All this wealth would be irrelevant to their survival if the island had few resources such as food, clean air, and water. Only when population exceeds the productive capacity of the land do problems such as greed, crime, and violence emerge. On the other hand, if people were stranded on an island that was abundant with natural resources producing more than the necessities for survival, then a monetary system would be irrelevant. It is only when resources are scarce that money can be used to control their distribution. One could not, for example, sell the air we breathe, the sand on the beach, or the salt water in the ocean to someone else on the island who has equal access to all these things. In a resource-based economy all of the world's resources would be held as the common heritage of all of the earth’s people, thus eventually outgrowing the need for the artificial boundaries that separate people – this is the unifying imperative. We must emphasize here that this approach to global governance has nothing whatsoever in common with the present aims of a corporate elite to form a world government with themselves and large corporations in control, and the vast majority of the world's population subservient to them. Globalization in a resource-based economy empowers each and every person on the planet to be the very best they can be, not to live in abject subjugation to a corporate governing body.

In a resource-based economy, the human aspect would be of prime concern, and technology would be subordinate to this. This would result in a considerable increase in leisure time. In an economy in which production is accomplished primarily by machines, and products and services are available to all, the concepts of "work" and "earning a living" would become irrelevant. Cybernation, or the application of computers and automation to the social system, could be regarded as an emancipation proclamation for humankind if used humanely and intelligently. A resource-based economy calls for the redesign of our cities, transportation systems, and industrial plants so that they are energy efficient, clean, and conveniently provide the needs of all people both materially and spiritually. These new cybernated cities would have their electrical sensors' autonomic nervous system extended into all areas of the social complex. Their function would be to coordinate a balance between production and distribution and to operate a balance-load economy. Decisions would be arrived at on the basis of feedback from the environment. Despite today’s mania for national security, and subsequent intrusions into everyone’s personal affairs, in a world-wide resource-based economy where no one need take from another, it will be considered socially offensive and counterproductive for machines to monitor the activities of individuals.

To further understand the operation of cybernation in the city system for example, consider the agricultural belt where the electronic probes imbedded in the soil would automatically keep a constant inventory of the water table, soil conditions, nutrients, etc. and act appropriately without the need for human intervention. This method of industrial electronic feedback could be applied to the entire management of a global economy. All raw materials used to manufacture products can be transported directly to the manufacturing facilities by automated transportation "sequences" such as ships, monorails, trains, pipelines, and pneumatic tubes, and the like. All transportation systems are fully utilized in both directions. There would be no empty trucks, trains, or transport units on return trips. There would be no freight trains stored in yards, awaiting a business cycle for their use. An automated inventory system would be connected to both the distribution centers and the manufacturing facilities, thus coordinating production to meet demand and providing a constant evaluation of preferences and consumption statistics. In this way a balanced-load economy can be assured and shortages, over-runs, and waste could be eliminated. The method for the distribution of goods and services in a resource-based economy without the use of money or tokens could be accomplished through the establishment of distribution centers. If all the money in the world were to suddenly disappear, as long as topsoil, factories, and other resources were left intact, we could build anything we chose to build and fulfill any human need. It is not money that people need, but rather it is freedom of access to most of their necessities without ever having to appeal to a government bureaucracy or any other agency. In a resource-based economy money would become irrelevant. All that would be required are the resources, manufacturing, and distribution of the products.

With the infusion of a resource-based, world economy and an all-out effort to develop new, clean, renewable sources of energy, (such as geothermal, controlled fusion, solar heat concentrators, photovoltaics, wind, wave, tidal power, and fuel from the oceans), we will eventually be able to have energy in unlimited quantity that could serve civilization for thousands of years. Take the automobile. In order to service conventional automobiles today we have to remove a great deal of hardware before we can get to the engine. Why are they made so complicated? This reason is simply because ease of repair is not the concern of the manufacturers. They do not have to pay to service the car. If they did rest assured they would design automobiles that consist of modular components that could be easily disengaged, thus facilitating easier access to the engine.

Such construction would be typical in a resource-based economy. Many of the components in the automobile would be easily detachable to save time and energy in the rare case of repair, because no one would profit by servicing automobiles or any other products. Consequentially all products would be of the highest quality, and they would be simplified for convenience of service. Automotive transport units engineered in this way can easily be designed to be service-free for many years. All the components within the car could be easily replaced when needed with improved technologies. Eventually, with the development of magnetically suspended bearings, lubrication and wear would be relegated to the past. Proximity sensors in the vehicles would prevent collisions, further reducing servicing and repair requirements. This same process would be carried out for all other products. All industrial devices would be designed for recycling. However, the life span of products would be significantly increased through intelligent and efficient design, thereby reducing waste. There would be no "planned obsolescence," where products are deliberately designed to wear out or break down. In a resource-based economy technology intelligently and efficiently applied will conserve energy, reduce waste, and provide more leisure time. During the transition, the workweek could be staggered thus eliminating traffic jams or crowding in all areas of human activity including recreation areas.

It is claimed that the so-called free-enterprise system creates incentive. This may be true, but it also perpetuates greed, embezzlement, corruption, crime, stress, economic hardship, and insecurity. In addition, the argument that the monetary system and competition generate incentive does not always hold true. Most of our major developments in science and technology have been the result of the efforts of very few individuals working independently and often against great opposition. Such contributors as Goddard, Galileo, Darwin, Tesla, Edison, and Einstein were individuals who were genuinely concerned with solving problems and improving processes rather than with mere financial gain. Actually, very often there is much mistrust in those whose incentive is entirely motivated by monetary gain, this can be said for lawyers, businessmen, salesman and those in just about any field.

Some may question that if the basic necessities are accessible to all people, what will motivate them? This is tantamount to saying that children reared in affluent environments, in which their parents provide all the necessary food, clothing, shelter, nutrition, and extensive education, will demonstrate a lack of incentive or initiative. There is no evidence to support this fallacious assumption. There is overwhelming evidence to support the facts that malnutrition, lack of employment, low wages, poor health, lack of direction, lack of education, homelessness, little or no reinforcement for one's efforts, poor role models, poverty, and a bleak prospect for the future do create monumental individual and social problems, and significantly reduce an individual’s drive to achieve. The aim of a resource based economy is to encourage and develop a new incentive system, one no longer directed toward the shallow and self-centered goals of wealth, property, and power. These new incentives would encourage people to pursue different goals, such as self-fulfillment and creativity, the elimination of scarcity, the protection of the environment, and the alleviation of suffering in their fellow human beings. People, provided with good nutrition in a highly productive and humane society, will evolve a new incentive system unattainable in a monetary system. There would be such a wealth of new wonders to experience, explore, and invent that the notion of boredom and apathy would be absurd.

With the enhanced level of sociability that would naturally come from not having to compete for access to goods and services, we would see a tendency toward extension of the family unit into the community. As may already be observed in other cultures, the rearing and development of children would become the responsibility of both the family and the community at large. With the elimination of debt, the fear of losing one's job will no longer be a threat; this assurance, combined with education on how to relate to one another in a much more meaningful way, could considerably reduce conflict and stress both mentally and physically. When education and resources are available to all without a price tag, there would be no limit to the human potential.

The fear of uniform behavior in a cybernated resource-based economy of the future is unfounded. The only uniformity one would find would be a concern for the environment and the importance of extending maximum courtesy to all nations and to one another. All would likewise share an intense curiosity for all that is new and challenging. With a better understanding, people could possess a flexibility of outlook unknown in previous times, free of bigotry and prejudice. In addition, the people of this innovative society would have concern for their fellow human beings, and for the protection, maintenance, and stewardship of the Earth’s natural environment. Additionally, everyone, regardless of race, color, or creed would have equal access to all of the amenities that this highly productive culture could supply. In more advanced and humane systems of education people would acquire this new type of value system. They would also realize the many advantages of cooperation rather than competition. In a society without vested interest it would be impossible to harness the talents of scientists and technicians to engage in weapons research or any other socially hostile endeavor. We call this approach "functional morality." This newer, more humane, and more productive approach would advocate finding non-military solutions to international differences. This calls for a global view, which would be a considerable improvement over narrow national and self-interests. We could use knowledge and information as tools that would be surrendered when evidence of more appropriate methods are introduced. As we enhance the lives of others, protect our environment, and work toward abundance, all our lives can become richer and more secure. If these values were put into practice it would enable all of us to achieve a much higher standard of living within a relatively short period of time--one that would be continuously improved. At a time when commercial institutions no longer exist, the necessity for prisons, lawyers, advertisements, banks and the stock exchange will serve no useful purpose.

In the society of the future, in which the monetary system of scarcity has been surpassed by a resource based economy and most physical and creative needs are met, private ownership as we know it would cease to be a necessity to protect one’s access to goods and services. The concept of ownership would be of no advantage whatsoever in a society of abundance. Although this is difficult for many to imagine, even the wealthiest person today would be immensely better off in the highly productive resource-based society. Today in developed countries the middle class live far better than kings and the wealthy of times past. In a resource based economy everyone would live richer lives than the powerful and wealthy of today, not only materially but spiritually as well. People would be free to pursue whatever constructive field of endeavor they choose without any of the economic pressures, restraints, debts and taxation that are inherent in the monetary system of today. By constructive endeavor, we mean anything that enhances the lives of the individual and others while protecting the global environment. When education and resources are available to all without a price tag, there would be no limit to the human potential. With these major alterations people would be able to eventually live longer, more meaningful, healthier and productive lives. In such a society, the measure of success would be based on the fulfillment of one's individual pursuits rather than the acquisition of wealth, property, and power.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Zeitgeist Addendum

Now there is an addendum to the Zeitgeist movie that focuses more attention on the 'money problem', economic imperialism, and emerging sustainable technologies. The Zeitgeist Addendum can be downloaded from the same site linked above or from Google.

The first twenty minutes do a creditable job of describing how conventional political money is created in the US, copied in other 'friendly' countries. It’s a good supplement to the films: "Money as Debt" and "The Money Masters". The next part of the film features John Perkins, author of "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man". He does a superb job of clearly explaining how the multi-national corporate empire achieves dominance over other countries, giving examples from his own experience. As he describes in his book, there are three levels of action. The imperial forces first try to corrupt a target country’s leaders and get them to play along, saddling their people with huge debt loads and selling off government owned assets. If that fails, they will stir up internal opposition and either overthrow or assassinate a recalcitrant leader. If that fails, the military will be sent in as a last resort.

In recent years, the reluctance to use the last option seems to have diminished; although war still affords opportunities for great profits to be amassed by political cronies as the power of the US Congress to mount opposition to military adventures has all but evaporated. The original Zeitgeist movie contains important information about the central banking system and the US Federal Reserve. If you want to view particular parts of each film, you can find them on YouTube. Start with Episode 1 here:

The rest of the 13 episodes that make up the series can be viewed here:

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Quantum Life

Quantum physics and it's subsidiary discipline, quantum mechanics, is connecting the empirical world of science with the ephemeral realm of consciousness.

This discussion includes the following luminaries: -William Tiller, Professor Emeritus of Material Science and Engineering at Stanford University. -Dr. Amit Goswami. Worked with Deepak Chopra and is employed by the Institute of Noetic Sciences. -Dr. John Hagelin, Director of the Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy at Maharishi University of Management, professor of physics at MUM since 1984, and Minister of Science and Technology of the Global Country of World Peace. -Dr. Stuart Hameroff, an anesthesiologist, author, and associate director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona. -Dr. Andrew Newberg, assistant professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, and physician in nuclear medicine. -Dr. David Albert, a philosopher of physics and professor at Columbia University. -Miceal Ledwith, author and former professor of theology at Maynooth College in Ireland; Daniel Monti, physician and director of the Mind-Body Medicine Program at Thomas Jefferson University. -Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, well known psychiatrist, author and professor.

Nations Of Imagination

Imaginal practice is the inner art of self-managing the imagination, to defend it from forces that compromise, pollute, and sterilize it; and to cultivate those that illuminate and nourish it. Knowledge of this is essential to the story of human survival into the 21st century. The gist of it is that in previous eras the human imagination was much more attuned to the mythical dimensions of nature. This archetypal homeland, shared by all the tribes of creation, has provided a bandwidth of mutual intelligibility, a lingua franca, a commons of communication. A large faction of humanity has since left this commons, broken the agreement of respectful relationships, and left behind the heartfelt way to connect to others.

We moderns have created our own imaginal space. It is a skull-enclosed kingdom that plays the movie of our egoic projections, and the ‘rush world’ we’ve created. We’ve got the electronic media buzzing and flashing through our heads, broadcasting the normalcy of a busy hive mind in pursuit of purchased rewards in an advertised reality. We become saturated, overloaded, with these manipulated sounds and images, to the point where they block out and corrode access to the ancestral stratums of our humanity. It’s very difficult for the spirit world to dial into such an environment. Access is made even more challenging by our materialist assumptions that deny it, and others in the Devic realm, even exist. This situation has gotten to the point where the spirit world is starting to deny humans. This has all done great damage to the relations between the spirits and the humans, which percolates up into our various ills of disenchantment with the world. We need to reestablish a positive harmonic between the realms.

Practices that detoxify both body and mind as a prelude to its higher visionary gifts, are essential as it is best to be as clear and empty as possible. The traditional advice for preparing yourself (and taking care of yourself afterwards) is to avoid what are considered to be disruptive influences, such as sex, gossip, pork, alcohol, and spicy, greasy foods. In recent years the list has come to include such things as television, violent movies, and shopping malls. Why? Because they pollute your imagination, and what is in your head often becomes your visionary experience, or tryp (from ‘tryp’-tamine). It appears the spirits use the raw material of your imagination to craft much of your experience, and the quality of the materials you provide determines, to degrees, the quality of their co-creative (with you) handiwork.. More simply, you detoxify by confronting what you’ve entered into your head.

Here is an example of how ‘tryps’ become influenced by the way the imaginal world is ‘programmed’ in the weeks or months prior to a vision. 'M.T. Xen' used to teach university and on one occasion taught a course entitled “Sociology and Philosophy of Religions”. He used this opportunity to study and delve deeply into the right wing Christian fundamentalist mind, the one so deeply engaged in the war against nature. He was aided in this by a woman in the front row, of the fundamentalist persuasion, who used to shield herself with her bible whenever his lectures became too blasphemous. He thought he would be brought to task to work out his relationship with this woman. What he found was that he was to be granted what he had ‘asked for’. That is to say, the spirits decided to teach him about Christian fundamentalism. And in the spirit world you become that of which you seek to know, a kind of extreme empathy. In essence, he became a Christian fundamentalist, an experience that gratefully lasted less than two hours. This shapeshifting included visions of a Puritan figure, complete with Pilgrim hat. He witnessed the Puritan making a deal, a high order of black magic, with predatory forces that appear to feed on human greed, that offer the intoxication of power without responsibility. He saw this deal as the beginnings of a 500-year bad 'tryp' for much of humanity; and saw the confluence of these forces as a black metallic dragon, a thoughtform that has been dining on greed, largely served up by the American dream, for centuries.

What better disguise for this thought-form than as … god. This god will give you all that you ask, all the largesse and ego inflation of empire, in simple exchange for you to cease to think for yourself, for you to go into denial of the feeling wound inflicted by raping others of their rights to a peaceful existence. This god will do your thinking, and feeling, for you! And as the adherents of this god submit to its power, the plundering continues, more enemies are created, the world becomes more chaotic, and the winged juggernaut grows more fearsome and uncontrollable. As this scenario played itself out, 'M.T. Xen' became caught in a maelstrom of fear that followed in its wake. This was compounded by the effects of living in the U.S., with the perpetual cops on the highway, airport security, the drug war, corporate mafia takeovers of government, negative media, and so on. It reached a point where he became psychically unmoored. Adrift in anti-meaning and a growing terror of insanity, he heard the whispers of ‘nice’ people who are ‘right’. He gave into it and was welcomed by all these ‘right’ people into their world. And there he existed for a time, all the while thinking something wasn’t quite right, but not questioning it too much as he was so glad to be at harbor. However, the incongruities grew to the point that he had to question this god, which these people didn’t like at all; but gained him his imaginal freedom.

Understanding the Imagination
When we are put into a crisis, we have essentially two choices. To either: (a) use the opportunity to go deeper into self-understanding, the perennial tradition of “know thyself”; or (b) go deeper into denial and allow other people think for us; which invariably sweeps all the issues that created the crisis under the rug for it to ferment, and create a bigger stink. No blame. Being human isn’t easy, and we are all capable, at some level, of making the choices of those we so readily judge. However, the latter choice brings with it predictably unpleasant karmic consequences, the payback of a Faustian bargain we see in the world today. These two choices reflect two ways to understand the imagination. The more positive way defines the imagination as the ability of the mind to be creative and resourceful, the function of a spiritual faculty (as in ‘use your imagination’). The more negative one defines it as the part of the mind that subjectively distorts and fantasizes things, the function of an immature ego (as in ‘you are imagining things’).

The question then becomes: To what extent is our imaginal world a house of mirrors reflecting our own fragmented self, and to what extent does it tap into the wellspring of Creation, the anima mundi, the Source of our very existence? This question can be answered by the quality of one’s life, with misery and happiness attending each end of the imaginal spectrum. However, one can be stuck in misery and not motivated to move out of it because the fragmented self in contemporary life is considered normal, and many such normal people have no reference for a higher state of wellbeing. For those of us drawn to the prospect that there must be something better, we would do well to look for answers long exiled from our world, to such forgotten or suppressed things as spirits. For this, we need a more holistic worldview. We must see through the cracks of the 3-D empire and surface the deeper, more inclusive layers of consciousness, where all beings exist and all is interconnected. This is the ultimate purpose of the human imagination. It is to give expression to the creative matrix of nature, to allow the whole to become more conscious of itself. As cosmologist Richard Tarnas puts it, “The human imagination is itself part of the world’s intrinsic truth; without it the world is in some sense incomplete.”

This understanding of imagination and its applications to our lives is how we overcome what philosopher Jacob Needleman calls the “foolish realism that sees only facts of the outer world and is blind to the laws of the inner world.” It is how we can make sense of synchronicities, of the whole breaking through the trance of our separative existence. It is how we can understand inspiration, the pregnancy of the world wanting to birth itself through us. It is how we find our voice, by feeling into the collective unconscious and speaking what the community needs to hear. The whole will draw from us what is needed. This is how we come into our own power, into our humanity.

Imaginal Practice
It seems that while a rich, fertile imaginal life is a birthright, it has to be claimed – that is to say, the imagination has to be disciplined and developed. The carrier or the medium of imagination is our attention. Attention is energy, one that can be exercised like a muscle. The high arts of its development include the one-pointed concentration that comes of meditation, the energized focus of unselfconscious creative activity, and the merging of awareness and action in the present moment (often known as ‘flow’). If it is not disciplined or engaged in a healthy fascination, the attention wanders, is wasted, and often co-opted. The rise in Attention Deficit Disorders, the medicalization of a failure of the contemporary imagination and its mythos (as in ‘don’t understand it, medicate it’), is but one example. We find this reflected in the Internet as well, which has a downside of presenting information in a flurry of bits and pieces that likewise scatters our attention and weakens our skills of concentration.

A more visceral way to understand the imagination is as a clear or clogged channel, not unlike your intestines. When you feed yourself with junk ideas, become bloated with ideologies, create chronic constipation from identity fixations, and infest yourself with the parasites of media hype and its addictions, you cannot expect the nourishing flow of creativity to flow easily through your being and blush your life with its radiance. No – what is needed is to flush the system and repopulate it with the flora of rich archetypal perceptions and Divine visions. What is needed is imaginal hygiene! Knowledge of this and its application is essential to the story of human survival into the 21st century. Its practice is necessary for us to cultivate the visionary clarity and strength needed to achieve the great personal and planetary transformations that increasing numbers of us are being called to perform, for the capacity to transform is in direct proportion to the capacity to imagine.

The Ego Game
A brief overview of the ‘ego game’ will help us understand the root causes of the sullied imagination and give us guidance on its proper care and feeding. The immature ego is self-possessed. This creates a force field of contractions that distort everything in its range, resulting in anxieties, large and small. These are dealt with by reformulating reality to support various defense mechanisms, such as repression, denial, projection, and rationalization. This fills the imagination with memes of neurosis that interact with various other ego-based social agreements, such as basing an economy on scarcity, or national security on domination. The resulting warps in reality can be understood as growing pains of our self-awareness. It is a form of the timeless ‘hero’s journey’, whereby the adolescent must leave the family to go out, be tested through ordeals, and then hopefully survive and come home matured and able to serve and revitalize the community. As a young species in the society of nature; humanity has, to degrees, gone on a journey of separation from the Gaian community. We have been tested by the various ordeals of mind/body identification and the superiority complex that attends it. This crucible has alchemized a supple and expanding self-awareness in many of us that is leading us home.

As we, collectively, appear to be in the crisis phase of this initiatory journey, the ego-game has intensified in recent centuries. It has made us heir to a left-brain bias, which in its radiant, lopsided glory presents us with an exclusively patriarchal, rationalist, Cartesian, reductionist, and mechanistic-dominator model of existence. Everything else, all that has been cast out of this story of progress – the body, emotions, other cultures, other eras, other forms of life, the animal kingdom, the earth community, women, children – all become unconscious. Like buried gold, these are the elements that the impoverished imagination must rediscover to regain its wealth. Meanwhile, the globalization of empire has created even more inventive permutations of the ego game. It has spawned opportunistic forces that feed our fantasy lives to the point of obsession. Whether it be Internet porn, celebrity gossip, social networking, or sanitized news about a war, the imagination becomes severely degraded by the toxic brew of illusory pleasures mixed up by the control systems of empire.

Cycles of Addiction
A step on the path of cleaning up this mythic mess in our heads is to make us more fully conscious of the vicious cycle of addiction, symptomatic of the corrupted imagination. If we compare the healthy imagination to a verdant and diverse forest, its compromised state is equivalent to the aftermath of a clear-cut. The vacant ‘land’ can then be freely colonized, developed by forces with agendas all their own. A telling example of this kind of invasion is the traditional Chinese custom to protect houses by putting up poster-sized talismans on the front doors. Down the cobbled streets of rural towns, one sees posters with fierce, glaring-eyed Taoist deities brandishing swords. As the streets turned to pavement, two Mao-hatted army men on horses had replaced the deities. Later on came posters with three uniformed members of each of the Chinese armed forces standing at attention with arsenals of weapons behind then. Finally came front doors plastered with pictures of red-starred missiles. A colonized imagination is often installed with denatured replicas of, or references to, its former self, not unlike a housing development that names itself after what it destroys, like Hawk Ridge or Woodland Park.

This phenomenon can be described as the ‘Las Vegas effect’. It occurs when the sacred is used to promote secular ends, and results in a succession of diminishing returns. It’s the idea, that, because the sense of wellbeing based on money and its glamours is inherently short-lived; the only way to prolong the satisfaction is to create ever more novel and intensified stimulations (McMansions, reality TV, boob implants, etc.) to get a rise out of ever more numbed senses. Las Vegas, as the temple city of Mammon, is busily copying the world’s sacred sites and mythic icons; including the Gaza pyramids, great Sphinx, Taj Mahal, Camelot, and Oz, in attempts to milk what imaginal juice it can from the originals to impress its visitors, who in turn need ever larger doses of spectacular spectacles to keep them coming back. The Las Vegas effect permeates contemporary culture, as we seem to be particularly susceptible to the con. Democracy becomes a front for imperialist aggression, peace is used to justify war (even naming missiles “Peacekeepers”), and an economy is called healthy that destroys the resources that sustain it. In the throes of what eco-theologist Thomas Berry calls a ‘mythic addiction’ to commercial-industrial power, profit, and technological superiority; we continue to burn the bridges to the Divine and content ourselves with bridges to nowhere. Confronted with a spiritually barren culture, a meaningless cosmos, the only self-fulfillment left is to keep buying, to live to shop. The chronic attempt to satiate a spiritual hunger through empty materialism creates a viscous cycle of self-destruction, which begets more self-hatred, more desire for escape; and so it goes round in, thankfully, unsustainable fashion.

Strategies of Empire
In our attempts to keep our imaginal world healthy, and sovereign, it is useful to be aware of the various strategies the empire uses to keep us enmeshed in this cycle. The first is the danger of the news. There is a kind of psychological warfare perpetrated through the massive amount of manipulation that passes for the news. Huge negative thought-forms are created when great numbers of people sit fascinated with the latest disaster. When we willingly allow our attention to be used to strengthen these thought-forms, we perpetuate the assumptions that the world is a fearful place. We thereby waste the energy of our attention, which could be more gainfully directed towards enlightening our lives and the world. The second is the danger of advertising. Advertising is a form of spells. Spells comprise the magical power of language and image to effect changes in the world. When, like with advertising, they are used to compel someone to do something, they encroach on free will. They activate whatever of our energies are in the grips of consumer addiction and deplete the energies we have to counter this drive.

Advertising is one of the great tools of the corporate oligarchy to promote their mythology – not just in the commercial sphere, but also in they way they run governments. Essayist Gore Vidal identifies this quite plainly: “There’s no such thing as a war on terrorism. It’s idiotic. These are slogans. It’s advertising, which is the only art form we’ve invented and developed. It’s lies.” However the mass media may capture your attention, its intent is to program your imagination with the storyline of its sponsors. We all know the narrative, a certain version goes this way: ‘The European settlers were heroes; the indigenous people were either heathens or naive primitives, but in either case they were in the way of progress. Slavery was an unfortunate episode that was cleaned up eventually, though it has never been quite clear that the former slaves were ever meant to rule themselves, let alone anyone else. Colonial foreign policy has generally been benign, nearly always driven by either a God-given imperative to improve the world or a sense that the planet would be better off with an imported version of capitalism and democracy’. This is the self-image, the reality of the ‘real Americans’ referred to by Sarah Palin, the ‘real Zulus’ referred to by Jacob Zuma.

When we allow ourselves to be implanted with such a pre-packaged narrative, we eventually become dependent on it, as it erodes the creative drive to manifest our own reality. It is not unlike a heroin addiction. Just as the body responds to heroin by slowing the production of endogenous opioids (endorphins) to the point where the body ‘forgets’ how to produce them, an artificial reality conditions us to forget how to create our own. We then become dependent on the ‘reality in a box’, and at the mercy of the authorities that control the box. The withdrawal from this reality is very difficult when the creative drive to ‘know thyself’ becomes atrophied from neglect. There are in fact few things more dangerous than a person who refuses to change his or her reality story in the face of changes that make the story impossible to maintain. When our attention is captured, when our inner voice is silenced, a hostage mentality begins to manifest. Just as the “Stockholm Syndrome” tells us that hostages often identify with their captors as a form of psychological survival, we too easily give up our basic human rights, our prospects for a better future and all that would set us free, to be complicit with our captors.

The fear that underlies the hostage mentality clouds the reception of the energy currents that bring love and beauty into the world. When this happens we become so pre-occupied with our problems, themselves the projections of a captive imagination, that we become prisoners of our own design. Cramped, confined, frustrated, and confused, we see little but our own distorted interpretations. Fear begets fear and we see terrorists of every variety, everywhere. Tibetan Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron tells a story that illustrates this. A woman once told her that her parents had a bought a house in a gated community for their retirement years. Contrary to expectations, they began to feel less safe then before. They became suspicious of every repair person or gardener who came through the gates. They quit going to the beach for fear of the uncontrolled possibilities, and reduced their trips outside the gates to a minimum. Similarly, the paranoid governments have done their best to turn whole countries into gated communities, with hundreds of kilometers of fence building in the works and stepped up harassment of foreign visitors.

Gardening the Imagination
Being free willed beings, we, of course, do not have to agree to all this – to live in the fear wards of the collective imagination. We can choose to live in the garden! The discovery of this not-so-secret imaginal garden comes as we bring the light of awareness to the unconscious. The world so re-integrated opens up a way of life, a path of personal and cultural renewal. In support of the garden path, what follows are just a few suggestions on how to cultivate an imagination that can flower and fruit in acts of conscious evolution. We may want to begin with pulling out some of the more invasive weeds. This could involve turning off (or better yet, getting rid of) the TV. A ‘haunted fishbowl’ flickering in so many homes, television is probably the single biggest negative influence on the group mind today. Besides being a prime organ of propaganda, it also shapes children’s imaginations to resonate with a hyperactive reality, leaving them less able to receive and grow with the subtle teachings offered by the world of nature. As most of us have grown up with the TV, and similar influences, it is helpful to re-pattern ourselves by spending quality time in untrammeled natural environments. This is where we can recover communication with the normally unheard voices, where we can refine our senses and learn to use them in a more balanced ratio to one another.

We live in a society dominated by visual (books and moving screens) and, to a lesser extent, audio information. Touch, smell, and taste are largely undeveloped or, more usually, numbed. With all five senses up and running in interactive relationship, we are restored to full-spectrum ecology of knowledge and gain a much truer perception of the world. For instance, we are not fooled by things that look or sound good, but don’t feel good. We thereby become more immune to the seductive wares of reality sharks, of the glamour spells cast by the Las Vegas effect. Working with systems of correspondences (like astrology, the I Ching, or the Tarot) educates the imagination in the language of the transpersonal layers of the psyche. Becoming fluent, or at least conversant, in the soul glyphs of the numinous realms, the apriori realities, allows us to make much greater sense of their expression in the life we see around us in the 3-D world. This helps us to read the world, to become literate in its symbology.

As nature imparts guidance to humans most directly through visionary experience, it is wise to familiarize oneself with the proper management of altered (or more correctly, restored) states of consciousness. The occasional rite of passage, of death and rebirth, provides us with opportunity to clear away the fixations that keep our imagination anchored to an outworn sense of self. Traditionally, this is done by creating a fluid state of being, not unlike the living soup found in a chrysalis. The human being in this vulnerable state must be held and protected in some kind of safe container. However, in a fear-based culture there is no trust; if no trust, there is no letting go; if no letting go, there is no death to the old self, habits, and ways – which means that there is no rebirth. Without ego surrender, the Source waters of spirit cannot easily flow through us, cannot refresh our souls and renew our lives. To avoid this path of stagnation, it is important to revision the universe as benevolent, as a great temple, and to live life as ceremony. These are cultural acts. They are inspired by these same Source waters (Its job), and takes perseverance, intelligence, and compassion to enact (our job). Sacralizing the world, however, is necessary for us to restore the relationships needed for us to safely, and gracefully, turn with the seasons of our lives.

Rites of passage happen collectively as well. Unfortunately, they are often reduced to the drunken revelries or staid formalities we associate with national and religious holidays. In contrast, the festivals, fairs, and similar gatherings that appear in the interstices and liminal spaces of mainstream society are often rich in the lost treasures of the imagination, for they allow the exiled archetypes, the forgotten deities, to reappear. These rise in power surges of creativity, for they carry with them the force of a system returning to wholeness, the momentum of nature rebalancing itself. Such gatherings are significant incubators for new cultural forms, and we would do well to take advantage of them; support their evolvement and, even better, create our own. Language is among the most important tools we have to tend the garden of our imagination. We want to work with a high ratio of verbs and metaphors, as these are the language of synergy, the magic of growth. Synergy comes when the combined action (a verb) of the parts of any ecology creates something greater than the sum (a noun) of its parts. It draws on the unifying gravity of spirit to effect wondrous, and often unexpected, results: like 1+1=3, or the alchemy of the good marriage. Jungian psychologist James Hillman illustrates something of this when he says, “For a relationship to stay alive, love alone is not enough. Without imagination, love stales into sentiment, duty, and boredom. Intimacy fails not because we have stopped loving but because we first stopped imagining.”

The language of analysis and categorization, on the other hand, is something we need to very careful of, for it excites the ego. We are now collectively crashing our way out of (hopefully) a centuries-long bender of unregulated egoic tendencies that, enabled by the rich analytical language of English, has been chopping up the world in a rampage of self-importance. The world so ‘languaged’ fuels many nasty habits of culture such as racism, sexism, and species-ism; and rationalizes the ideologies of separation such as fundamentalist religions and economies, which tell us to keep doing more of the same. At root, this is all a gratification strategy, for the more people or things one is separated from, the more one can place oneself in a position of being ‘better than’ (or ‘less than’ – the ego doesn’t care, as long as it feels secure in its attachment to who it thinks it is). It’s the divide-and-conquer approach to reality. In contrast, a healthy imagination is fed by considering what things do have in common – by making connections, and finding similarities. Such an imagination comes to life and breathes with parables, analogies, poetry, songs, and metaphors. When we fertilize our language in this way, we synergize the world. Much like nature brings emerging properties into being – such as the wetness that comes of combining hydrogen and oxygen, lichen from algae and fungus, and humanity from the biosphere – we, too, can synergize zeitgeists from history, grooves from jamming musicians, and great love through communion with others. These emerge as verbs, processes and relationships, transformations and motion. If we choose to speak more in verbs and surrender to their flow, we will invariably run into the rocky outcrops of nouns so prevalent in the English language.

What, then, to do with all these nouns, with their flow-impeding dualisms? Some we can leave in our wake, while others are being worked on by popular culture. ‘Story’, ‘access’, ‘architect’, ‘voice’, and ‘message’ are just some nouns that are now converting to verbs. These are more signs that our collective imagination is organicizing – returning to the garden. That words such as ‘e-mail’, ‘Google’, and ‘YouTube’ have been rapidly verb-ified, is evidence that the process is going virtual, picking up speed. Work on (re)organicizing our reality is the growing edge of language development. To this beginning, it is useful to mow down some of the mechanistic metaphors we have inherited, such as those that have colonized time (e.g., ‘the engine of change’, ‘time is money’) and seed our speech with those that spiral us back round to Gaian lifeways (e.g., ‘the tides of change’, ‘time is a great healer’). To move from Machinetime to Dreamtime, it is also useful to make a conscious effort to ascribe life to all things. Name your car; say hello to your computer; and ask where things live, rather than where they are. Though some would say this is simply projecting human traits onto things, it is more about recognizing counterparts of our own traits in other beings, a kind of ‘Namaste’ approach to the world.

The Imaginal Commons
This leads us into the great work of the rebirth of organismic cosmologies, the true home of the spiritually evolving, heart-opening imagination. Also known as eco-cosmologies, cosmologies of resonance, ‘as above so below’ – in these all manner of atom, molecule, element, cell, plant, animal, ancestor, and deity appear less as ‘others’, and more as participants in the metabolisms of nested ‘bodies’, not only our own, but regional ecosystems; the earth, the solar system, and beyond. These nested patterns of resonance all work by the same principles, a kind of dharma of the universe that is expounded in all the world’s great scriptures. These scriptures can as well be ‘read’ at their source, in the living world, if one has the imaginal cognition to do so. This cognition is the ability to apprehend form via the vitalistic forces that create it (e.g., sacred geometry, the herbalist ‘doctrine of signatures’), to know the behavior of things via the spiritual energies that underlie them (e.g. astrology), and ultimately to understand the world completely transparent to its Source. It is a faculty of perception, developed by an imagination that has the vigor to come once again into the great commons of communication, and to engage in council with the tribes of Creation. For those of us who have not yet tuned into the nature channel in this lifetime, or only cursorily touched into it through various transpersonal encounters, let’s discuss what this re-engagement can look like.

The imaginal commons is a place of origin stories, tales of never-ending events. These arise through the Gaian mind as paths of creation that vision, architect and speak the surface world into existence. The mythic is the actual world behind the real world, the ‘actuality’ that generates ‘reality’. The stability of the turtle may offer itself as an island; the mercurial intelligence of jackals or dolphins can teach us to laugh and play tricks; the carrion-eating life of hyenas gives lessons in recycling; and the flow to a river may connect to the streaming tears of a forlorn woman, carrying away her sorrow. The mythical dimensions of these animals and elements carry the virtues, the power and the ‘medicine’ of their physical form. By knowing this internal topology of the world, all manner of divination, healing, sorcery, spiritual illumination, and shapeshifting, can be effected. This is done by linking an imaginative act to the spiritual power of a thing, and then directing it with an intention. This is essentially magic, a science of similarities. It effects change by bringing things together, just as reductionist science effects change by taking things apart. This often involves bringing two things with a mythic affinity (i.e., they come from the same place) together as two strands of an analogy; this to effect remembrance in the one that has forgotten its origins and purpose (and so, is dis-ordered) by connection to the one that retains the memory. For example, in an act of song healing the spark of light, the longing for peace buried in so many frozen hearts, can be freed by forging a vision between it and a dawning sun. By singing of this daily event and holding the image of its inevitable rising, the spark of peace will rise as the sun, thawing and melting the heart as it climbs the sky of the mind. There are countless ways to knit the world together through such subtle activism, the potential of metaphor to bridge the world of causality and result, vibration and form.

This magical science of the imagination has to be drawn upon to effect the changes needed in the world. It is a way by which poets and songwriters may reclaim their bardhood to birth stories of renewal, instead of using their talents to dramatize their neuroses. It can also involve scientists and philosophers with work on the higher calling of cosmological unification of the world, instead of feeding the academic industry that has grown up around analyzing irresolvable (and, largely, self-created) dualistic conflicts. The commons is calling to us, the spirits from the garden are banging on our heads, and though so many of us have lost the imaginal capacity to hear, we are all feeling it at some level. We, too, need to do our activating from that timeless place, from the commons. Once tuned in, we will find that our ability to imagine our future is inseparable from Gaia imagining hers, and we will gain a direction and power to manifest positive change in the 3-D world. We will find that the darkened times we are in are actually the necessary stimuli for the radical change in consciousness needed to evolve our species into something else. What is that something? Use your imagination!

(With grateful acknowledgement to Morgan Brent - educator, ceremonialist, medical anthropologist and spiritual ecologist)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Apocalypse When?

As we stand on the brink of entering 2009 and we look back on the present year, there are many questions about the massive changes that were witnessed over the last 12 months. Jaw dropping financial announcements followed unexpected global political events; while a host of small-bore issues started converging in areas as diverse as the environment, transportation, food production, religious strife and ethnic intolerance. Our biggest fears are manifest, just as our desperate hopes are pinned on one man's gifted oratory. Unless you've been living in isolation, its fairly obvious that we have entered a time of transition; our planetary governance system is disintegrating under the pressures brought to bear by 6.8 billion people, in fact, the very planet has had enough of us.

Sound like the 'end of days' scenario prevalent in fundamental Christianity? Perhaps, but the issue with prophecy is that it very much depends on the quality of the prophet; we are talking about foretelling the future after all. Particularly during stressful transition phases, when most people are prone to looking for answers beyond the conventional. Which makes it all the more interesting is that South Africa had a remarkably accurate prophet, who's visions have consistently been proven by the uncompromising test of history. However his ethnicity, and contentious revelations, still cause controversy today; some 82 years after he died.

Nikolaas 'Siener' van Rensburg was an illiterate Afrikaner farmer; who dictated some 700 visions over a 27 year period until his death in 1926. As a child he only had 2 weeks of formal schooling and his mother eventually taught him how to spell out words in order to be able to read painstakingly. As a result he only ever read the the Bible and was never exposed to other publications during his life. This, combined with his upbringing on an isolated farm and his 'sensitive' nature, ensured that this 'siener' (Afrikaans for seer) was able to receive extraordinary visions; without the encumbrance of opinion. It did mean that his visions where couched in the language and sentiment of his age though, albeit rich in universal symbology that the prophet himself sometimes failed to understand.

He was by all accounts a humble man that kept the company of his family and trusted friends, who were the only ones to share his visions first-hand. Reading Siener van Rensburg's words nearly a century after they were given, one is struck by his love for his people, fellow believers and nature. In view of apartheid's recent history, its not surprising that modern day liberals have grave reservations about the old prophet's prediction that the Afrikaners will again rule their former republic; just as the far-right are quick to claim ownership of his visions to bolster their political agenda. To do so however, is to become trapped in the superficial nature of each vision's literal meaning; rather than exploring the rich nature of the underpinning symbology.

Herein lies the irony of what it means to be a prophet, even an astonishingly accurate one. The audience will simply take from any prophecy what they find useful and attractive, ignoring the rest. Alternatively, unpleasant or frightening visions will similarly be cast aside. For example, Siener van Rensburg saw the Afrikaner as the Israelites of Africa; religious refugees wandering the wilderness in search of self-determination, cruelly exploited by a super-power only to be delivered from evil through moral rectitude. Yet at no stage did he maintain that this was a given right; in fact he made a clear distinction between the 'faithful' and the opportunistic amongst his people, as to which deserved the 'promised land'.

Its quite clear that Siener van Rensburg's visions were related within the narrow reference of his isolated existence, and further metaphysical analysis may well be possible on closer examination. Stepping back from realized prophecy and narrow ethnic interpretations of historic events; its clear that the last visions of Siener van Rensburg's life, as related to his daughter, hold special significance for the new millenium. Of particular importance is his prediction of a Third World War that destroys Europe and brings about the end of the Britsh, Russian and American hegemony. The prophecy dictates that all three states cease to exist after the invasion started by Russia and China is halted in Spain by the US and Germany; but not before Britain treacherously abandons it's US ally. This triggers a massive exodus of refugees who flood into Southern Africa; drastically altering the population demographic of the region. He ends by predicting that these events will transpire when 'the ice begins to melt'.

Farfetched? Let's examine the facts: (1) The Larsen ice shelf has collapsed in the Antarctic; while ice levels have receded drastically in Greenland, Alaska and the Arctic passages (2) Russia has just announced a $14 billion expansion of its military. (3) New gas and oil leases have been signed between Russia, Iran and Turkey; securing monopoly control over European energy supplies. (4) The 'electric ray' secret weapons Siener van Rensburg predicted in this 1920's vision, refers to US laser technology. He also indicates the use of tactical nuclear weapons, listed on the current Russian arms acquisition plan. (5) The financial demise of the US and Britain, as a result of this war, has ample precedent; particularly when we consider the debilitating effect of the Iraq occupation, the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the inherent danger of the vast dollar reserves held by Russia and China. (6) The 'seven plagues' predicted for Britain refers to the massive influx of refugees from former colonies, as a result of a worsening world economy prior to the outbreak of war.

Perhaps the answers are evident in the convergence of the above, obviating the need for prophecy; but it does confirm the perspicacious abilities of Siener van Rensburg. Whether a supporter or detractor, the message remains troublingly accurate and places the spotlight uncomfortably close to a mounting list of dangerous issues. As with well known prophecy of yore (Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce et al), the human fascintion with clairvoyance remains firmly tied to self-interest; but curiously aloof to warnings of danger.

Ethiopia's New Jerusalem

Inner Landscapes

AKAirways is an art group based in New York City, led by Anakin Koenig. Their focus is sculpture/installation centered on inflatable objects. The installations are transient and ephemeral, dependent on interaction and engage the environment in which they are deployed. These dynamic works are constantly changing and evolving. The group's work has been presented in a variety of contexts, from the Museum of Modern Art to underground raves, from NASA to the Whitney Biennale.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Arithmetic of Compassion

Ever since he was a child, David Ulansey has been searching for a certain number: namely, the figure for the annual Gross World Product (GWP). The GWP is the value of all goods and services produced each year by the entire human species, and the reason he was searching for this number as a child is that he wanted to take it and divide it by the number of people in the world, so that he would know what each human being was actually entitled to if the world's resources were divided fairly and equitably.

He finally ran into this number recently, and he has now performed the simple arithmetic of compassion. It turns out that the Gross World Product is now $65 trillion. It is important to note that this figure of $65 trillion - arrived at independently by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the CIA - has been adjusted in advance to take into account what is called 'purchasing power parity' (PPP): which means that the figure is 65 trillion units, each unit of which represents what one U.S. dollar will currently buy in the US (The PPP adjustment eliminates from the very start any strategies of denial such as: 'Oh, that doesn't mean anything, you can live like a king in India for $5,000 a year'. No. Wrong.).

Now to the arithmetic of compassion: Since the GWP is 65 trillion U.S. dollars, if we divide that figure by the number of people in the world - 6.8 billion - we get a rough estimate of the maximum annual income that anyone in the world is morally entitled to (assuming that it is moral to strive for an equitable distribution of the world's resources to all of humanity).

So, dividing $65 trillion by 6.8 billion we get about $9,000 per year (again, that's already adjusted for purchasing power parity: it's 9,000 units, each unit of which is what one U.S. dollar will currently buy in the United States). That's what each of us is actually entitled to - $9,000 a year - and any more than that represents institutionalized and socially sanctioned armed robbery: indeed, every additional increment of $9,000 (beyond the maximum moral income of $9,000 a year) represents one slave somewhere in the world whose entire life, birth to death, is completely devoted to getting us our 'stuff'.

And unfortunately we can't "grow" our way beyond this $9,000 a year figure, since at the current level of $65 trillion GWP we have already overshot by 30% what the Earth actually produces. The fact that the human species is already in 30% overshoot means that not only can we not 'grow' our way beyond the $9,000 maximum moral income level, we actually need to shrink that down to $6,000 just to come back to a level where humanity is merely using 100% of everything the Earth produces (rather than using 130% of what the Earth produces, as we are very temporarily doing!). This is especially the case since the world population is due to increase by almost 50% - to more than 9 billion people - by 2050:

Of course a $6,000 a year income may sound rather frightening to those of us who have become accustomed to the "first world standard of living." However, to place this figure in its proper perspective, it is helpful to keep in mind that according to the World Bank, at this very moment almost half of the people in the world (3 billion people) live on less than $2.50 (PPP) a day - $900 a year - and a quarter of the world's population (1.4 billion people) live below the official world poverty level of $1.25 a day - $456 a year.

In fact, three years ago World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern estimated that a European cow receives $2.50 a day in subsidies, while 75% of Africans live on less than $2 a day. So although $6,000 a year may sound disturbing to us, for the majority of the people in the world it would literally constitute wealth beyond their wildest dreams. Finally, it is crucial to realize that $6,000 a year per person is actually still far too high to be sustainable, even if there were no population growth ahead at all. This is because at the level of $6,000 a year per person for 6.8 billion people, we would still be consuming 100% of what the Earth can produce, and would thus be doing absolutely nothing to prevent the two greatest threats facing us in our own lifetimes: (1) a mass extinction of the Earth's biodiversity resulting from habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species, and over-harvesting, and (2) catastrophic climate change that could render the earth uninhabitable for much of higher life including our own species.

The solution is clear: we must immediately and drastically reduce our levels of consumption. Something like $4,000 a year per person is probably in the right ballpark for what is ecologically possible and morally justifiable. Again, that may be difficult for many of us to hear, but remember that $4,000 a year is more than 4 times the amount that half of the people in the world live on at this very moment. In fact, according to the World Bank, 95% of all people in developing countries (which means almost 80% of all human beings) live on less than $10 a day - less than $4,000 a year.

Of course then the question is: how can we in the 'developed' world accomplish such a reduction? One common answer to this question is simply unworthy of discussion: namely, 'It's impossible'. Whenever I find that answer spontaneously rearing its ugly head in my own imagination, I like to remind myself that Eskimos live in houses made of ice, but their lives are filled with just as much love and beauty, and their children laugh and play with just as much joy - perhaps more! - as our own.

Beyond all its other characteristics, Homo Sapiens is a species capable of extreme adaptability. The time has at last arrived for us to become actual human beings, and to allow compassion - and celebration! - to guide us into a radically new world: a world where we experience 'quality of life' for ourselves as being indistinguishable from 'equality of life for all.

The Present of Presence

Most people have not yet fully processed the magnitude of the economic crisis that will continue to deepen in the next years. Our lives may depend upon working through the causes and logical consequences of this disaster, which can be blamed on the greed and ineptitude of the ruling elite. The short-term prognosis is devastating. The hundreds of billions, potentially trillions, of dollars created by governments for bailouts should lead to hyperinflation and a sharp rise in the price of basic goods. At the same time, analysts are predicting that some governments will be insolvent by next year and forced to declare bankruptcy.

One consequence of the credit freeze has been that many farmers around the world, who often live on narrow margins and depend upon loans to see them through the annual harvest, have not been able to get credit. This could lead to diminished production of food at a time when climate change is reducing the amount of arable land. Last year, there were already hunger riots in a number of countries, and by next summer we may see famine on a larger scale.

Hunger may also become a problem in the developed world. While layoffs and mass foreclosures continue and economies contract, a large segment of the populace (who have no savings and much debt) could become a new pauper class. We have already seen over a million homes turned over to banks in the US alone. One can only wonder where those people, and the millions more soon to join them, are going to end up.

Meanwhile, the turmoil in the markets will continue, potentially getting much worse. Apparently, hundreds of trillions of virtual dollars spin in the roulette machine of the derivatives market, which is beginning to disintegrate. The collapse of the housing market may be followed by mass waves of credit card defaults. The world economy was a house of cards, based on the extraordinary premise that ever-expanding debt was a desirable product, and it is now falling down upon us.

We are facing a time of great change and spiritual challenge. Those of us who have undergone a process of awakening and initiation during the last decades will be called upon to act as truth-tellers, leaders and compassionate caretakers for the multitudes that have been duped and deluded by the system. We may have to abandon our comfort zones and personal ambitions to be of service to the situation as it unfolds.

In the time available to us before the situation becomes critical, priorities include strengthening local communities and disseminating techniques of self-sufficiency, such as getting many more people to grow their own food. It is tragic that our mass media continues to act as a mechanism of distraction. The media could be used to explain to people how our world is changing, to teach them the basic life skills that we forfeited a few generations ago, and to imprint new behavior patterns based on sustainable life-ways. Perhaps public broadcasting, at least, can be repurposed for this necessary effort.

The partial nationalization of financial institutions around the world reveals the failure of capitalism; the end of capitalism in its old form. In the future, it should be obvious that capitalism was a transitional system for our global community. Capitalism meshed the world together through networks of trade and communication, while maintaining monstrous inequities and irrational misuse of resources.

The question that faces us now is: what comes after capitalism, and how do we get there? In the short term, we may see dangerous efforts at authoritarian control. The longer-term answer may be a collapse of centralized structures of authority and the blossoming of a new form of global direct democracy; what the anthropologist Pierre Clastres called "society without a state." By necessity, our future system will be collaborative rather than competitive.

If the crisis now confronting the human community is mishandled, vast populations will experience untold suffering and starvation in the next few years. If "we the people" can rise to the occasion, we may be able to radically change the direction of human society, along with the basic paradigms and underlying operating systems of our culture, in a rapid timeframe. This appears to be the message of many prophetic traditions which have anticipated this climactic passage in human affairs - as has been said:"We are the ones we have been waiting for".

As we approach the holiday season and the Gregorian New Year, we can give thanks for having been born into this extraordinary, precious time. Our actions over the next few years could have tremendous consequences for humanity's future on this planet. At such a juncture, the best present we can give to the people around us is our authentic presence; our willingness to listen, learn and remain open to transformation, as the pace of change quickens around us.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Man, Spirituality, Technology

Wired magazine’s own "Senior Maverick" talks with Ken Wilber about some of the ideas behind Kevin's blog The Technium, which explores the various ways humanity defines and redefines itself through the interface of science, technology, culture, and consciousness. Kevin also shares some of his own thoughts about the role of spirituality in the 21st century, going into considerable depth around his own spiritual awakening several decades ago.

Kevin Kelly is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine. He helped launch Wired in 1993, and served as its Executive Editor until January 1999. He is currently editor and publisher of the Cool Tools website, which gets 1 million visitors per month. From 1984-1990 Kelly was publisher and editor of the Whole Earth Review, a journal of unorthodox technical news. He co-founded the ongoing Hackers' Conference, and was involved with the launch of the WELL, a pioneering online service started in 1985. He authored the best-selling New Rules for the New Economy and the classic book on decentralized emergent systems, Out of Control.

Ken Wilber is the most widely translated academic writer in America, with 25 books translated into some 30 foreign languages, and is the first philosopher-psychologist to have his Collected Works published while still alive. Wilber is an internationally acknowledged leader and the preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development, which continues to gather momentum around the world. His many books, all of which are still in print, can be found at Some of his more popular books include Integral Spirituality; No Boundary; Grace and Grit; Sex, Ecology, Spirituality; and the "everything" books: A Brief History of Everything (one of his largest selling books) and A Theory of Everything (probably the shortest introduction to his work). Ken Wilber is the founder of Integral Institute, Inc. and the co-founder of Integral Life, Inc.

The universe, we are told, is winding down. Nothing escapes the remorseless grasp of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics—and with each passing moment, our world, our solar system, indeed our entire galaxy slowly approaches its inevitable heat-death. But this is not the full story, for while the universe is winding down, it is also winding up, bringing forth new forms from old, adding new layers of complexity where there was once only an empty vacuum. It is what Alfred Whitehead called the "creative advance into novelty," referring to a distinct "tilt" of the universe toward more complexity, more significance, and more wholeness. From atoms, to molecules, to single-cell and multi-cellular organisms, to the reptilian brain, mammalian brain, and the human neocortex—the universe is abound with inexhaustible creativity, pushing deeper and wider towards its own limitless potential. Entropy and evolution: these two "arrows of time" exert their pull upon everything that ever is, was, and will be—one pulling us up toward the eternal light, the other pulling us down toward the infinite black.

But it is not just physical matter that is evolving! Alongside the increasing complexification of the material world, evolution brings forth novelty in at least three other dimensions, particularly evident within human evolution:
We see the evolution of systems, such as the movement from foraging to horticulture, to agriculture, to industrial, to informational modes of techno-economic production.

We see the evolution of cultural worldviews, such as the developmental model offered by Jean Gebser, in which cultures develop through archaic/instinctual, magic/animistic, mythic/traditional, rational/scientific, pluralistic/postmodern, and integral worldviews, each offering radically different ways of interpreting our world and our roles within it.

And, perhaps most profoundly, we see the evolution of consciousness, with cognitive faculties developing from Piaget’s pre-operational, to concrete operational, to formal-operational, to Wilber’s suggested “vision-logic” stage—and with values developing from pre-modern, to modern, to post-modern (or pre-rational, rational, and trans-rational) stages, and beyond.

Taken together, we notice a rich mosaic of evolutionary emergence, in at least four important dimensions: subjective and objective development in both individuals and collectives. This gives rise to Wilber's famous “Four Quadrant” map, one of a handful of basic components that comprise the Integral model. The Integral approach helps to reveal some of the deepest patterns that run through all human knowledge, showing the relationships that exist between physical evolution, systemic evolution, cultural evolution, and conscious evolution.

Whereas some consider consciousness, culture, and technology to be mere epiphenomena of biophysical evolution, the Integral approach highlights many of the fallacies hidden within such reductionistic views. The Four Quadrants represent four distinct dimensions of the universe, all strongly correlating with each other, but not at all reducible to one another. Consciousness cannot be simply reduced to the chemical soup between your ears, as scientific materialists might believe. All truth cannot be reduced to cultural embedment, as post-modernists have claimed. And all of our behaviors cannot be reduced to techno-economic conditions, as Marxists presume. There are simply more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in any of these partial philosophies—and the Integral approach essentially tries to get all of heaven and all of earth onto the table, without ever confusing a meadow for a cloud, a mountain for a star, or an ocean for a galaxy.

This, in many ways, is what Kevin's Technium truly represents. As he describes in his blog, Technium is a word he "reluctantly coined to designate the greater sphere of technology—one that goes beyond hardware to include culture, law, social institutions, and intellectual creations of all types. In short, the Technium is anything that springs from the human mind. It includes hard technology, but much else of human creation as well. I see this extended face of technology as a whole system with its own dynamics." The Technium exists at the interface between science, technology, culture, and consciousness, exploring the various ways humanity has defined and redefined itself through the ages. Within the Technium, technology is not regarded merely as the lifeless artifacts created by a particular species, but as a living matrix of innovation—the infusion of consciousness into inanimate matter, which in turn shapes our personal and cultural experience of the world.

Toward the end of the discussion, Kevin shares one of his most powerful experiences. At the age of 27, he slept on the supposed spot where Jesus was crucified, and upon awakening had a powerful spiritual experience. Many people are aware of the fact that Kevin continues to be a devout Christian, which might defy some expectations of those who otherwise consider him extremely rational—trans-rational even—while pushing the vanguard of digital culture. In many contemporary thinkers' minds, spirituality is little more than a quaint vestige of antiquity, and once we transition from the mythic/traditionalist stage to the rational/scientific stage, there is no longer any room in the universe for God.

This, more than anything, has been the rallying call of the "New Atheist" movement of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and (to a lesser degree) Sam Harris. But it is important to note that it's not spirituality per se that the modern world should jettison, but the magical and mythical interpretations of spirituality that are transcended by the rational or postmodern mind. The present schism between modernity and spirituality does not need to exist, as long as we allow ourselves enough room to re-conceptualize what we mean by the word "spirituality."

While nobly trying to dislodge humanity from the monolithic tyranny of fundamentalism, many modern and post-modern thinkers have inadvertently thrown the baby out with the bath water. When Nietzsche accurately exclaimed "God is dead!" he wasn't actually talking about God Him/Herself, but the mythic conception of God, along with all the dogmatism, absolutism, and ethnocentrism that follows. While the mythic God was dying, the rational God was only just being born. Possiby stillborn, some might argue, but born nonetheless—with both a pluralistic God and an Integral God close on its heels.

This is one of the most extraordinary insights of recent years: while the universe (and our experience of the universe) is constantly evolving, so is our spirituality. It is a sad reality that spirituality remains such a confusing and controversial topic. How is it that religion has brought more liberation to more people than any other human endeavor, while simultaneously causing more pain and suffering than anything in human history? As mentioned, both individuals and cultures develop through increasing waves of subjective and intersubjective complexity, from archaic, to magic, to mythic, to rational, to pluralistic, to integral stages of consciousness and culture, with infinite room at the top for future stages of unfolding. This is the profound role religion can potentially serve in the 21st century—a sort of "conveyor belt" of consciousness, designed to facilitate growth through each stage of consciousness.

And this is an absolutely crucial point—you can taste God at any stage in your own psychological development, as these experiences are always available as ever-present states of consciousness. However, your interpretation of the experience will be largely determined by what stage of consciousness you have achieved. For example, a mythic/traditional person might interpret a spiritual experience as a revelation from a personal God intended solely for the “chosen people,” a rational/scientific person might interpret reason and mathematics itself as the language of a Deistic God (the “great clockmaker in the sky”), while a pluralistic/postmodern person might interpret his or her experience as emanating from Gaia and felt as a radical interconnectivity with the “Great Web of Life.” This is demonstrated in the graphic below, known as the Wilber/Combs matrix, which plots four different types of commonly-acknowledged spiritual states against seven evolutionary stages of consciousness, yielding at least 28 different kinds of spiritual experience. No wonder we are so confused!Furthermore, just as we can look at evolution through three major perspectives (3rd-person physical and techno-economic evolution, 2nd-person cultural evolution, 1st-person conscious evolution), so can we view our relationship with the divine from these same three perspectives, sometimes called the “Three Faces of God”:

We can speak about God from a 3rd-person perspective, including theological or metaphysical descriptions, or just a simple appreciation of the universe as the living body of God. This is often experienced as profound awe at the entire world around us.

We can speak with God from a 2nd-person perspective, as an authentic "I-Thou" relationship between ourselves and divinity, in which we can commune with God as the ultimate "Thou"—or, as Martin Buber might suggest, as the living hyphen between the I and every Thou you have ever known. This is often experienced as bottomless, rapturous love with the entire world around us.

We can speak as God from a 1st-person perspective, a direct experience of Spirit in the form of mystical transcendence, personal revelation, or luminous reverie. This is commonly felt as an experience of the Self beyond the self, or the effortless "I AMness" behind all our thoughts, memories, and experiences. This is often experienced as transcendent, empty bliss as we realize we are the entire world around us.

Approaching spiritual experience in this way does a great deal to help us understand the current state of the world’s ongoing inter-faith dialogue, as we can see that every spiritual tradition intrinsically contains all three of these perspectives, though certain traditions might focus on one more than the others. For example, the Western theistic traditions tend to emphasize “God in 2nd-person” and are often distrustful of 1st-person experiences of the divine, whereas Eastern traditions like Buddhism tend to point to 1st-person realization as the ultimate means of liberation, while sometimes understating the importance of 2nd-person communion with Spirit.

Thanks to the information age, people now have unprecedented access to all the world’s knowledge, wisdom, and culture. Never before has the world been so small—and yet, considering the absolutely massive amount of data now at our fingertips, the world has also never been so unfathomably huge. We are drowning in zeros and ones, the digital reflections of our outer and inner worlds flooding our senses faster than any of us can metabolize. Only a genuinely Integral approach can make sense of this deluge of information, an approach that acknowledges and situates the established methodologies of phenomenology, structuralism, empiricism, hermeneutics, systems theory, etc., without ever confusing the territory of one methodology with the authority of another. In this sense, both Kevin Kelly and Ken Wilber are truly 21st-century pioneers, both of whom share an irrepressible drive to synthesize and integrate a truly staggering body of knowledge. Their work represents a new way of seeing the world, of relating to the world, and of being in the world. They strive to identify the very real patterns in our universe, patterns that connect everything to everything else, and in so doing, helping to clear a path for the future of evolution in this lonely pocket of the universe.