The Timely Change
Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better . . . and the catastrophe towards which this world is headed--the ecological, social, demographic, or general breakdown of civilization--will be unavoidable.
Václav Havel, address to the U.S. Congress, 1991
We face a choice of destiny. We must be clear that we face it, and also that we can do something about it. We have a number of alternatives available to us.
- We can try to carry on as before and hope for the best.
- We can try to make whatever changes seem personally, economically, and politically expedient.
- Or we can move decisively toward a conscious and timely transformation.
The rational and responsible choice is to prepare the ground for a timely transformation--before it’s too late. This calls for conscious, purposive change, by each government, each business, and each person. It begins with the reassessment of the objectives that now orient our life and will soon decide our future: the objectives of politics and business--and the personal objectives to which we ourselves subscribe in life.
THE NEXT EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Consciousness has changed in the past, and it can change again in the future. A positive change is urgent and crucial. But what would a more evolved consciousness be like? Many mystics, philosophers, spiritual leaders, and social scientists have devoted serious thought to this question.
The Indian sage Sri Aurobindo viewed the emergence of what he termed “superconsciousness” in at first a few and then ever more individuals as the mark of the next higher stage of human consciousness. (Superconsciousness is the kind of consciousness that already occurs in samadhi, satori, and similar states of meditation and enlightenment.) The Swiss philosopher Jean Gebser defined the next stage as the coming of four-dimensional integral consciousness, arising from the prior stages of archaic, magical, and mythical consciousness. The American mystic Richard Bucke portrayed this stage as cosmic consciousness, beyond the simple consciousness of animals and the self-consciousness of contemporary humans.
For the mystic Eckhart Tolle consciousness is part of the universe: the essential part. It’s the intelligence, the organizing principle behind the cosmic arising of form, which is the basic evolutionary process. Through evolution, Tolle says, consciousness has been preparing forms for millions of years, so it could express itself through them. Today consciousness is ready to create form without losing itself in it--it can remain aware of itself, even while creating and experiencing form. Thus the next stage in the evolution of human consciousness is the state of awakening--the consciousness of mastering the art of “awakened doing.”
Social scientists Chris Cowan and Don Beck elaborate a colorful scheme called spiral dynamics. According to this concept human consciousness evolved from the strategic “orange” stage, which is materialistic, consumerist, and success-, image-, status-, and growth-oriented to the consensual “green” stage of egalitarianism and orientation toward feelings, authenticity, sharing, caring, and community, and is now shifting to the ecological “yellow” stage where it’s focused on natural systems, self-organization, multiple realities, and knowledge. In the future it could reach the holistic “turquoise” stage of collective individualism, cosmic spirituality, and Earth changes.
Spiritual traditions also speak of the coming of a new consciousness. The prediction of the Mayan elders is remarkably aligned with the above insights. The Mayans say that the coming era will be an era when the ether, the long-neglected fifth element of the universe, will become dominant. “Whereas the four traditional elements [air, water, fire, and earth]… have dominated various epochs in the past,” spokesperson and Mayan high-priest Carlos Barrios says, “there will be a fifth element to reckon with in the time of the Fifth Sun: ether.” Ether is a medium, he pointed out, it permeates all space and transmits waves of energy in a wide range of frequencies. An important task at this time is “to learn to sense or see the energy of everyone and everything: people, plants, animals. This becomes increasingly important as we draw close to the World of the Fifth Sun, for it is associated with the element ether--the realm where energy lives and weaves.”
Coincidentally, but perhaps not accidentally, physicists are discovering that the ether was not rightly discarded one hundred years ago, when experiments failed to detect the friction it was predicted to cause in the rotation of Earth. The place of the ether is not replaced by empty space, the so-called vacuum. What physicists now call the quantum vacuum is not empty space: according to grand-unified theories it’s the unified field, the womb of all the fields and forces of nature. It contains a staggering concentration of energy, and carries and transmits information.
In Sanskrit and Hindu philosophy the ether was considered the most fundamental of the five elements; the one out of which the others arose. The ether was known as Akasha, the element that connects all things--this is what we now call the “Akashic Field”--and that conserves the memory of all things--known as the “Akashic Records.” Today, as an energy- and information-field re-discovered in the universe, the ether regains much of the status it enjoyed five thousand years ago.
A consciousness that recognizes our connections to each other and to the cosmos is an “Akashic” consciousness--a consciousness of connectedness and memory. It conveys a sense of belonging, ultimately, of oneness. It’s a wellspring of empathy with nature and solidarity among people, the kind of consciousness foreseen by mystics and philosophers from Sri Aurobindo to Ken Wilber, predicted by the Mayans, and now supported by discoveries at the leading edge of the sciences.
The evolution of a new consciousness is not utopian: it’s already under way. There is considerable evidence gathered by psychologists, psychiatrists, Experimental parapsychologists, sociologists, and even brain researchers regarding the emergence of a form of mind and consciousness variously called “integral consciousness, “extended mind,” “nonlocal consciousness,” “holotropic mind,” “infinite mind,” and “boundless mind.”