COLUMN: A pending transformation of human consciousness?
“Peace will rule the planets, and Love will steer the Sun”
— “Age of Aquarius,” from Hair, the musical
“I came upon a child of God, he was walking along the road. And I asked him, where are you going?
This he told me: … I’m going to camp out on the land — and try and set my soul free.
We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
— Joni Mitchell, Woodstock
On the threshold of … ?
The column this month takes its premise from a cultural phenomenon I assume some readers are already aware of. Call it the phenomenon of “quantum leap of human consciousness.” I mean by that, not that something has indeed transformed humanity now, but that a lot of “cultural producers” are communicating about such a possibility. Writers both fictional and academic, philosophical and lyrical, appear today to believe homo sapiens is poised for a change of cosmic significance. Researchers in cognitive neuro-science and genetics, artificial intelligence and nano-technology, space colonization and temporal theories, are in harmony with the culture: a change is coming. Futurist writers like Yuval Harari and Ray Kurzweil predict changes mostly technological and scientific, others write more in a spiritual vein.
Awake, Shift, Evolve, Create Planetary Betterment
Readers need not take my word for it; that there is an immense literature now available about a purported threshold in human historical developments is as easy to substantiate as a quick dip into online search engines.
The key words signalling the topic under discussion are: shift, turning, soul, transformation, awakening, enchantment, consciousness, integration, andevolution. These words have been highlighted in the following citations from thinkers and activists contributing to this phenomenon.
The shift phenomenon in the realms of intellectual, religious, ethical, and commercial ideas is not exclusively Californian in its origins; however, subtract California’s contribution to the phenomenon, and the content of the movement is in fact substantially smaller than with that contribution included. California continues today, as it has been for a century, an incubator of unusual cultural currents. Silicon Valley, Disneyland, Hollywood, and Charles Manson are a few words that come quickly to my mind when I free-associate about California.
Is the phenomenon “cutting-edge progress” — or merely “weird/ bizarre/ goofy/ woo-woo”? By all means, attend some speakers’ conferences, or do some reading, or go online watching and listening, and then form your own judgement of the Californians’ manifest talent for producing new ideas.
Living in BC, in Nelson, I feel immersed in the tides generated there, the harvest of ideas sprouted there: California, seedbed of speculative philosophies. I am unfortunately not sufficiently a global-citizen, not quite cosmopolitan, not a planetary-networked writer, able to know whether there are other places, in Asia, Africa, or South America, with as much productivity as the west coast of the USA. With my limited perspective from southern BC, I perceive California as ground-zero of the phenomenon I discuss in the column.
And so, my selected quotations on the subject of future changes: I’ll begin with three excerpts from Christine Horner, author of What is God? and Awakening Leadership, among others:
“Something miraculous is happening. The invisible is becoming visible. Human consciousness is taking a quantum leap into territory previously unknown, as what began with just a few saints, sages, gurus, and a ‘Saviour’ is awakening in the hearts and minds of millions around the globe.”
“…[W]hen you awaken, you will be struck with the realization that the power that fuels and binds all of the Universe… is Creation itself. There is no separation… Until recently, only a small number of people have transcended separation consciousness to make the evolutionary leap from separation to unity consciousness where human suffering ends. …Most of humanity was still too unevolved to ‘get it’ until now.”
“Joining hands in a way that has been all but forgotten, darkness turns to light, fear becomes love, competition changes to co-operation. Our planet is restored to good health.”
From a Beliefnet.com (a religious website) interview with Richard Tarnas:
“… Richard Tarnas, Ph. D., makes the case for a caring and sentient universe… he reminds us that the stars do, in fact, light the way for humanity in its spiritual evolution and struggle with maturity. While many scientists and academics subscribe to a paradigm in which faith and reason are separate, Tarnas offers an integrated perspective.”
From the Integral Life website:
“What makes Ken Wilber especially relevant in today’s world is that he is the originator of an extremely comprehensive philosophy, called ‘Integral Theory,’ which includes pretty much everything under the sun…
“Ken’s integral model helps us to embrace and work with our pain and suffering, to spiritually wake up, to become more fully alive and creative, to participate in the evolution of consciousness…”
From Richard Tarnas, cultural historian, philosopher and author:
“Modern civilization pays a high price for living in a universe that it believes is random and spiritually meaningless.”
“Instead of the modern division between the purposeful, meaning-seeking human consciousness and a random, meaningless universe, astrology points to a universe that is integrated at all levels…”
“We know from individual lives that there is nothing like a mortal crisis to profoundly reconfigure a person’s life. Out of such a crisis a radical shift of values tends to emerge. The whole moral structure of a person’s, or an entire society’s, way of being is transformed. It seems to me quite possible that we as a civilization and as a species may face some kind of crisis that will serve to catalyze this awakening…
“A new view of nature and the universe as ensouled, as spiritually significant, would give [humans] a better ground for both moral responsibility and a sense of spiritual belonging.
“The question is, how severe will the crisis have to be for this awakening to take place?”
(Tarnas died in 2016. He was an active member of the faculty at the California Institute of Integral Studies.)
From Barbara Marx Hubbard, futurist and author:
“… we turn the birth into an enduring shift to a new culture and consciousness… [We are] feeling the inner call to seize this rare opportunity and actively participate in this great planetary shift, … becoming what we would call an ‘Agent of Conscious Evolution.’
“We are teetering on the edge of environmental collapse and global disaster… this intense and often emotional drama has one powerful solution: our conscious evolution as a species… The Agents of Conscious Evolution (ACE) movement grows enduring hubs for conscious evolution around the world, all building towards the systemic shifts ahead of us… become an evolutionary mystic – to make the inner shift from your head to your heart, from ego to essence… to co-create a world that works for everybody.”
From David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World and The Great Turning, and other works [interview, Sept. 2007, Sun online]; Korten was mentored by Willis Harman, president of the California Institute of Noetic Sciences:
“By the reckoning of our scientific stories, life is merely an accident, and there’s no reason for our existence in the first place… Survival by itself is devoid of meaning. …We need a reason to change… an image of God as a spirit that’s integral to all creation, an unfolding universe moving toward ever-greater complexity… We need to recognize that there is something much deeper going on, that intelligence is real and pervasive. …[Q]uantum physics says that matter is essentially an illusion, creating the illusion of material solidity and stability. I like what physicist Sir James Jeans said: “The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.”
“As the baby boomers move into their elder years, I want them to recognize that they have a great responsibility not to go away, but to make use of their experience, financial independence, and discretionary time to advance the Great Turning. We need to move beyond the socialized consciousness and recognize that culture is a construct, not an absolute reality. Empire doesn’t want awakened elders out in public talking to people still living in the cultural trance.”
From Ken Wilber, author, philosopher, inventor of Integral-Spiral Dynamics:
“All religions, like all other disciplines, will be affected by this profound transformation. And unlike the earlier interpretations and approaches to this worldwide transformation… this is a much more nuanced view based on significant research and evidence… [T]he biggest one [transformation] of all is just ahead of us!”
— Wilber, The Religion of Tomorrow (2017) p. 40
“… ‘Integral Methodological Pluralism’ [drives] toward a genuine ‘theory of everything’ that helps to enrich and deepen every field… [W]e reveal the previously unseen possibilities for a better, more compassionate, and more sustainable future for all of us.”
From The Shift Network, Institute for Noetic Sciences, California:
“We call ourselves the Shift Network … a network of inspired hearts, awakened minds, and dedicated souls… We are deeply committed to supporting the shift toward a planet that is healthy, sustainable, peaceful and prosperous for all and are striving to make an impact on multiple fronts… We create transformative virtual events to help you live an extraordinary life… ”
My own personal choice, if one were to read only a single source for speculative ideas and philosophy regarding human development in the 21st century, would be the public pronouncements of Charles Eisenstein. He is not quite part of the mainstream in this phenomenon, for he is not focussed sharply on the evolution of human consciousness per se. But Eisenstein is convinced, and he is persuasive on the subject, that humanity is “between stories” and that our narratives determine our minds’ comprehension of what is real. Please, if you have never taken time to look at his work, visit his website and sample his writing, his podcasts, his interviews, and his video addresses. Best, in my view, read his most-recent book.
The Synthesis of world civilizations?
A seminal figure in Western philosophy, one of the great minds of what is called “the Enlightenment” in eighteenth-century European history, was George Hegel, the Prussian who influenced so many thinkers, such as Karl Marx. His thought lives on today. Ken Wilber, an American philosopher, is one who applies Hegellian concepts to great effect.
Hegel invented the notion of “The Dialectic,” a process in human history he believed patterned all human progress. Humanity has gone through three great stages, he said: Oriental, Greco-Roman, Germanic. Each one had to be evolved by a process of the dialectical working out of opposed forces, the thesis and its antithesis, which forces struggle until a synthesis emerges of qualities from both the forces, but now there is a “higher level” of humanity operating on a higher spiritual plane. “Spirit” is acting in history; each stage of history is an advance, a progress, of that phenomenon, and it moves humanity toward a goal. Freedom was the goal Hegel saw, and he believed that in the Prussian State a very high degree of human liberty had evolved. (He was a German reactionary against the French Revolution, in political terms.)
Hegel knew less of world history than we can know now, and his perspective was limited to his time; he died in 1831. He could not know what the history and prehistory of homo sapiens has been since our species emerged from an African cradle. Humans of our species have been on earth for around a quarter-million years. That is an estimate, but it places us as a younger, more-recent hominid on the evolutionary track from australopithicus through homo erectus and Neanderthal Man. Scientists still debate the exact nature of our relationship to the Neanderthals, and geneticists wonder how much of the Neanderthal genome has been preserved inside the DNA of Sapiens.
The interesting thing for my purposes is the genetic research showing that European homo sapiens is slightly different from Asia Sapiens, and that the Asian variant has perhaps more of Neanderthal and Denosivan Man than the European strain. (This is still controversial; it is important to note I am not writing here of some notion of “races” within humanity, which notion is not supported by genome evidence.)
The West and the East have been separate in some very significant ways since the time of ancient Sumeria and Egypt, in the fifth millennium BCE. Israelites, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, the humanity of the ancient middle East (western Asia), have left traces of their cultural production in the West ever since the Greeks under Alexander invaded the Persian Empire and brought East and West together momentarily in one political unit under Greek hegemony; it has never been united like that since the lifetime of Alexander. What has been called the Axial Age of religious/spiritual genius (Socrates, Plato, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zarasthrustra, Buddha, Mahavira, Confucius, Lao Tzu, all lived then) occurred before and after Alexander, but well before Jesus.
Why I find genetic research into European and Asian homo sapiens interesting is simply this: extrapolating from Hegel, using West and East as thesis and antithesis, I arrive at a question: where is the Asian contribution to the global conversation on the quantum leap of human consciousness? The West’s contribution, as I noted, is easy to find in English-language sites on the Internet.
What is going on in India and China, to name the two great sources of Asian civilization? Would I even know about it if there were people contributing to this cultural phenomenon? Yes, I think I most definitely would know. It is not difficult to find Westerners whose access to information about Asia is much greater than mine, and I would expect Ken Wilber or Charles Eisenstein to inform me of developments there.
What I can find out about China is, I know, somewhat controlled information. I accept that that huge nation and population is under a regime of government fairly labelled “totalitarian.” The Communist Party exerts much energy, to powerful effect, to control the intellectual and cultural life of the Chinese, as well as its indisputable direction of the politics and economics of the nation. If the Party is opposed to “quantum-leap” philosophy, as it was opposed to the Falun Gong religious phenomenon decades ago, or the student movement of 1989, then for certain the Party would prevail and such cultural expressions would not be allowed.
I know nothing of such an attempt by the Party to suppress that culture. I conclude that there simply is no such culture. Absent such a movement in China, one is justified to ask why California seems to dominate the global conversation.
India, so much transformed into a quasi-Western nation by two centuries of British imperialism and colonialism, has been more assimilated to the West. English is widely spoken; Bollywood is a force even in the West. A very popular film, Slumdog Millionaire, has introduced the West to how much Indians are striving to copy Western norms and practices in their notion of freedom. At the same time, we in the West have much exposure to Indian yogis and gurus, Indian religion and philosophy and food and music. India is not offering an antithesis to the Western fascination with the leap in human consciousness-evolution. I expect no dialectical process to merge California with India into a higher stage of consciousness.
I want to believe. I want the notion of our threshold transformation to be true.
I am a natural skeptic; I am scornful of magical thinking.
So what does such a person do in the present moment, presented with the kind of inputs I am discovering in the “quantum-leap-consciousness” phenomenon?
Remain skeptical. Doubt that humanity on a global scale can be altered by the kind of “transformation of consciousness” that the West’s philosophers are promulgating. Remember materialism, capitalism, and science, are immense forces arrayed against the victory of an improved humanity.
Until I hear or read that there is an intellectual/spiritual/cultural forces emanating from the East, to enter into the Dialectic with the West, I will not give too much hope to the quantum leap happening in my lifetime.
If you know about such an Eastern movement sweeping Asia or Africa, please let me know. Until then I remain still loyal to Charles Eisenstein and his idea of a New Story. He does not argue for a new kind of human mind, just the old one as formed by a completely new way of understanding our interconnectedness.