The human community needs new leadership – I hope young people will rise up to fill the void. Rather than hypocritical and corrupt politicians who speak half-truths at best, we need emancipated, self-aware, joyful, heart-based leaders. We need leaders who have done the difficult work of integrating their shadow and subduing their inner demons. The new leaders will be men and women who have internally balanced the masculine and feminine aspects of the psyche. Wilber notes that those who have developed a more universal, empathic perspective must reach out to those still trapped in outmoded belief systems and ethnic animosities. We must become unifiers.
All the ecological data tells us that the longer we wait to shift to a regenerative system, the harder it will be to make this change, and the more mass suffering will be unavoidable. If we wait too long, we will find it impossible to make any transition at all, as our world gets engulfed by catastrophes on a vast scale. We can’t know exactly when we have gone over that threshold and unleashed a situation from which we cannot recover. It is possible we have already passed that threshold. The indicators are blinking red. But we also don’t know what we might accomplish once we embrace this crisis as our initiation, and confront it together.
In 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, my last book, I explored the thesis that humanity is undergoing an evolutionary leap from one level of consciousness – one state of being – to the next. Although I dealt with the 5,125-year-long count cycle of the Mayan calendar, which ended on 21 December 2012, I never anticipated either the Apocalypse or Rapture at or around that date.
I proposed instead that the purpose of the calendar was to mark the transition – to help us make the jump. I saw the end of the long count as an invitation for humanity to undergo a global awakening and take a different path. This would mean adopting aspects of the worldview and some of the practices of indigenous and aboriginal cultures.
These small-scale, traditional societies developed methods of longterm continuity based on their spiritual ethos of interdependence and connection to nature. As Native American sociologist Jack Forbes puts it, ‘The life of Native American peoples revolves around the concept of the sacredness, beauty, power and relatedness of all forms of existence. In short, the ethics or moral values of native people are part and parcel of their cosmology or total worldview.’ We can, I think, merge crucial aspects of the indigenous worldview – as well as the ecological and social practices that stem from it – with our advanced technical capacities. If we manage this, we can learn to respect the limits of the Earth and bring our global civilization back into balance.
In the modern world, time is linear and spatial – you can waste it, run out of it or equate it with money. We are supposed to be making ‘progress’ towards some ineffable, technological goal. But this is just one way of conceiving time, of exploring its many dimensions. There is also the dreamtime, the ever-present origin, known to aboriginals.
Aboriginals don’t conceive of history, of progress and redemption, or decline and fall. For them, the universe is a sacred continuum, an ongoing ceremony. There is only one holy moment, infinitely extended.
This way of understanding time is at least as sensible as ours. In the modern world, people tend to think of humanity as separate from nature – somehow above or outside of it. We forget that all of our abilities are extensions of what we have received from the natural world. I think this gives us reason to hope. The development of modern industrial civilization may also be part of a natural cycle. Most probably, the evolution of society – the development of consciousness – is as exquisitely timed and purposeful as other processes we observe in evolutionary biology. We may be following a programme or sequence – much like foetal development, where the mother transmits chemical signals to her infant, at precise intervals, up to the moment of birth. How we understand and articulate it is part of the programme, executed by the code as it writes itself.
Right now, I believe we are in transition – in the birth canal – approaching the next threshold of our awakening, the next phase of our life as a species. In quantum physics, for example, we are realizing the union of Western science with Eastern metaphysics. In the Middle Ages, modern science emerged out of magic and alchemy. Science began with observation of the physical phenomena we observed outside of us. It has slowly turned inwards. Mysticism starts from the other direction. It begins with our subjective experience – the phenomenology of perception – and opens to the world in its totality. As we approach the end of history, the edge of the abyss, these forms of knowledge are fusing together, merging and unifying. I consider this to be part of the prophetic shift we are undergoing.
The world – according to Hinduism and Buddhism, is ‘maya’, illusion. Similarly, Carl Jung saw the world as a projection of the psyche, a parable of the imagination. I take this to be true, to the deepest level. The imagination is not just a faculty. William Blake considered it to be human existence itself. We are living a fable devised by one underlying source, pure consciousness – the ‘I Am That’, which we are. When we deepen our consciousness – when we ratchet up our awareness of unity within multiplicity – the world shifts correspondingly.
We can no longer allow ourselves to be carried along by the forces of history. Humanity has reached a juncture where, in order to survive, we must become co-creative with the evolutionary process, inflecting and shaping it. We can take responsibility for the plot, its twists and dizzying turns. This requires a new vision and shaping intention.
I don’t think everyone needs to drink ayahuasca, go to Burning Man, or explore the prophetic or esoteric aspects of reality. There are many different pathways to self-knowledge and happiness. I also believe that it makes no sense to separate out the ‘spiritual’ and the ‘material’ – or the spiritual and the political – as if they are opposites. That is a flaw in our thinking that we inherited from outmoded religions. The separation between spirituality and matter was absorbed into New Age spirituality, which has often been self-centred. Now we must grow beyond it to make a spiritual commitment to our human family, as a whole, as well as to the greater community of life on Earth.
This extract is taken from How Soon is Now?: A Handbook for Global Change by Daniel Pinchbeck. Watkins Publishing, 2018. Paperback. RRP $16.95 USD.
About the author:
Daniel Pinchbeck is the author of Breaking Open the Head (Broadway Books, 2002), 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006), and Notes from the Edge Times (Tarcher/Penguin, 2010). He is the founder of the think tank Center for Planetary Culture, which produced the Regenerative Society Wiki and his essays and articles have been featured in the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, ArtForum, New York Times Book Review, Village Voice, Dazed and Confused and many other publications.