“Evolution is life-oriented. It is ‘good’ but not kind. It does not care for the feelings of individuals.”
~ Barbara Marx Hubbard ~
The Big Questions
So what lies ahead for us human beings? Are we well on the way towards extinction – finito – the end of the great experiment of humanity? Or are we going to continue stumbling along – a wounded, bleeding society – going nowhere fast? Conversely, is the crumbling away of our existing world which is certainly happening and is currently being speeded up by this virus, somehow going to lead us to ‘break through’ to something new – to a new, higher-order human being and a hugely improved world which works not just for the few but for the many?
Certainly, human consciousness has been rapidly evolving over the last sixty years where we’ve seen the birth of women’s rights, animal rights and in the 60’s we had the hippy movement followed by the emergence of the Human Potential movement. Today, millions of people all over the world are becoming increasingly interested in evolving their consciousness and in developing their spirituality. Most importantly, we are seeing a powerful shift away from the isolated, highly individuated ego, responsible for so much human suffering, war and patriarchy, with increasing numbers of us realising that the next step of our human evolution is towards thinking and operating much more as a human collective. Today, there are so many important questions which we all need to be asking ourselves. Perhaps one of the most significant is:
Are we as a species capable of extricating ourselves out of this very, very deep hole that we have over the years been digging, and if so, what might be the conditions necessary for this to happen?
In seeking to look at our human future, I have not consulted any futurologists or ‘experts’, not out of disrespect but because I think theirs is a remarkably difficult task. Too often, their calculations are made rationally – feeding data into a computer – and this can never take into consideration the emergence of unseen events, like for example, this Corona virus that has just sprung on us and is certainly magnifying or amplifying all our crises.
Being brutally honest, we don’t have a clue what is going to happen in a year’s time. Will our financial system have totally collapsed? Things are right on the edge there. Will Trump start a real war against China to try to ensure he stays in power? Will our plague quietly peter out and we find an effective vaccine, or will it morph into a real ‘black death’ and wipe out many millions more of us? We just don’t know.
What I have always found interesting is that we always seem to have two completely contradictory stories available to us…
On the one hand we have our negativists or doomsters who believe that we haven’t a hope in making it and that we’ve already gone way beyond the point of no return and that there’s no coming back. Our eco-system is far too damaged; the gap between the haves and have nots has widened too far. Either global warming will burn us to a crisp, or melting icebergs producing tidal waves will sweep over all the large cities in the world.
And if those don’t obliterate us, a financial crisis or a nuclear holocaust will, or a truly terrible pandemic – perhaps the coronavirus will mutate into something much more deadly. And if by any small chance, a few of us manage to survive these onslaughts, artificial intelligence which will have grown smarter than us, will take us over and destroy us. In Kenneth Ring’s words:
“For me, the cataclysmic prophecies that are rife in current literature foreshadow a revolution of the most outstanding proportions… I sense the approach of a psychological earthquake the magnitude of which has not been experienced in the human awareness for millennia and may not have been experienced ever before.”
At the other end of the spectrum, we have our ‘positivists’ who tell us that there is no need to be so alarmist and our ecosystems are not as damaged as many believe and that if we make changes right now, we can pull ourselves back from the brink. The will to good is so strong and we will create new institutions and new technologies that will work for the benefit of mankind and in future years we’ll have learned to eliminate all killer diseases with the result that our children will be born without the possibility of ever contracting diseases like cancer or dementia.
We’ll also find ways to eliminate war and create a more caring and integrated society where new technologies of sun, wave and wind will increasingly replace those of oil or coal, and people will learn new techniques of mindfulness to lift themselves up from the tentacles of despair and soullessness that is so endemic in today’s society. In Bob Marley’s words:
“Every little thing’s gonna be all right!”
I think it appropriate that we have both extremes dangled before us, for if we only believed there was no hope, we might just give up the ghost, and by the same token, if we were sure that we were going to ‘make it’, we might also hang back and not do the necessary work required for a new, improved world to come into being. I remind you that a better world won’t somehow waft down from Heaven. It will be us human beings who will need to work very hard to create it.
To get deeper into this issue, I have chosen to rely on the intuitive opinions of human beings of spiritual wisdom whom I enormously admire. Here, for example, is something that the Bulgarian spiritual master Peter Deunov had to say about this issue 70 years ago. He might have said this yesterday!
“We now find ourselves at the end of the decline of one culture and the dawn of another which is rising, developing and rapidly imposing itself. From now on a radical transformation is progressively occurring in human consciousness – in our thought, feelings and actions as well as in the organisation of human society… All earthly beings will be subjected to the great purification of the Divine Fire in order to become worthy of the new epoch. And the only thing to know now is how to put oneself in harmony with this wave of new life which is descending on earth.”
Put simply, we need to learn how best to position ourselves so we can have our impurities burned away.
Bede Griffiths, the deeply loved and respected Benedictine monk who spent much of his life living in Southern India, cultivating a deep integration of Christian and Hindu spirituality, was asked by the religious scholar Andrew Harvey what he felt about the future. Here was his reply:
“I know for certain only two things about the time we are to enter. (A time which is upon us right this very moment!) The first is that we will see on every level a ruthless battle between those forces that want to keep humanity enslaved to the past – and these include religious fundamentalism, nationalism, materialism and corporate greed – and those forces that will awaken In response to a hunger for a new way of living. The second thing I know… is that God will shower help, grace and protection on all those who sincerely want to change and are brave enough to risk the great adventure of transformation.”
Here is what David Spangler once said:
“Underneath the patterns of instability in the world, a profound spirit of love and goodwill is at work and is using the instability and the individuals that emerge from it as the farmer uses a plough, to turn the soil and prepare it for new seeds and new harvest.”
What all these statements suggest in their different ways is that while there is a lot of violence, instability, collapse and chaos around (and it has greatly increased since the time those pronouncements were made), inherent in it, or rather, shining through it, is a divine presence of a loving and intelligent nature – call it a God force. All three sages suggest that we do not live in a random universe but in a very intelligent one and that our destinies are being orchestrated by this higher intelligence, which is asking us to trust it and do our best to attune and align ourselves with it and that if we do so, help will be forthcoming.
From this context, we can therefore suggest that the emergence of this particular virus may not just be some accidental catastrophe that has just ‘fallen’ upon us, but may be seen as an integral part of the ‘playing out’ of an intelligent evolutionary purpose.
Recently, I gave a Webinar where I referred to it as ‘Fierce Grace’, suggesting that by turning many areas of our lives inside out and upside down, it is indirectly helping to accelerate our evolution!
Resistance to Change
I used the word ‘grace’ because we have to realise that we human beings have one speciality in common: a strong habit of resisting change! If there are waves of new life beckoning to us, many of us are as proficient at avoiding aligning with them as we are at shying away from looking directly at the evils of war, racism, fascism, inequality and hunger. Basically, what occurs is that we get very embedded in our old blinkered and narrow universes – in our old beliefs and values and lifestyles – as they are familiar, and this gives us a degree of comfort even if at another level, they are no longer relevant to what is required in the world. Gurdjieff understood this pathology of ours very well:
“Man being the lazy and rigid creature that he is, he tends not to shift unless forced to do so by a crisis bigger than the sum of his inertia.”
In other words, if we are seriously to evolve, we need to be deeply shocked; we need to be shaken to our core; we need a rocket up our backsides! Adi Da said the same thing:
“Humanity is so clenched. It needs to be shocked or tricked if it is to unloosen and grow.”
As the evolutionist Barbara Marks Hubbard put it:
“Evolution proceeds by long periods of incremental change punctuated by sudden shifts, radical changes, like water turning to ice… At some point the new condition appears and the old is forever extinct. Both our problems and our potentials are driving us to innovation and transformation… Evolutionary drivers or threats are essential to overcome inertia. Crises always precede transformation.”
My point, therefore, is that our current financial, political, economic and ecological crises may not yet be severe enough to awaken us to try to make changes to a system that is currently working for fewer and fewer people. Thus, it may well be an evolutionary necessity – or, as I put it, an expression of grace – that our lives become seriously disrupted. In other words, perhaps we need to be put intentionally into states of great distraught-ness as a prerequisite for continuing our human evolution, and if shocks don’t kill us – which they can – they have the capability of potentially increasing our consciousness, or to wake us up! And this is very necessary, since, with our current level of overall awareness, we are not going to be able to solve any of the truly huge problems in the world. (Viz., Einstein’s remark that ‘no problem can be solved at the level that created it!’)
Ask yourselves this question: why are our politicians not dealing more effectively with many of Al Gore’s ‘inconvenient truths’ which include world starvation (many more are dying of hunger than of Covid 19), climate change, the ever growing gap between the have’s and have nots, etc? Why is more not being done in the arena of nuclear disarmament?
The reason is that it is not urgent enough. A spirit of complacency prevails. The extreme urgency that is impelling a coordinated approach to the Coronavirus does not exist for these issues, as those who are already OK feel they won’t necessarily feel more OK if more impoverished people are educated or more immigrants are given a better life or if we work through our addictions to oil. Most of our world leaders know exactly what is wrong with the world and what to do to solve many of the problems, but nothing is done to have genuine change come about, simply because one can get away with not having to! i.e., the consciousness is not sufficiently elevated.
So might it be, then, that this virus may play a role of bringing humanity to a place where ‘getting away with such things’ no longer becomes an option!
Certainly, as I write, three months into this pandemic, it is causing many millions of us to re-examine our lives, to ask new questions of who we are and what our purpose in life is and how we best wish to live. It is also helping to flush out – bring out into the open – many of the issues that are amiss both in our personal lives and in society. We could say it is helping to connect us more fully with the dark side of life and in so doing to also align many of us with Deunov’s ‘wave of new life’ and Spangler’s ‘spirit of love and good will.’
Human-collective Dark Night of the Soul
Another way to look at what is happening in the world today is to suggest that due to this virus, we are all currently descending much more deeply into what I am calling a Human-collective Dark Night of the Soul crisis, which actually we’ve been in for the past forty years. Please, at this stage, indulge me if I now share some of my own personal experiences of a time in my life when I myself went into such a such a crisis, as I think it excellently proves a point I wish to make.
My Personal ‘Descent’
I was just over thirty, and my inordinately selfish life was humming along very nicely. I was earning good money in my work, I lived in a nice house, worked out regularly in the gym and had great muscles that I could show everyone how tough and macho and entitled I was. I was living in California at the time and liked to go about in an English gentleman’s purple velvet smoking jacket as I felt it made me seem rather intriguing.
All went well until I caught a rare tropical disease in the Mexican jungle that affected my lungs and my whole charade began collapsing. I ended up in hospital for three months and became so weak that I was unable to get out of bed. During that time, I also underwent a huge financial loss, girlfriends and muscles faded away, and all the time I was lying there, as I was too ill to read or watch television, I found myself having to confront the enormity of my inauthenticity, my narcissism, my selfishness, my manipulativeness and my greed. I felt ashamed with seeing how involved I was with me and what little concern I felt for others unless they could be of use to me. I saw the coldness of my heart and I felt alone and desolate and sensed I’d lost everything that had meaning for me. I felt utterly abandoned by anything warm or good about life.
I didn’t know then about Dark Night of the Soul crises. I had no idea that what I was going through was a spiritual initiation and purification and that most probably a higher intelligence or a ‘God of Love’ was purposefully accelerating my evolution by stripping me apart, dissolving my grandiosity and getting me to confront the multiple self-centred agendas of my false egoic separate self. A friend introduced me to the poet Rumi at that time and made me a little frame of a short poem of his that went:
“Be grateful for the Friend’s (i.e. God’s) tyranny not his tenderness, so the arrogance in you can become a lover that weeps.”
Yes, I wept a lot during those three months. My doctor told me it had been touch or go for many weeks. I survived physically but I mainly died at another level to a self that was arrogant, self-centred and entitled, and when at last I was able to get up and leave hospital, weighing just under half my normal weight, it was a very different me that did so, and as I look back on my life, I realised that those dark months were graced months and were among the most important in my whole life and had helped me for the first time touch into what it meant to be a tiny bit more human. Basically, I had been on a spiritual journey into my Shadow self and it felt like huge chunks of me had been ripped away because I was then so fully identified with my ego that it felt as if it constituted all of me.
In having been ‘shocked’ out of a dimension of myself that was both immature and rather repugnant, a space began opening up in me giving permission for something a tiny bit deeper and subtler to come through, which over the intervening years, has very slowly grown stronger. I would love to say that all my old bad habits and egotisms utterly vanished, but that would be telling a lie. Rather, I saw how much inner work still needed doing. Nonetheless, my life had been pushed into a new trajectory. It no orbited solely around me but now also around the interests of humanity and the planet. Slowly, my inner spiritual heart began to open and many years later I wrote a book about it.
Need for Initiation
Why am I telling you this story? I am doing so because I feel that the Initiation which I had to go through, albeit on a small level, may be similar to one that possibly humanity as a whole may have to go through, and may even now be beginning to.
But perhaps not. Very possibly this Coronavirus is currently giving us a watered down ‘sneak preview’ of what may lie ahead for all of us. The question to ask ourselves is: have enough of us, at this stage, been shocked enough, or been sufficiently stripped apart, so that we can both see and lament the inherent evils and injustices both in our own lives and also out in the world, so that in the not-too-distant future we will be moved to make those many changes that are needed without, as it were, needing harsh doses of divine punishment!
My intuition is: I don’t think so. At this stage, I don’t think that enough of us have been stripped, and that those of us who have, have perhaps not been stripped sufficiently. Or as I just said, perhaps this virus is serving as a warning shot over our bows, saying ‘make changes now while you still can, as later on, things may suddenly become a whole lot tougher!’
In his book Awakening Earth, Duane Elgin also feels that the suffering needs to be greater.
“It is the immense suffering of millions – even billions – of precious human beings coupled with the destruction of many other life forms that will burn through our complacency and isolation. Needless suffering is the psychological and psychic fire that can awaken our compassion and fuse individuals, communities and nations into a cohesive and consciously organised global civilisation.”
This also tallies with the explorations of Chris Bache in his extraordinary new book, LSD and the mind of the Universe: Diamonds from Heaven. There he suggests that:
“Humanity’s transformation will come about through terrible suffering. This suffering will be driven by a global system crisis triggered by a global ecological crisis. Our species will change when our collective pain becomes unbearable any longer.”
He suggests that we see the species mind as a unified psychic field and that:
“This field will be driven into a far-from-equilibrium state by the extreme suffering generated by the global ecological crisis, and that in this hyper-aroused state, the species-mind will exhibit… the capacity for rapidly accelerated change, heightened creativity and higher self-organisation… Under the pressure of the extreme conditions of the future, the human psyche will come alive at new levels, and… the interconnections between people previously too subtle to be detected will become obvious, and all of this will take place much more quickly than anyone could have predicted.”
In his future vision, Bache saw:
“The whole system becoming alive at new levels… It was as if the eco crisis had… allowed new and deeper levels of self-awareness to spring into being… Everywhere, new social institutions sprang into being that reflected a new reality – new ways of thinking, new values that had been discovered during the crisis…”
In The Great Disturbance, Paul Gilding also suggests that:
“There will be a tipping point when denial ends and the reality that we face a global, civilisational-threatening risk will become accepted wisdom virtually overnight. At that point, we will respond dramatically and with extraordinary speed and focus.”
Again, I ask the question: Have we reached that tipping point? Or might we even get there more gently? As evolutionary scholar Steve Taylor puts it:
“It is our evolutionary destiny to shift to a more expansive consciousness. The question is: will it occur before our species undergoes massive upheavals and cataclysms? Charles Darwin suggested that it is not the strongest or the most intelligent of the species that survive. It is the ones most adaptable to change!”
Have enough of us become sufficiently adaptable so we might carry those who haven’t on our shoulders?
The God Presence Will Be With Us
Whether the ‘new condition’ will be accelerated by this virus, or whether a much more devastating shock further down the road lies ahead of us, I do not know. And none of us knows. All I know is what I feel with my whole heart and soul, namely that the God Presence is not going to abandon us. On the contrary, I experience this Presence to be closer to us than ever before.
Whatever depths of insanity, species wise, we may have descended into, however far many of us may have deviated from our true path, this is not going to be the end of the wonderful experiment of man, but it is going to be the end of the dominant story that so many of us currently live by, namely, a story of rabid individuality, a story telling us that we are all separate from one another, that it is every one for themselves and that we inhabit a world of insufficiency – where there is not enough – be it of love or money or water or food. It is this reality that is going to perish, not humanity.
I say this as leading on from what I said in my first paragraph, there is an ever-growing group of people the world over who are seeking to live lives of great integrity and harmony and who are evolving rapidly without needing to die violent psychological deaths in the process, and these higher-order, big-souled, very conscious men and women are coming to the fore in every nation and in every race and they are as different from your average person today as cheese is from chalk! And I trust in the power of these ‘higher-order human beings’ who are becoming ever more finely attuned to the sacred.
The only problem is that percentage wise, there may not yet be enough of these more spiritually-attuned people to effect the many societal changes needed. A lot of us may have a lot of catching up to do. This is why I believe that we really do need, as Bache suggested, big shocks to activate the emergence of more human beings to a similar level of evolution.
In all my meditations I get the message that humanity will, in the way Bache and others have described it, ‘break on through to the other side’ (to quote from a song by the Doors!) Bede Griffiths also believes this, but as he put it:
“It will cost everything. Just as Jesus had to go through death into the new world of the resurrection, so millions of us will have to go through a death to the past and to all old ways of being if we are to be brought by the grace of God into the truth of a real new age… God, I believe, wants a new world and a new humanity to be born from what is about to unfold.”
What you and I can do is to work on ourselves spiritually to strengthen ourselves so that we are strong and courageous and big hearted and are willing to go through whatever tests may lie before us. The more work we do on our dark side, the more we put energy into awakening our inner hearts and into prayer and meditation, the more prepared we will be.
Humanity is in a great crisis of soul today. As a species, we are challenged to start embracing a new story, one that enables us to be less greedy and materialistic and to espouse peace not war, kindness not cruelty, and heart as opposed to indifference. What we need is to bring more soul into the world.
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This essay looks at: a) the state of the world today b) what I see happening on the planet over the next eighty years and c) the new society that I see rising, phoenix like, out of the ashes. It is a hopeful essay but suggests that to get to the light, humanity may need to go through some more dark times… OK, it is time now to look forward and say a few words about what I think might…