Monday, December 20, 2010

Festive Wishes

I would like to wish each and every person a most heartfelt period during these festive days. A time to spend quality moments with family and loved ones; to share love, joy, and the human spirit.

May 2011 bring in a time for great personal upliftment and positive growth. May we all find that which our spirit & hearts truly desire.

Peace & Blessings,



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

War of Consciousness

For long periods of human history there has been active forces penetrating our world that seek to keep humanity ‘asleep’ and distracted from themselves. Also, that these forces are aware of the true power of human consciousness and that the social power structures used to influence and manipulate the masses would collapse if true human potential were to be exercised. Therefore, in the pursuit of control and power certain forces active upon the Earth aim to artificially suppress the natural evolution of human consciousness.

Humanity is caught in a struggle and our consciousness is the battleground. It may come as unnerving news to some to hear that humanity is constantly being bombarded by forces and events beyond our control. This does not make us impotent however; all natural organisms are under the influence of external forces. Yet with humanity there are also other forces at work. These forces are deliberate, more often than not manmade, and manipulate with intent. They aim to persuade if possible, and coerce if necessary. It is these forces that seek to target the remaining spaces where humanity has a modicum of ‘free choice’ and ‘free will’. To some degree these forces are part of the requirements of civilization: to shepherd and organize a burgeoning population. Yet over and above this there exist exploitative forces that work against the laws of conscious evolution. It is these forces, and the need to overcome them, that form a core theme of our times.

The perpetual battlefield is what we know as our everyday lives: our education, our work, our leisure, our emotional and spiritual well-being, and our conscious thinking. Yet the armaments of this struggle are not guns, tanks, airplanes, bombs, or battle-cruisers. It is much more subtle than this. It is less hardware and more software. It is, in effect, a very silent war. And it is a war which, I hope to show, is even more important than the tragic physical scourges occurring on our beautiful planet. It is a war that targets not only the present but also the very long-term future(s) of our civilization. And it has been going on for as long as humankind has existed on planet Earth. What is this war? It is a battle for our minds – how we think. In short, it is the war of consciousness.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Quantum Consciousness 4: Evolutionary Agents – Our Next Quantum Leap?

Various mystics and consciousness researchers have alluded to this by a variety of names; they range from cosmic consciousness, superconsciousness, transpersonal consciousness, integral consciousness, and more. All these descriptions share a common theme; namely, the rise of intuition, empathy, greater connectivity to the world and to people, and a sense of ‘knowing’ about what each given situation demands. Further, such a form of field (non-local or ‘quantum’) consciousness would likely instil within each person a sense of the greater cosmic whole: the realization that humanity exists and evolves within a universe of intelligence and meaning (perhaps even inter-dimensional). This would serve to impart within humanity a more profound, and acknowledged, spiritual impulse.

We can speculate that a variety of forces that include a shifting of the Earth’s geomagnetic forces (as is already occurring); varying solar radiations from each sun cycle; galactic pulses from the centre of the galaxy; our solar system moving through a more ‘energized’ portion of interstellar space; could all in some way result in increased wave patterns (vibrations) entering into the quantum DNA field and catalyzing a shift in the consciousness of humanity. The bridge that divides us at present from another level of living intelligence is in essence a vibratory shift. If such a vibratory shift is a potential means of catalyzing quantum (field) consciousness, this could then lead to increased intuitive faculties and extra-sensory phenomena not only becoming an implicate part of our lives but also to opening up access to greater creativity and inventive capacities for participating in our own human futures. The rise of these attributes in a critical mass could be the key to our next ‘evolutionary leap’. Forms and intimations of these new consciousness patterns are already emerging in the world, but as yet they have not become a part of mainstream research. Such evolutionary ‘mutational’ agents include visionaries, mystics, artists, psychics, intuitives, spiritual Teachers, and what have been termed as the new ‘Indigo Children’. These children (labelled ‘Indigo’ because of their purported coloured auras) are described as possessing increased empathy, creativity, curiosity, and self-will. They are also reported to be spiritually inclined from a young age, and to exhibit strong intuitive capacities. Because of their natural and inherent resistance to authority they are seen as being distracted, rebellious, or alienated in the conventional school system. Yet this is nothing new as throughout recorded history social revolutionaries have felt impelled, and inspired, to resist authority and instigate change (Billington 1998). Many individuals who have felt an awareness of the need to seed an evolutionary impulse into social life have been caught up in revolutionary events and/or been involved in social-cultural upheavals. These human efforts, Krishna notes, come from evolutionary impulses:
I can safely assert that the progress made by mankind in any direction, from the subhuman level to the present, has been far less due to man’s own efforts than to the activity of the evolutionary forces at work within him. Every incentive to invention, discovery, aesthetics, and the development of improved social and political organizations invariably comes from within, from the depths of his consciousness by the grace of…the superintelligent Evolutionary Force in human beings (Krishna 1993: 166).

These indicate efforts, attempts, or social movements to help prepare the ‘mental soil’ for a new consciousness to slowly seed and grow. On the whole social/cultural/material forces are slow to react to the need for an evolving paradigm of human consciousness.

We can say that in order for continued cultural and species growth there are particular periods of human history whereby humanity becomes ready, or in need of, the activation of particular faculties and/or evolutionary traits. It may be that during this critical phase of human culture that humanity will adapt, or be forced to develop, new creative and inspired aspects of consciousness. This transition period – a stage of what I term neuro-genetic evolution – will challenge many of the now-outmoded social structures that have polarized much of human thinking. However, as in all paradigm shifts, old energies inevitably must give way to the new, and it may only be a matter of time before new generations move into evolving consciousness and its physical expressions. It is thus critical that an understanding of spiritual matters begins to permeate through our everyday lives as a counter-balance to our social materialism. It is important in these years ahead that we try to develop a consciousness that is both open to spiritual impulses whilst simultaneously aware and attentive to the latest in scientific research. It is imperative that we revitalize our collective sense of well-being and connectedness – our entanglement – as part of our shared evolutionary development. It is possible that a new state of quantum consciousness will allow humanity access to an unimaginable energetic field of information. This would then open up new vistas of creative intelligence that could be the forerunner to the next stage of along our ascending evolutionary path.

If a person is not sufficiently prepared for these changing impacts then it may cause unbalance and confusion. Personal responsibility means each person must seek to balance the energies of both their inner and outer lives; and to strengthen their sense of connectedness, empathy, and creative vision. These early signs may be the forerunner to an emergence of planetary empathy which, we may hope, will steer us as a global species towards a more viable, fulfilling, and uplifting collective future.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quantum Consciousness 3: Hyper-Communication & Quantum States

The Russian biophysicist and molecular biologist Pjotr Garjajev, who has studied human DNA with his research team in Moscow, has found that the 97% ‘inactive’ DNA actually has complex properties. Garjajev discovered that the DNA which is not used for protein synthesis is instead actually used for communication, more exactly - for hyper-communication. In their terms, hyper-communication refers to a data exchange on DNA level using genetic code. Garjajev and his group analyzed the vibration response of the DNA and concluded that it can function much like networked intelligence, and that it allows for hyper-communication of information amongst all sentient beings. For example, the Moscow research group proved that damaged chromosomes (such as damaged by x-rays) can be repaired. Their method was to ‘capture’ the information patterns of particular DNA and then to transmit these patterns, using focused light frequencies, onto another genome as a way of reprogramming the cells. In this way they successfully transformed frog embryos to salamander embryos simply by transmitting the DNA information patterns. Garjajev’s research shows that certain frequency patterns can be ‘beamed’ (such as with a laser) to transfer genetic information. This shows how DNA operates through resonance and vibratory frequencies. It also shows that human DNA can be modified – or altered – through the impact of external frequencies. These research results go some way towards validating the existence of such phenomena as remote acts of healing, and other psychic attributes. It also suggests that DNA is a living, fluid, and dynamic ‘language’ that as a quantum informational field is responsive not only to laser waves (as in the above experiment) but also EM waves and sound – given that the correct frequencies are applied.

The knowledge that human DNA can be influenced and modulated by frequencies (sound, light, language, and thought) is likely to have been known to various spiritual traditions, mystics and teachers, over the ages. This is perhaps why a variety of exercises have existed that utilize thought focus (prayer); sounds (music; chanting; singing); light (specific locations both natural light and produced light such as in stained glass); and language (specific recitations as in mantras and zikrs). DNA appears to function not only as a protein builder (the minority function) but also as a medium for the storage, receiving, and communicating of information.

To support Garjajev’s claims of hyper-communication we can see how similar principles are operating within Nature. For example, the organization of ant colonies appears to make use of a distributed form of communication. When a queen ant is separated from her colony, the worker ants continue to build and construct the colony as if following some form of blueprint. Yet if the queen ant is killed then all work in the colony ceases, as if the blueprint had suddenly been taken off-line. This suggests that the queen ant not need to be in physical contact to continue to transmit the blueprint, yet upon death the group consciousness ceases to operate within a hyper-communicative informational field. We can thus refer to these forms of hyper-communication as quantum field consciousness, or simply as quantum consciousness (since quantum implies non-local field effect).

In a similar manner, such at-a-distance human phenomenon as remote healing, remote sensing, and telepathy may work along comparable lines. On a more basic level we could say that many of us experience this as the sense of intuition and moments of inspiration. We may even be receiving these forms of hyper-communication when we are asleep. There are countless examples of people, artists, and designers etc, who gained inspiration for their work in their dreams. One example here is that of the Italian composer Giuseppe Tartini who one night dreamt that a devil sat beside his bed playing the violin. The next morning Tartini wrote down the piece from memory and called it the Devil’s Trill Sonata. These experiences seem to be on the increase; or perhaps it is because people now feel more open to speak of such experiences. Also, there are indications that the newer generations of children being born are manifesting a higher level of clairvoyance and other extra-sensory capacities. These developments may indicate that a higher form of group consciousness is emerging within humanity and that these abilities are now finding greater expression. In this respect we would do well to return to those practices recommended for centuries by spiritual traditions and teachers: that is, mediation, reflection, watchfulness, and mindfulness, etc. Einstein was famous as a daydreamer throughout his life and he often claimed that greatest inspiration came to him when in such states. Enhanced connectivity between humanity may thus be served by each of us paying more attention to our inner states and to strive for harmony and balance in our lives.

Materials exist to help in enhancing these inner (or ‘quantum’) states, and can be found within many traditions, whether from the major religions (Christian, Islamic, Judaism, Sikh); or from other streams of wisdom such as Buddhist, Tao, and meditative practices. There are also many written materials (books, tales, and poems) that have the function to stimulate right-hemisphere activity. This is the case with many Sufic stories (such as the Mulla Nasrudin tales), as well as famous stories such as the Thousand and One Nights; and poems from Jalalludin Rumi (which are now best sellers in the West). Many of these traditions also encourage group meditation as a way of stimulating group consciousness and quantum connection. It has been shown that practiced meditators can achieve an extremely high level of cross-hemispheric synchronization. Similarly, people who mediate together have been discovered to synchronize their brain activity. Through the use of EEG brain scanning it has been found that brainwave activity is synchronized amongst the participants of the group. We can now speculate that this is a result of resonance occurring between the various quantum fields, as shown by the latest research in biophysics. To some extent this has been replicated by the vast array of hemispheric audio material that is now available on the mass market (at various quality levels). These stimulants act to induce an altered state of consciousness; what some practitioners have referred to as transpersonal consciousness. In these states people have experienced very profound connections with what has generally been termed the collective consciousness. Philosopher Ervin Laszlo refers to this collective information field as the Akashic Field (Laszlo 2004).

For example, as anthropologist Jeremy Narby pointed out, shamans who undergo trance states often seem to be communicating with DNA as a means of acquiring knowledge about plants, healing, and spirit worlds (Narby 1999). Subsequently, Narby explored how Nature is also imbued with this form of living intelligence which acts as survival patterns to enable evolutionary growth (Narby 2006). Shamans, intuitives, and others who are able to tap into this living intelligence find a ‘design’ or blueprint behind all physical structures, which points to a quantum field of living intelligence that acts as an evolutionary impulse within all living systems.

As recent research suggests, DNA might be receptive to particular external influences such as can be manifested through prayer, meditation, and specific sounds/vibrations. This offers startling possibilities for our well-being and human evolution if we are capable of some form of communication with our own living Intelligence (our own ‘Higher Selves’?). We may even have the potential to interact with our own physical cellular structure through focused minds and directed intentions. Changes in present patterns of consciousness may thus be passed on to succeeding generations. This could result in new generations being born exhibiting different consciousness patterns. This may be the initial signs in a neuro-genetic evolution of humanity. These new generations will be the ‘evolutionary agents’ that will lead the way through a social-cultural-human renaissance and renewal.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Quantum Consciousness 2: Empathy & Entanglement

It is fair to say that our global civilization now finds itself at a critical crossroads of development, both in terms of natural resources, material systems, as well as modes of thinking – a physical and psychical criticality. It thus becomes imperative that we orientate our perceptive faculties in favour of the potential evolutionary transformation of human consciousness. In recent years our western societies, at least, have developed in detriment to conscious evolution. This is one of the major reasons behind the cultural failings of our critical times. There has been little preparation, discussion, and research into how humanity, both physically and mentally, can deal with great change when it disrupts both scientific and religious belief systems. In our material age there is a tendency to dismiss spiritual concerns as realms of fantasy; likewise, those people of spiritual leaning often dismiss science as being inadequate to guide us into the future. Thus, a great amount of our energies have been channelled into creating an unstable and radically polarised world. What is required, however, is a reconciliation of the scientists with the humanists (C.P. Snow’s ‘Two Cultures’) and a combination of research and energy into stimulating a progressive understanding of the evolutionary trajectory of our species. In the worst case scenario we could face a process of devolution; it is my contention, however, that this will not be the case. Part of our dilemma though rests in our blindness over how our mental and perceptual faculties operate.

The human brain as a collection of nerve cells operates like a multi-layered frequency receptor. Due to initial conditionings early on in life each receptor becomes wired to perceive a particular wave frequency. As the brain’s receptors tune-in to a particular pattern of frequency waves a ‘pattern recognition’ response is received by the brain and interpreted according to the perceptions allotted to the frequency. In other words, the act of tuning in involves picking-up familiar frequency patterns out of the ocean of frequencies that surround us constantly. By tuning into the same patterns again and again we are reinforcing a particular reality-set. We are thus tuning into a consensus reality pattern unconsciously and forming our perceptions continually from this. Unfamiliar patterns often get ignored since they do not fall within our receptor remit. Perceptions are thus formed moment by moment as the brain constantly scans the bands of frequencies that surround us; yet we are often unaware that we are filtering from a limited set of perceptual patterns. However, if this pattern-recognition behaviour does not evolve over time our perceptual development is in danger of becoming stalled. The result is that we become fixed – or trapped – within a particular reality. This is why human development requires that we move through various paradigm shifts[1] in order to evolve our collective thinking/perceptual patterns. In other words, our development rests upon simultaneous biological processes as well as psychical. According to noted consciousness researcher Gopi Krishna, the ‘maturing of the nervous system and the brain is a biological process, depending on a host of psychic and material factors’ (Krishna 1999: 56). 

The vulnerability of this process is that we become too accustomed to particular perceptual patterns and ignore other sensory inputs or influences. Also, as a species we have been collectively un-informed about methods obtainable to shift among various frequency bands and patterns. This knowledge has been available within various wisdom traditions (such as shamanism and occult and mystery schools) yet kept out of the public domain. The end result is that we become fixed and dogmatic in our sensory ‘beliefs’ and cling desperately to the small section of reality we perceive as the whole. Yet the human brain, and nervous system, is flexible enough to shift between frequency patterns and to interpret ‘realities’ beyond the consensual pattern. In past generations many mystery schools considered humankind too immature to undertake such training – hence the need for rigorous and strict initiation rituals and testing. This embargo on such knowledge and techniques has helped foster the domination of materialistic science to the point whereby we are taught to dismiss subjective and intuitive impulses and experiences. However, it has now become an evolutionary necessity that our dominant reliance upon material pursuits be balanced with an increase in consciousness research that supports the significant role of a ‘shared mind’: in other words, collective empathy.

There has been much talk on the Internet as to the emerging paradigm of the ‘global brain’ and of the growth of planetary empathy. Systems philosopher Ervin Laszlo defines the global brain as ‘the quasi-neural energy - and information - processing network created by six and a half billion humans on the planet, interacting in many ways, private as well as public, and on many levels, local as well as global’ (Laszlo 2008: intro). On this physical level there is already a great deal of information-exchange occurring at ever-increasing speed. Emerging social networks (such as Facebook and MySpace); collaborative news sites with large commentary base (such as The Huffington Post) are also developing empathy-at-a-distance between worldwide users. In this context there is already underway a transformation in the relations between a significant number of people in the world. Yet now hard-science is taking these developments further by positing that people are increasing not only their emphatic relationships with each other but also their entanglement. This view has recently been corroborated by neuroscience with its finding of ‘mirror neurons’.

A ‘mirror neuron’ is a brain neuron that is activated (‘fires’) when a living being (such as humans and other animals such as primates and mammals) observes the action of another. In other words, if an individual watches another person eat an apple, then the exact same brain neurons will fire in the person observing the action as if they themselves were performing the act. Such neuron behaviour has been found in humans to operate in the premotor and inferior parietal cortex. This phenomenon of ‘mirror neurons’ was first discovered by a research team in Italy in the 1990s when studying the neuronal activity of macaque monkeys. This discovery has led to many notable neuroscientists to declare that mirror neurons are important for learning processes (imitation) as well as language acquisition. In more modern general terms we might also say that this capacity is what ties a person in sympathy and empathy to another’s situation. It may also explain why people become so emotionally attached to events on television, and even cry in response to watching someone crying on the screen. In this way we are emotionally entangled through a mirroring of brain neuronal firing. When we also consider that our bodies are entangled through a quantum field of electrical bio-photon resonance, it explains how we are affected by and from others – via wave/field interference. This information is significant when considering a shift towards heightened empathy between people both near and at-a-distance (via digital communications) as well as the potential for catalyzing future abilities for telepathic communication between individuals. Our bodies then, as well as our brains, appear to function like receivers/de-coders within a constantly in-flux information field. We can refer to this form of ‘field awareness’ as quantum field consciousness, or simply as quantum consciousness (since quantum implies non-local field effect).

However, the manifestations of this quantum-field affect (often referred to as the abstract, or ‘soft’, realm of imaginative insights and visions) are usually left to the eccentric artists, mystics, and fringe creative innovators. Much of our modern minds have been denied their left-right brain full working and pulled into a tight left-brain rational functioning that operates as mechanical, linear, competitive, and narrow. The abstract right-brain, with its magical world of creative visionary thinking, has been mostly sidelined and laid to rest (McGilchrist 2009). Much of this right-brain activity was the source for indigenous wisdom, shamanic practices, and similar traditions that western materialistic thought has sought to ignore over the years. Often our own intellectual training conditions us to think of such ‘magical practices’ as primitive, barbaric, and worthy of little more than western colonialism and/or re-education. Yet those of us in the ‘civilized’ West, with our left-hemisphere dominated brain, live in the everyday world of material things and external attractions. We often picture ourselves as existing as separate forces, as islands in a chaotic sea of physical and natural impacts, and at the whim of random neutral influences. Yet we now know that this is not the case, as new DNA research and ‘hard science’ is showing….[to be continued]

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Quantum Consciousness: The Way to Reconcile Science and Spirituality

I have recently been invited to submit a post on Quantum Consciousness to the Ervin Laszlo Forum on Science & Spirituality. This Forum is a discussion arena (agora) for bringing together varied voices to share thoughts and ideas about the benefits for the mutually existing disciplines of scientific thought and spiritual experience. My contribution is titled 'Quantum Consciousness: The Way to Reconcile Science and Spirituality' and includes the following extract:

Human thought in the 21st century needs to work towards a new model that immerses the human being within a vibrant energetic universe. However, this need not demand that we throw away what we already have; rather, we can expand upon the tools that have brought us to our present position. There is an eastern proverb that roughly translates as: ‘You may ride your donkey up to your front door, but would you ride it into your house?’ In other words, when we have arrived at a particular destination we are often required to make a transition in order to continue the journey. In this sense we can be grateful to a vast knowledge base of scientific and religious thought for helping us to arrive at where we presently stand. Yet it is now imperative that we move forward. As Deepak Chopra suggested in his opening contribution to this Forum, how we move forward is likely to be centered in our understanding of consciousness.

Our physical apparatus is spectacular; consider that each of us carries around a 100 billion-cell bioelectric quantum computer that creates our realities, with almost all of its neurons established the day we were born. Still, this phenomenal ‘reality shaper’ has undergone monumental perceptual change over our evolutionary history. What is required, at this significant juncture, is again another catalyst of consciousness change. This may come about through discoveries in the field of quantum biology, and the idea, emphasized by Ervin Laszlo in his previous blogs, that the form of consciousness we possess is likely to be the result of quantum coherence.

The post is now simultaneously hosted on the popular Huffington Post website - you can read here.

The blog post was limited to 1,000 words and so is by necessity rather brief and does not go into any significant detail on the points raised. This blog, however, is an extract from a longer paper (7,000 words) that will be published in the World Futures journal. 

Please read and share amongst like-minded friends.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In Your Body is the Garden of Flowers

Several months ago I finished work on a short piece of fiction that had been lying around over the past 18 months or so. It is a dream-like work that weaves between various stories & a tapestry. A short extract:

In the morning the light shone through the windows as does a hand that shakes a sleepy body. Daylight entered like an honoured guest and rested gently upon the room. I awakened refreshed yet strangely absent to myself, as if I had left so much behind. Now all I carried was my skin, hanging softly in folds like thin curtains. Somewhat relieved that whatever had been so real to me was now leaving me alone, I felt free of debt.

The whole work (30,000 words) can be found (and downloaded) from the 'My Writings ( widget on the right side of this blog. Feel free to read and share - and hopefully enjoy.

(Please bear in mind Creative Commons copyright)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Post-Autopia as a Dystopian Digital Nexus?

A new paper of mine titled 'Post-Autopia as a Dystopian Digital Nexus?' is soon to be published in an Italian sociology journal called lo Squaderno (under Creative Commons license). A brief summary:

The days of the automobile being the gateway to ‘unfettered’ freedoms and spontaneous ‘get away’ are surely numbered. This concept of the car is likely to be no longer sustainable in dense urban regions given the increase in car users, and the foreseeable increase in road congestion problems in city areas and privatised routes. The sheer complexity of integrated issues, from individual user rights, individualised pricing schemes, car security, identity validation, etc, will require complex systems of informational databases and coded spaces. I foresee a post-autopia that necessitates a move into datastructures as a dominant form of social-sorting within which automobility will be negotiated and ‘permitted’.

This scenario of increased technological interdependency will be a rational and logical outcome from an ongoing development in increased informational processes that are required to control and organize these flows, both efficiently and profitably (Beniger, 1986). The potential emergence of a post-autopia digital nexus may turn out to be ‘not a deliberate form of oppressive control but an institutional - bureaucratic obsession with function, with the smooth flow of goods and services, and with efficiencies of movement and transactional fluidity’ (Wood and Graham, 2006: 182). In other words, post-autopia will require its own digitalisation as a means of mediating its own organisational principle.

 I have included the full paper as a pdf download in the Writings ( widget at the rhs of this blog... for those who are interested in reading more about the rise of surveillance and databases in relation to car movement and mobility.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Planetary Mythologies: 3

Analogy Three

Imagine that you have just discovered a civilization as small as a DNA molecule. You want to establish contact, but since your dimensions prevent you from entering the same space-time envelope, you must search for other means of communication. From observing the civilization closely, you find that there is an informational class that seems to carry messages back and forth among parts of the society, and you observe further that these messengers are actually enzymes of a structure that is isomorphic to one of your own patterns of information. Since you cannot talk directly to the members of the civilization, you decide to talk through a patterning of the bits of information the enzymes carry back and forth. Unfortunately, the very act of trying to pattern an enzyme alters its structure so that a part of your own message is always shifted. It seems that the only time the enzymes are able to carry a high proportion of your own message is when their civilizational structure is either breaking apart or just about to come together again. Fascinated by the problem, you choose your opening and closing epochs carefully and begin to carry on an extended conversation with the civilization.

(William Irwin Thompson) 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Planetary Mythologies: 2

Analogy Two

Imagine a vehicle as large as a planet that began a voyage an aeon ago. After generations of voyaging, the mechanics lose all sense of who they are and where they are going. They begin to grow unhappy with their condition and say that the notion that they are on a journey in an enormous vehicle is a myth put forth by the ruling class to disguise its oppression of the mechanical class. There is a revolution and the captain is killed. Elated by their triumph, the mechanics proclaim the dictatorship of the proletariat and destroy the captain's log, which contains, they claim, nothing but the lies of the old ruling class.

(William Irwin Thompson) 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Planetary Mythologies

Analogy One

Imagine insects with a life span of two weeks, and then imagine further that they are trying to build up a science about the nature of time and history. Clearly, they cannot build a model on the basis of a few days in summer. So let us endow them with a language and a culture through which they can pass on their knowledge to future generations. Summer passes, then autumn; finally it is winter. The winter insects are a whole new breed, and they perfect a new and revolutionary science on the basis of the 'hard facts' of their perceptions of snow. As for the myths and legends of summer: certainly the intelligent insects are not going to believe the superstitions of their primitive ancestors.

(William Irwin Thompson)

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Melon

Travelling, a teacher and his disciple were having a rest. At a certain moment, he took a melon from his saddle bag, he divided it in two and both began to eat it.

While eating, the disciple said:

-‘My wise teacher, I know that everything you do has a reason. Sharing this melon with me perhaps is a signal that you have something to teach me.’

The teacher continued eating in silence.

‘By your silence, I understand the hidden question - the disciple insisted - and it must be the following one: the taste which I am experiencing when eating this delicious fruit, where is it: in the melon or my tongue?’

The teacher didn't say anything. The disciple, excited, continued:

‘And as everything in life has a sense, I think I am close to the answer of this question: the taste is an act of love and interdependence between both, because without the melon there would be no object of pleasure and without the tongue.’

‘Stop it!’ - said the teacher – ‘the biggest idiots are those who think they are more intelligent than others and search an interpretation for everything! The melon tastes good, this is more than enough. Let me eat it in peace!’

Friday, April 30, 2010

Small-scale Innovations

Also on the increase are localized micro-finances whereby communities are issuing their own specific local currencies as a means of promoting local business growth. This is a Depression-era idea and helps to tie-in local consumers with their neighbourhood suppliers. It works by local businesses printing money and then consumers exchanging national currencies for the locally issued one and redeeming them in participating stores. Communities throughout Europe, North America, and Asia are buying food and fuel with such currencies as the ‘Detroit Cheers’ and the Bia Kut Chum. Exchange and credit/barter systems have also been running successfully as in the ‘Local Exchange Trading Systems’ (LETS) that are local, exchange networks that trade goods and services without using a currency. Instead, a credit system is in operation whereby individuals can earn credits by performing services which can then be swapped for gaining the services of others. At present it is estimated that over 400 such schemes operate in the UK alone, with others in France, Australia, and Switzerland.

Such schemes also encourage the interaction and sense of proximity between people and neighbourhoods. We are seeing a shift that utilizes small-scale innovations to replace broader top-heavy dependencies. As elitist Henry Kissinger once famously remarked: ‘Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people’. Such monopolies of control belong to the old paradigm and will find no welcome as people collectively shift towards self-determination. It is predicted that these ‘agents of self-determination’ will emerge as a new social generation of disruptive innovators. A recent UK Report has described this ‘new wave of environmental pioneers’ as bringing in new and unexpected forms of ‘disruptive innovation’. Disruptive innovation is that which is unexpected and arrives, usually from the periphery or bottom-up, to provide services that have previously been monopolised. Such disruptions are highly threatening to the hierarchical status quo, yet often empowering to civil society. The UK Report states that: ‘In short, we need disruptive forms of innovation – cheaper, easier-to-use alternatives to existing products or services often produced by non-traditional players’. It further notes that this is not only a question of ‘new technologies’ but of ‘wider forms of innovation’. There is much disruptive innovation taking place around the world, with many ‘tinkerers’ searching for solutions beneficial for people rather than for profit. And this shall be the new paradigm, the new civic order: a re-organising of the social sphere away from consumerist dependency and exploitation, and towards self-empowerment and community sustainability. People shall be motivated for their families and for other people rather than for profit and those binary digits in a virtual bank somewhere. The fallacy of the old world with its delusional constraints will become transparent and will anger a lot of people. The veil will begin to fall, the curtain pulled back, and Dorothy will see the Wizard as the small grey-bearded man and not as the powerful Maestro. We have been fooled for far too long, and it is time to wake up, to engage with the program of evolutionary change, and to move on. As Doris Lessing wrote:

There is no epoch in history that seems to us as it must have to the people who lived through it. What we live through, in any age, is the effect on us of mass emotions and of social conditions from which it is almost impossible to detach ourselves. Often the mass emotions are those which seem the noblest, best and most beautiful. And yet, inside a year, five years, a decade, five decades, people will be asking, “How could they have believed that?
The time is ripe for a new kind of emergent innovation; one that comes from high energies of experimentation and enthusiasm. Whatever the disastrous social consequences that the world may be forced to live through in the early 21st century, the regeneration will be worth it. Evolution is moving up a spiral and needs to shed some dirty, unclean energies. In short, it needs to get its house in order for the move. And so do we - for we shall be moving too.

A revolution can exist at many levels. It can manifest in physical, emotional, and spiritual change. When that change arrives it is important to accept the uncertain, the unknown. Many people may be forced into action, even if this seems distasteful and unwanted at first. People are often initially afraid of change; afraid of leaving secure territory. Yet we need to change. And when many things are not understandable, the worth of a person will be found not through their wasted thought but through their constructive actions. The next, and final, chapter will discuss some of these evolutionary and potentially radical changes for humankind.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Social Innovations

Frustration and despair can soon shift towards resilience, renewal, and regeneration. When the ground beneath the feet becomes loose, the human capacity to furrow anew comes into play. What is being proposed within this framework of a ‘new civil order’ is that as people are forced to learn new skills, people will take more and more responsibility for themselves. This will manifest also in revitalized concerns for one’s family, friends, and community. A shift of dependency is likely to occur that will take back power that many people had previously given away into external socio-political institutions (and commercial dependencies), and use this to empower themselves. People’s relationship with technology is also likely to undergo a re-evaluation. Instead of being wholly dependent upon complex, unknowable technologies, people will learn to re-design tools to aid and empower them rather than pacify. The view taken in this book is that future years will not see the coming of a super-technological singularity (as envisioned by Ray Kurzweil ), but a re-configuring of our technologies. By this it is meant that instead of technology working beyond us and out of our reach, it will be working for us, and sometimes in more simplified forms. One of the immediate concerns will be energy requirements. Given that a true free-energy revolution is still an uncertainty, alternative energy will need to be harnessed from solar, wind, water, and other natural sources. The corporate red-herring of agro-fuels (mass-produced ‘bio’-fuels) is likely to be rejected by local communities who are seeking to shift to low-carbon alternatives using ‘real’ biofuels. True biofuels are produced from waste such as biogas from manure or landfill or waste vegetable oil. Their development, however, is so far limited. This situation is likely to change once necessity becomes a key factor. Already some local communities are developing their own low-key diesel manufacturing through re-cycling waste vegetable oil. These DIY projects can be developed further by well-organised communities using agricultural processes.

There are a range of oilseed crops, such as sunflower, rape seeds, soy, palm and jatropha, which can be converted into biodiesel used on its own or blended with conventional diesel. A range of cellulosic materials, such as various waste products from crops (including grasses, trees and wood) can be broken down with enzymes and turned into bio-ethanol. Bio-ethanol can also be produced from a number of crops including sugarcane, sugar beet, barley, corn/maize, grain, and cotton. Using cellulosic biomass to produce ethanol would lessen the strain placed upon standard agricultural land needed for growing crops. Butanol is currently a potential second-generation bio-fuel produced by fermentation from a range of organic material, such as molasses left behind by sugar production or whey from cheese production. Butanol has several advantages over ethanol in terms of higher energy output and being easily blended with diesel. In the future we may see regional areas, and localized communities, adopting a bottom-up biofuels market that would serve to create energy-sufficient lifestyles. This can be achieved not only through a supply of recyclable waste but also through citizen-managed low-scale farming. Genuine biofuel schemes could be located within sustainable programs based within active communities and separate from corporate top-down energy suppliers. This would involve a move from mass production to distributed and localised schemes which would aid many communities. It is foreseeable that these, and more, energy innovations will begin to manifest through grass-roots pioneering and newly emerging citizen information networks. The corporate control and monopoly upon such natural resources, and primary human needs, will be rejected for local empowerment projects. Part of the civil revolution will occur when people, desperate in terms of supplying basic needs, will be forced to create these supplies for themselves. Then there will be no going back; no return to former dependencies.

Projects and schemes already underway around the world include gardening workshops for growing-your-own. Information made available for ‘self-farmers’ will encourage food production to be once again a prime aspect of family and civic life. There is currently a growth in the number of urban gardens and communal composting. Neighbourhoods are sourcing water supplies and introducing local permaculture schemes. Social networks are already established that seek to bring home-gardeners together to share tips, advice, and friendship. One such social network - Freedom Gardens – describes itself as ‘a food security movement person to person…A modern gardening era/movement for the 21st century resulting in efforts to become free of foreign oil, corporate controls, contamination and food miles while creating a sustainable future by promoting local food production’. Inspired innovators are currently developing new sustainable alternatives to industrial agriculture that push towards forming a ‘post-industrial food system’ that is less resource intensive and more locally-based and managed. An array of such start-ups include BrightFarm Systems,SPIN-Farming, Virtually Green, Aquacopia, and NewSeed Advisors. Similarly, new networks are emerging of investors, donors, entrepreneurs, farmers, and activists who are committed to building local food systems and local economies.

In a similar manner the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) elders suggest a re-vitalizing of sustainable, locally-orientated cultures; they suggest the creation of 'liberation technologies'. By this they mean technologies that can be created and used by people in a specific locality to enhance self-sufficiency and respect for the natural world. Wind turbines, solar power, biomass plants, and organic agriculture are all examples of liberation technologies. Likewise, Dhyani, who puts forth Cherokee teachings, states that
This age ending has been a time when people have gathered information about building and about inventions to make life better. Now it's time for people to recognize that the inventions are a creation of mind, to put aside such inventions as cause harm, and to bring forth and further develop those activities that benefit all beings and the future generations.

Alternative technologies are arising that seek to bypass traditional dependencies as the civil movement grows in power and determination. There are now markets for rocket stoves, vegetable oil generators, solar fridges, cheap wind generators, and reusable water bottles used as solar lamps. Innovations are also turning shipping containers into virtually cost-free homes. Social information networks are advising people on how to make their own soap, toothpaste, clothes, and much more. Instead of re-cycling there is now a movement towards pre-cycling; that is, training people on how to exist not only on what they have but to transform their conception of necessity so that non-primary needs are taken out of the equation. Individuals and communities are learning how to live more on less. Part of this re-education is a perceptual paradigm (a ‘new mind for a new world’). For many of us, if we don’t choose to think and behave differently in the upcoming years, then we may be forced into change – and perhaps brutally.

Friday, April 16, 2010

New Civic Order

A prescient report from 1997 forecasted a possible future social scenario that was termed the Great Transition which involved a social shift towards new paradigms of sustainability in the form of Eco-communalism. In this the report envisioned a network of self-reliant communities:

Eco-communalism could emerge from a New Sustainability Paradigm world if a powerful consensus arose for localism, diversity, and autonomy… Eco-communalism might emerge in the recovery from ‘breakdown’. Under conditions of reduced population and a rupture in modern institutions, a network of societies, guided by a “small-is-beautiful” philosophy conceivably could arise.

Physical social networks modelled on self-reliant communities could be established that are based around ecological practices. Already some urban design groups are using industrial ecology techniques, as in the integrated resource management system (IRM). In this way there is a shift that sees urban centres becoming closer to ‘living’ centres that encourage closer physical proximity and interaction between citizens.

Another example of creative architectural thinking is that of the ‘Compact City’ proposal from celebrity architect Richard Rogers. Rogers proposes that the creation of the modern Compact City rejects the dominance of the car and instead favours a design whereby ‘communities thrive’ and the streets are re-balanced ‘in favour of the pedestrian and the community’. Further, Rogers’s ‘Compact City’ design proposes that home, work, and leisure districts/regions/zones become more densely interrelated and overlapped rather than as separated areas.

The compact city idea is to increase the density of shared spaces so that there are increased opportunities for social connection and interaction. There is a rise worldwide in urban innovation that seeks to move towards constructing more compact, sustainable communities. This will become more of an imperative, rather than luxury thinking, in the ensuing years. Such changes will need to be implemented if our social systems are to be resilient enough to adapt to the coming global changes. The emphasis needs to be upon recycling of goods and waste, efficient alternative energy production, localized distribution, and change in such social drivers as consumerism, economics, and general well-being. Already several precedents exist; one of these being the concept of garden cities and the ‘garden city movement’.

This movement was founded in 1898 by Ebenezer Howard in England as an alternative to existing urban schemes. Garden cities involved the merging of town and country, of rural partnerships with urban dynamics. They were designed as self-contained communities containing living, working, and agriculture surrounded by green belts and public spaces. In this respect Howard’s thinking was ahead of its time in seeing the need for both rural and urban improvement as a single process. The garden city movement was inspired by Howard’s first book titled To-morrow: a Peaceful Path to Real Reform (1898). The Garden City Association was founded in 1899 and led to two new cities in England being constructed around this design: Letchworth Garden City in 1903 and Welwyn Garden City in 1920. Howard planned his garden cities to be located on roughly 6,000 acres of land, with 1,000 acres set aside for accommodating up to 32,000 residents, and for an additional 2,000 people on the surrounding agricultural estate. The circular garden city town plan had 120-foot wide radiating tree-lined boulevards, and each city linked to other larger cities via railways. The design for such garden cities even today seems remarkably environmentally aware:
Howard meticulously separated pedestrian streets and vehicle traffic, and residential and industrial areas. When a garden city had reached its optimal population of 32,000, its growth would be halted and another town of similar size would be built within its own zone of land. But the inhabitants of the one could very quickly reach the other by a rapid transit system, and thus the people of the two towns would really be part of one community.

The concept of the garden city was also especially influential in the United States with the creation of Pittsburgh’s Chatham Village; Sunnyside, Queens; Radburn, New Jersey; Jackson Heights, Queens; the Woodbourne neighbourhood of Boston; Garden City, New York; and Baldwin Hills Village in Los Angeles. In Canada there is the garden city of Walkerville, Ontario, and the first German garden city, Hellerau, a suburb of Dresden, was founded in 1909.

Howard also believed in citizen participation whereby the town residents could own a share of the city’s assets. Even today a foundation jointly owned by the citizens of Letchworth controls 5,300 acres of land, including two farms and 118 shops. All the money earned from these ventures stays in the community, and from the period 1997 to 2003 the community’s assets trebled to £160 million. This shows that with the correct organization, intention, and dynamic motivation, communities can be created for the better well-being of its citizens. Also, such living centres can become more self-sustainable and environmentally connected to the Earth. The garden city concept can be an inspiration for those communities wishing to accommodate increased agricultural spaces for growing vegetables. Over recent years there has been a vigorous interest in permaculture as a way of combining living centres with agricultural systems.

Permaculture is a way of integrating the ecology of natural agricultural practices with the needs of the community. The word permaculture, as a combination of permanent agriculture and permanent culture, reflects the social aspects of the system. Permaculture encourages the construction of self-sufficient communities that work with nature’s cycles within the surrounding ecosystem. Permaculture is often seen as a more holistic system as it looks at both the natural (agricultural) and human systems as a whole, rather than as separate systems. In this way localized communities could benefit tremendously from incorporating permaculture practices into their way of life. Not only would it provide a means for self-sufficiency but also help to sustain the local ecosystems at a time of increased strain.

The future years will demand that we change many of our current practices. It is imperative that creative individuals begin to think ‘out of the box’. Civic regeneration requires left-hemispheric thinking as well as the right; lateral thinking as well as rational. The good news is that the world is already awash with impressive grassroots social innovations. It seems that our future will be steered more from the bottom-up than from the top-down.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Social Collective

Just as humans are a social species, individuals are the building blocks of society. The worth of any society is the sum of the citizens who comprise it. Unfortunately, most political systems dumfound and dumb-down the masses, and castrate the power of the people. Yet this form of social castration has been increasingly contested over recent years by the welcome emergence and rise of some powerful and potent civil movements and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). A part of the upcoming social transitions will be the need for increased social agency. The social community should once again become an empowering body; a collective that invests diverse individuals to work together for the common good. In this way people are encouraged to become more creative, constructive, and influential within collective life. This can work as an encouragement for each person to develop to the best of their capacity; to be a functional human, able to transform dynamic inner power into a productive and useful force. Repeating what was said before, the renowned metaphysical poet John Donne once wrote - no man is an island.

Social scientist and futurist Duane Elgin has researched and written extensively upon the subject of social consciousness and evolving societies. In this respect he writes that

When we communicate and reflect among ourselves as citizens—publicly learning about and affirming our shared sentiments as an extended community—then we “know that we know.” In our dangerous and difficult time of global transition, it is not sufficient for civilizations to be wise; we must become “doubly wise” through social communication that clearly reveals our collective knowing to ourselves. Once there is a capacity for sustained and authentic social reflection, we will then have the means to achieve a shared understanding and a working consensus regarding appropriate actions for a positive future. Actions can then come quickly and voluntarily. We can mobilize ourselves purposefully, and each person can contribute his or her unique talents to building a life-affirming future.

Elgin goes on to state that for a sustainable future to be viable it needs six requirements: to dismantle consumerism; to return to ecological living; to engage with sustainable futures; to create a conscious democracy; to embrace a reflective paradigm; and to work with reconciliation. All these features support a communal immersion; the very opposite of what has been occurring within the western urban landscape. To a large degree modern urban living has contributed in isolating individuals from their wider social community and from the influence of their peers. Many have been starved of developmental input that comes from dynamic social intercourse. Progress cannot be achieved through extremes: neither through total individualism (anarchy) nor through an absolute collective (totalitarianism). As in quantum physics, each living organism has the capacity to function both as a sentient individual (the particle), and as part of the unified collective field (the wave).

In fact, the concept of the ‘organic collective’ has been a central theme running through many science-fiction stories. As just one obscure example, a pulp paperback sci-fi book from Norman Spinrad called ‘The Solarians’ (1966) has the following extract:

‘As the human race evolves, the differences among its individual members become greater, not less. Specialisation becomes more and more pronounced. And if the race continued to be organised on the basis of nations, clans, families of like clustering together…

‘The human race would explode!’

‘Exactly,’ said Lingo. ‘The Organic Group is a new basic unit, based not on the similarity of its members, but on their differences. It’s not merely a good idea – its an evolutionary necessity…And of course, with the basic unit built upon this kind of functional cooperation, the whole civilisation is stable and unified.’

So the growth and development of the individual within a diverse yet coherent collective might be, using the words of Lingo above, not merely a good idea but an evolutionary necessity. To accomplish this may require new forms of social community: emerging micro-communities; transit-orientated communities; garden cities; eco-cities, etc. This could foster a new sense of contracted and coherent communities to replace the alienation of large urbanized areas and suburban sprawl.

Urban life is increasingly out of balance with the needs of the people. This situation will be exacerbated when disruptive events impact the daily life of the urbanite. This is especially so if the individual is dependent upon supermarket food supplies, petrol station fuel, and other necessary external amenities. In short, the average urbanite is partly (and sometimes wholly) dependent upon the plentiful supply of ‘always available’ goods, such as food and energy. As western societies, and their cities, have become increasingly complex, their supply infrastructures have likewise become increasingly complex, interdependent, and fragile. In these modern times, no event occurs in isolation as everything is connected to everything else; thus, everything matters. As most major cities go, life is comfortable within the home, yet moving around within the city offers less and less pleasure, safety, and comfort. As civil unrest manifests, as it is almost certain it will, major European cities will see bouts of violence, disorder, and potential chaos. Perhaps even some areas will become ‘no-go’ zones (as they already exist in some US and South American cities, for example). It is necessary then to address the issue of creating more sustainable social living zones. Until now, too much effort has been placed into creating suburban sprawls that alienate the community; families are either boxed-in their homes or boxed-in the iron-cage of the car. The rise of suburban living has been described as ‘best understood as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world’.

It is important then that creative individuals view the upcoming years (or even decades) as opportunities to transform these dense urban zones into more compact, sustainable living centres. For example, instead of segregated areas the city could be functionally integrated between living, working, and leisure areas; mixed-income communities integrated as different skill-sets are likely to be important rather than traditional income status. Also, public spaces can be transformed into well-integrated and interconnected walkable networks and easy-access corridors. A sense of community needs to be re-vitalized through open spaces, parks, and community landscaping projects such as communal gardens and food gardens. Superstores and large shopping complexes should be replaced with local shopping areas and farmer’s markets. Whilst this may sound the death-knell for many corporate giants, their presence will be replaced by something more beneficial to the community. The large supermarkets have exploited and manipulated consumer demand for too long, and many smaller retailers and farmers have suffered greatly over their monopoly. There are already positive signs that groups of individuals are recognizing the urgent need to transform urban living centres.

A recent movement called NewUrbanism was established online in 1998 and has grown to promote ‘good urbanism, smart transportation, transit oriented development and sustainability’ . The organisation promotes policies for national and local governments to revitalise many existing cities and towns into walkable, car-free, mixed-use communities. This has influenced the creation, in 2001, of the Charter of the New Urbanism, which states that:
We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.

Out of this ‘new urbanism’ movement has also emerged a trend in urban development called Transit Oriented Development, or TOD. For example, in the town of Orenco Station (15 miles west of Portland, US) transit-oriented development has been successfully implemented. It was designed as a neighbourhood community and organized around a pedestrian spine that extends out towards a grid of walkable tree-lined streets and parks. The town promotes a walkable, pedestrian-friendly community and discourages the use of the car and other fossil-fuel transit.

Likewise, Principles of Intelligent Urbanism (PIU) is a theory of urban planning that aims to integrate various environmental, technological, socio-cultural, and mobility needs into urban design. As put forward by architect Christopher Charles Benninger in 2001, PIU works towards maximising human interaction, public spaces and movement, and environmental sustainability. A similar movement has been gaining momentum within the UK and which specifically aims to transform smaller towns into sustainable communities.

The ‘Transition Towns’ movement was established as a means to design a strategy for helping small towns move away from fossil fuel dependency. It also promotes public participation and citizen action within the context of a sustainable and self-sufficient community. The first UK ‘transition town’ was Totnes in Devon, where local town forums were created for citizens to come together and decide on ways to develop low-carbon energy resources. In other words, how better to survive in a ‘post-peak oil’ world. The ‘Transition Town’ network, in its mission statement, aims to
inspire, inform, support and train communities as they consider, adopt and implement a Transition Initiative. We’re building a range of materials, training courses, events, tools and techniques, resources and a general support capability to help these communities…We’re hoping that through this work, communities across the UK will unleash their own collective genius and embark on an imaginative and practical range of connected initiatives, leading to a way of life that is more resilient, more fulfilling and more equitable, and that has dramatically lower levels of carbon emissions.

The ‘Transition Towns’ movement aims to raise awareness by giving talks and screening films in various towns and villages. One of their creative projects has been the introduction of a local currency (such as the ‘Totnes pounds’) that can only be spent in local shops. The move to local currencies is also on the increase in various towns across the US as a way to revitalize local businesses in the wake of the global financial crisis. Representatives of the transition town movement have also conducted ‘oil vulnerability auditing workshops’ with local businesses to see how they can reduce their reliance on oil. Other local projects set up under the scheme include running workshops on growing fruit and vegetables, bread-baking and sock-darning. So far there are over thirty towns and cities in England signed up to a ‘Transition Town’ plan, with others in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. Schemes such as this, and others similar, are on the increase in communities all over the world. People are reading the signs and becoming motivated and inspired. The writing is, as they say, already on the wall; and as more people get this ‘gut feeling’ there will be more and more alternative community projects arising. It is essential that in these times people – individually and collectively – start to take power back into their own hands. The creative energies residing within the human network has been either ignored or under-used for far too long. People need to take the initiative as familiar structures around begin to fail and dissolve. The opposite, doing nothing and weeping for sorrow or in despair, will do nobody any good. We are being encouraged (or pushed) to show ourselves how wonderfully resilient, resourceful, and creative we can really be. Many of us may be surprised at what can be achieved when a group of motivated people join together. To quote again the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead: ‘A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has’.

For now the transition town initiative is largely restricted to smaller towns, where civic engagement and localised sustainable practices from the bottom-up have some chance of success. However, the same model could work in larger cities if they split into smaller scale sustainable neighbourhoods.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Re-evaluating life principles

As events begin to unfold and social changes become more manifest it is likely that more and more people will feel the ‘pull-n-push’ towards downsizing and re-evaluating life principles and needs. The old thinking and energies of self-survival and material gain will need to be replaced with a new paradigm of creation, communication, and collaboration. The new imperatives and opportunities arising will require us to embark on a path towards re-vitalized partnership relations of community. The era of global excess and greed, which filtered down to the masses as consumer excess and credit greed, is no longer a viable future path. We have now been getting a wake-up call we cannot ignore. As one-time business advisor David Korten now explains:
Rather than to give in to despair in this often frightening time, let us rejoice in the privilege of being alive at a moment of creative opportunity unprecedented in the human experience...Let our descendants look back on this time as the time of the Great Turning, when humanity made a bold choice to birth a new era devoted to actualizing the higher potentials of our human nature - We are the ones we have been waiting for.
We have been waiting for the opportunity and challenge to adjust to new changes. In this respect, we have been waiting long enough for what will be an epochal transition. The challenges facing us are not so much about a ‘once change’, leaving us again to sit comfortably in our newly adapted state. Rather, we are encouraged to shift into a permanent state of adaptation so as to be better placed to face uncertainty. Such uncertainties may push social affairs towards reorganization at more contracted levels and scale of activity. In the face of these contractions individuals need to start thinking soon about what courses of action to take. We can walk into the future willingly, or we can be back-flipped kicking and screaming like children. Either way, it seems highly likely that novel social transitions are coming down the line.

Social Transitions

According to social commentator James Kunstler those of us who presently live in the comfortable ‘west’ are facing ‘the comprehensive downscaling, rescaling, downsizing, and relocalizing of all our activities, a radical reorganization of the way we live in the most fundamental particulars’. This may come as a shock to the many who are constantly connected into a networked global world. Does this mean we are to be transported back into the Dark Ages? In a previous post I made mention to an almost Dark Ages scenario that I termed ‘Lock-Down’. This was suggested as a physical possibility should tumultuous events play out over a prolonged period of time. However, once the turbulence has passed (which I feel will be short-lived rather than protracted), there will be a different kind of age. It will be a return to values and relationships no longer obscured by unbalance and folly. The 21st century should be the Age where we recover many of the valuable insights and skills in the art of living. Our efforts and skills, the very basis of our human activities – our spiritual and moral values – need to be re-directed towards creating a more integral relationship between human living and our earthly environment. In other words, we need to discover a ‘way back’ to the Earth that has been forgotten. We, as individuals, need to develop our critical reflexive faculties and to find a balance between inner and outer needs. We require food, clothing, shelter, and community; we also require a sense of worth and belonging, of communion with our environment. In giving shape to ourselves radical new social and cultural forms are needed. These new forms should serve to place the human within the dynamics of a living cosmic, creative, intelligent universe. After all, the universe of which we form a part is a fundamental sacred reality. By losing our connection with the sacrosanct we create a bubble of alienation between our species and our planetary and cosmic home. This is not esoteric blurb, these are natural laws. For many of us the context for our existence has become mechanical and often unfulfilling. We have lost touch with the organic, with the alive and renewing, and exist in material cocoons that are drip-fed. Within this barren context we obscure our natural capacity for intimacy and cohesion with the living sea of energy that surrounds us. We have so far lacked the epiphany (or revelationary experience) needed to shock human consciousness awake to its sacred communion with living processes. Perhaps that shock epiphany will come in the form of crisis transitions. In this sense we ‘need to reinvent the human within the community of life systems’. Instead of being a pivotal force the human has become an addendum or intrusion into organic, living processes because of a lack of spiritual insight and understanding. Cultural historian Thomas Berry reinforces this predicament when he says
The proposal has been made that no effective restoration of a viable mode of human presence on the planet will take place until such intimate human rapport with the Earth community and the entire functioning of the universe is reestablished on an extensive scale.
This point emphasizes that the human presence exists within both a physical environmental context as well as a cosmic universal one. All things thus exist in differing degrees within all levels: this is our integrative creative, living matrix. It is another name for LIFE (Living an Integrated Fulfilling Existence).

Monday, March 29, 2010

New Social Formations

The upcoming decades will be different from what has gone before. Our global society is in the midst of a great transition which will usher in new social and cultural formations. Many nations have been living the ‘high life’ as a result of the prosperity afforded by rapid industrial, technological, and material growth. The long-tail of this – the Technological Revolution – has been fundamental in stretching tentacles of dependency far and wide. Complex structures of supply, demand, and energy, are now near to breaking points.

Some of the converging crises now facing us range from global climate, energy resources, urban population growth, geopolitical insecurities, and solar storms. Having the potential for a range of critical impacts to converge simultaneously upon our social systems offers the possibility for a major revolution on a worldwide scale. Some of the consequences of these unstable systems are already beginning to play out on the global stage. If, on top of these crises, we witness the reality of political mismanagement then the ensuing fallout may be exacerbated. The new century for humankind begins as the traditional structures provided by governments, social and political institutions, are overwhelmed and no longer capable of serving humankind in its best interests. Problems and difficulties are likely to rise up, like a tsunami, and manifest in our immediate social environments. Yet unlike a natural tsunami, this one will serve also to clean the slate and clear the brushwood. It will provide the opportunity for individuals and communities to re-evaluate their life priorities. It will be a time for re-construction upon newly emerging perceptions of how better to lead a fulfilling life. Yet perhaps not for everyone: there will still be many who choose to return to the old familiar – tried and tested – ways, especially if they wielded power in those systems. However, this will prove difficult as some of the old systems will not longer be functional. New forms of social innovation will have the energetic support to emerge from the chrysalis of the fossilized structures. By this it is meant that more appropriate and creative social, economic, technological, cultural and political edifices will emerge. New skill sets will be required for the new social and community roles. This may force many to shift from office, administration jobs, from the service and manufacturing sector, towards functions that serve a regional localized need. These may include community teaching (in both theory and practical skills); maintenance and construction skills; localized economies (both currency and barter); permaculture; farming; creative inventions; security management; community committees, and more. Many farms will return to organic forms of agriculture and crop growth in order to combat the rise in soil depletion. According to philosopher Meishu Sama, petrochemicals and synthetic fertilizers negatively polarize the soil. Whilst this may produce apparently abundant growth in the short term; in the long term, they deplete the soil and exhaust its natural growing capability. The food produced is thus often lacking in nutrients and minerals. In short, many methods now employed will be forced – or catalyzed – into change. Never doubt that individuals have the necessary skills to respond to critical needs. As the expression goes – necessity is the mother of invention. New knowledge sets can be learnt and passed on; the days of apprenticeship may become more widespread once again as sustainable skill-sets become more valuable and appreciated than institutional and service-sector jobs. Never doubt that communities can find the resources to re-shape local cohesion and growth. Creativity and inventiveness are central to the human talent for tinkering. Innovation is the prerogative of people, not the governments. Again, as Meishu Sama reminds us, transformation comes from the tiniest changes:
…the fruit is the world and the seed becomes the center...and at the center of the seed itself is its essence. Because of this, in order to change the world the smallest seed only need be changed. It is just like throwing a rock into a pond - it creates ripples. In this way, making this world into heaven, the very center of the center, the tiniest point - that's where the various changes are made. Make these changes and you create a paradise on Earth.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Call to Consciousness

A ‘Substance Of We Feeling’ is needed like wine grapes need a good soil. As a global community of individuals we are being pushed towards developing and supporting a creative collective consciousness. This is our ‘new mind’ for a ‘new world’, as discussed previously. This in turn is a reflection of our inherent connectivity within a species energy field of information and communion, as verified by the new sciences. Yet this call for a new way of thinking is neither new nor unique. Each generation has supplied its spokespeople who have argued for a more elevated and illuminated way of thought and life. In recent decades this call has come increasingly from tribal elders and indigenous traditions.

In 1977 the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Indians) penned a paper to an agency of the UN titled 'Basic Call to Consciousness' in which they stated: Today the species of Man is facing a question of the very survival of the species. The way of life known as Western Civilization is on a death path...Our essential message to the world is a basic call to consciousness...The technologies and social systems which have destroyed the animal and plant life are also destroying the native people... As an ‘intelligent’ species we are being called into consciousness; as a necessity rather than a luxury of choice. So will there be a ‘spiritual renaissance’ where the inner search comes home? What will it be like – will it hit home like a sudden bang on the head, or like an inner explosion shaking the body to pieces? Well, not quite (but then again, nobody really knows!). Personally, I am not one of those people to propose that the body will be shed like dead skin and the etheric body to jump into 5th-Dimensional vibrations. If it happens I will be pleasantly surprised and no doubt welcome the humming sensations. However, my understanding is that the way forward will involve harmonizing inner realizations and knowing with physical well-being and humanistic development. By humanistic, I mean a conception of the human within community, ecological, and cosmic contexts: as a functioning part within grander (and lesser) systems. So part of the ‘coming home’ is likely to be the dawning that we are currently living ‘out-of-synch’ with our natural functioning and that we, as a species, are letting the side down. As living, sentient beings, we are veiled from the truths of our own energetic potentials. Some individuals may get the ‘WoW factor’ one day when they realize that their life has been ignoring these truths for so long. Other realizations will come as material systems increasingly reveal the transparency of their corrupt and inept natures.

Through a combination of physical changes on the social, cultural, and political levels, people worldwide will begin to awaken to the audacity of our situation. From this there may be further ‘awakenings’ as the ironic, incredulous, and absurd factors of many of our lifestyles are brazenly shown in the shocking light they deserve. It is my suggestion that these physically coerced changes will coincide with increased cosmic activity (meaning energetic radiations) that are set to impact our Earth and solar region. These radiations may likely stimulate neurological and physiological activity that whilst unbeknown to the person will force in them new feelings, intuitions, perceptions, and conscience. Taken in combination it can be foreseen that the coming transition times will catalyze change upon many levels. However, there is great need to ‘Work’. We will be required to renew our selves and communities – to regenerate our relationship with the world we live in. This is not a time to fear for loss, but rather a time to aspire to new possibilities. A renewal and regeneration brings in new air, new potentialities, and new gains. There is no clinging to the old when there exists much vigorous work to be done. Any spiritual endeavour cannot – or should not – be separated from the physical. The human is a physical creature that is nourished from a physical world.

Whilst we sojourn on this planet, and whilst our home remains physical, we have a responsibility to manifest our spirit within the physical domain. This is what is required of us, and deep within we all inherently know this. We are here to work together.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Unprecedented Times

We are now living through unprecedented times. Yet this is not a time for fear, as with preparation and certitude the times ahead can be navigated. The keys to growth and renewal have been planted within each person. Much will be expected from people in the coming years as they face increased fears and challenges; challenges for which history holds few guidelines. Such challenges, whilst resonating within the heart of each person, will be aligned also within an Earthly context. The spirit does not live in isolation, but walks in life. As Native American ‘Grandfather’ says:

Trying to live a spiritual life in modern society is the most difficult path one can walk. It is a path of pain, of isolation and of shaken faith, but that is the only way that our Vision can become reality. Thus the true Quest in life is to live the philosophy of the Earth within the confines of man…we must walk within society or our Vision dies, for a man not living his Vision is living death…It is very easy to live a spiritual life away from man, but the truth of Vision in spiritual life can only be tested and become a reality when lived near society.[i]

The human species is, after all, a social species (as anthropologists keenly like to remind us). It is easy to behave ‘spiritually’ when one is confined to the hermit’s cave; then our only struggles are with our ceaseless thoughts. Whilst the realm of the spirit may appear to exist ‘not of this world’, it very definitely is an important component ‘of the world’. Again, it is the significant play of polarity – to bring matter into contact with the non-material. Without the material playground, the spirit becomes ephemeral to us; unable to manifest tangibly within our everyday lives. So the life of the spirit needs to become very real for us, and well-lived. By living it, the presence of spirit can have greater effect. As ‘Grandfather’ again reminds us:
If a man could make the right choices, then he could significantly alter the course of the possible future. No man, then, should feel insignificant, for it only takes one man to alter the consciousness of mankind through the spirit-that-moves-in-all-things. In essence, one thought influences another, then another, until the thought is made manifest throughout all of creation.[ii]

Any spiritual re-vitalization requires that each individual feel the worth of their participation; of their presence with friends, family, and within the community. As there is likely to be a forced social contraction, the transition times will usher in the need for more integral communities. Progress will come through action; and knowledge, understanding and growth can also be achieved through right actions and intentions. The window of opportunity being presented to humanity through the evolutionary ‘trigger point’ will provide the energies for growth along new values, emotions, and intellectual reasoning. To miss this opportunity and crave for the security of old perceptions and status-quo material gains will be a sore transitory pleasure. This is neither a conspiracy nor a fairytale – it is a narrative of resilience, renewal, and regeneration. This is a cyclic process that occurs at all levels in some form. However, at this present juncture, there is much necessary change required: call it an evolutionary imperative. Really, it’s quite serious this time around.

[i] Brown, T. (1991) The Quest. New York: G P Putnam’s Sons.

[ii] Brown, T. (1991) The Quest. New York: G P Putnam’s Sons.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Towards the 'Waking-Up'

Many of the material structures around us have now become a transparent fiction: our financial systems, our job securities, pensions, educational systems, etc. It is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that these structures will continue to provide for our needs. As our rafts search for land, our paddles are being taken away from us. So when we eventually find fertile land it will be from our own efforts – and the cultivation that much more rewarding. As personal circumstances become more affected by the changes occurring in the world it will become necessary that people ‘wake-up’ to new responsibilities and decisions. After all, the upcoming years will be different from what has gone before. This is inevitable even on a physical level, as structures once seen as strong begin to lose their source of strength (literally, their ‘fuel’). And as these physical changes begin to impact and encroach upon each person’s well-being, new voices will be rising and asking for assistance, both tangible and invisible. There is always help for humanity; assistance is available to those who ask with genuine need. Only we need to remember that help often does not appear in the way that most people expect it. However, it is definitely present and available – only don’t expect a rescue!

It is not my premise to debate the dominant western thought-paradigms of Darwinian survivalist evolution and religious Creationism. What I do suggest, however, is that there is an evolutionary ‘design’ which allows for the creative development of living systems as well as planetary, solar, and galactic systems: the micro and the macro. And humanity is very much a part of this wider developmental design, whether consciously or unconsciously. Yet as the changes in social and cultural systems increasingly manifest it is hoped that more people will awaken to the understanding and conscience of their responsible participation. It is with conscious minds that creative action can have a more powerful effect. Especially amid disruptive circumstances it will be paramount that individuals respond with balanced minds and thoughtful actions. This is no time for super-heroes or martyrs: it will be a time to act within the human capacity; away from gratifications of recognition and attention. Diligent work with oneself, with others, and within the community is the action that guarantees a response.

There is no avoiding the fact that negative influences operate within our world, and have done so for a very long time. Such forces resist change; they resist anything that is a threat to their power. It may seem that during the times of transition the negative influences are at their peak. Hunbatz Men, teacher of Mayan science and spirituality, acknowledges these negative forces and contends that it is time to raise the frequency of the global mind: 'Now the world has a dark civilization, a dark culture. We need to re-establish a high raising the frequency of brain waves...the frequency of the modern mind is going to change in a positive way'.[i] Hunbatz Men claims that the Mayans have known for a very long time of the big sweeping changes that are to come. These changes, he says, are part of cyclic patterns that help to renew and re-vitalize Earth and her living systems.

The upcoming changes, to some degree, are unstoppable yet they function to ‘sweep the house clean’ rather than to reinforce the negative presence. This is important to remember so that we do not mistakenly feel over-powered by the disruptions coming with the change. Such disturbances, however distasteful, are necessary: just as the odour of bleach is distasteful and dangerous yet its function is to clean and purify. As the world struggles to accommodate more and different energies, there will be many ripples spreading out and into the homes of many. And whilst meditation is important as a means of practising inner balance and focused intentions, there will also be a need for disciplined action. Just as there is a discipline that holds the energies of the universe in their creative pattern, so too must human activities be focused with disciplined energy. Part of this can be fulfilled by shifting our ‘patterns’ away from a self-centered material consumerist agenda to a more Earth-centered set of values. As Doris Lessing wrote in her Canopus in Argos series, the ‘broken’ Earth needs to regain the energies of SOWF (‘Substance Of We Feeling’). In the end, real knowledge is simple and free; and it lives within each one of us.

Our behaviour and actions within our communities will be better served if we can realize that the Earth is a bio-spiritual planet. Further, that the cosmos of which Earth is a part is also the context and environment for our enduring reality:

The archetypal journey of the universe can now be experienced as the journey of each individual, since the entire universe has been involved in shaping our individual psychic as well as our physical being from that first awesome moment when the universe emerged.[ii]

[i] Mcfadden, S. (1991) Profiles in Wisdom: Native Elders Speak About the Earth, Santa Fe, NM, Bear & Company.

[ii] Berry, T. (1999) The Great Work: Our Way into the Future. New York: Three Rivers Press.