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Indigenous myths, animal ESP, and portents of apocalyptic transformation

Here’s science writer Carrie Arnold, in a newly published article at Aeon titled “Watchers of the Earth,” discussing the possibility that indigenous myths may carry warning signals for natural disasters:

Shortly before 8am on 26 December 2004, the cicadas fell silent and the ground shook in dismay. The Moken, an isolated tribe on the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean, knew that the Laboon, the ‘wave that eats people’, had stirred from his ocean lair. The Moken also knew what was next: a towering wall of water washing over their island, cleansing it of all that was evil and impure. To heed the Laboon’s warning signs, elders told their children, run to high ground.

The tiny Andaman and Nicobar Islands were directly in the path of the tsunami generated by the magnitude 9.1 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra. Final totals put the islands’ death toll at 1,879, with another 5,600 people missing. When relief workers finally came ashore, however, they realised that the death toll was skewed. The islanders who had heard the stories about the Laboon or similar mythological figures survived the tsunami essentially unscathed. Most of the casualties occurred in the southern Nicobar Islands. Part of the reason was the area’s geography, which generated a higher wave. But also at the root was the lack of a legacy; many residents in the city of Port Blair were outsiders, leaving them with no indigenous tsunami warning system to guide them to higher ground.

Humanity has always courted disaster. We have lived, died and even thrived alongside vengeful volcanoes and merciless waves. Some disasters arrive without warning, leaving survival to luck. Often, however, there is a small window of time giving people a chance to escape. Learning how to crack open this window can be difficult when a given catastrophe strikes once every few generations. So humans passed down stories through the ages that helped cultures to cope when disaster inevitably struck. These stories were fodder for anthropologists and social scientists, but in the past decade, geologists have begun to pay more attention to how indigenous peoples understood, and prepared for, disaster. These stories, which couched myth in metaphor, could ultimately help scientists prepare for cataclysms to come.

Reading this triggered a flood of associated thoughts this morning, mostly related to things I’ve read elsewhere that resonate with it. Although the basic focus is different, for me this article somewhat recalls a starkly apocalyptic and millenarian passage from the ending to Benjamin Hoff’s The Te of Piglet (1992), a book that many readers found off-putting for its semi-grimness, which represented a departure from the more charmingly whimsical presentation of Taoism that Hoff had adopted in its predecessor, The Tao of Pooh: Read the rest of this entry

Eckhart Tolle on enlightenment, ego, and apocalyptic collapse



Eckhart Tolle

I have sometimes wondered about the reactions of my readers whenever I mention the writings of Eckhart Tolle with approval, as I have done several times. Tolle is a best-selling writer whose books occupy the same general “mind/body/spirit” publishing niche as those of Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, etc. He’s a speaker who has now appeared at Google’s headquarters, the Wisdom 2.0 Conference, and other trendy signature places and events representing the front line of tech culture’s faux fusion with spirituality. He has famously been associated with Oprah Winfrey. (One of the most read posts here at The Teeming Brain, by the way, continues to be “Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, and the fundamentalist hijacking of Christianity.”) The organization that is set up to promote his work puts out a veritably relentless flood of merchandising associated with his books and teachings. All of the marketing markers point toward his being another fluffy new-gen spiritual guru of the kind whose apparent mission is to make money by encouraging the wealthy and the upper middle class to feel good about themselves by exploring their own specialness.

The thing is, he’s more than that. As I and a bunch of other people discovered well over a decade ago when Tolle’s The Power of Now became a grassroots publishing phenomenon at the turn of the millennium, he is a writer and teacher of frankly astonishing power who manages to communicate to a general audience, in exquisitely lucid prose and spoken words, the same nondual spiritual message that was formerly propounded to a much more rarefied audience by the likes of J. Krishnamurti, Ramana Maharshi, and others (and indeed, Tolle has named Krishnamurti and Maharshi as being among his primary influences). Say what you will in criticism of the various directions his “brand” has taken in recent years — and a number of such criticisms, some that I view as valid, have indeed been offered — the man himself appears to be the genuine article, as in someone who experienced a profound spiritual awakening/transformation (arising out of intense personal suffering, by the way) and then found that other people wanted to hear about it, and that he was gifted to convey it in words and personal presence. I sometimes wonder whether, in both sociological and religious or spiritual terms, his presence in modern digital mass media culture, including the various aspects of it that invite criticism, might not represent the arrival of a new guru/anti-guru model that’s valid for the present age.

And in a way, I said all of that to say this: hey, look, Eckhart is talking about apocalyptic collapse again. I’ve quoted his apocalyptic observations before. Now here’s a new one, appearing in a recent interview for The Huffington Post that was conducted by Arianna Huffington herself (who has headlined with him at the Wisdom 2.0 Conference). I never fail to find it fascinating when he says things like what’s quoted below, because although on one level he might be taken as just another spiritual guru who is barking about the supposed imminent end of the world and possible advent of a new spiritual age involving a forward leap in consciousness, on another he is truly saying something insightful when he links the age-old nondual realization about the fraught relationship between ego and world, self and other, inner and outer — and about the ground reality that encompasses and gives rise to both — to the quite real disruptions that are visibly attending our ongoing journey into formerly unknown realms and configurations of technological, ecological, economic, and sociological reality on a new planetary scale. Which is all to say that I find his words well worth attending to, not least because he offers not a rosy optimism but an honest recognition that we may well fail the challenge:

Collectively, we are at a point where the old — I call it the old, dysfunctional, egoic state of consciousness — has become extremely dangerous. We can go back 100 years ago, which is 1914, when World War I started, and that was the first time humans fully realized how insane warfare was because of all the advances in technology that had happened by that time. Millions upon millions of people died in World War I from chemical warfare, tanks, poison gas, machine guns and all the other clever inventions of the egoic mind. That was the first time we realized the magnitude of the dysfunction in the collective consciousness, as it became amplified by the advances in science and technology.

We have reached a point now where if there’s no shift in consciousness away from the dysfunctional, egoic state that generates all that insanity, then humans would most likely destroy themselves, or at least bring about a complete collapse of civilization. We have arrived at a point of great danger, collectively, but danger also means great opportunity for change. There’s a fundamental universal truth, and that is humans do not change until they reach a point of crisis. That applies not only to individuals, but it also applies to humanity as a whole. It’s only when we reach a state of crisis, the suffering that it produces creates the impetus behind the shift in consciousness. This is the point that we have reached now, and we’ve been moving towards this for the past 100 years. This is why so many people are now ready to undergo that shift.

So this is a very important moment in human history, where there is a possibility of almost a quantum leap in human consciousness. There’s also the possibility, of course, that humans are not going to make it, that the shift won’t happen, in which case there would be a regression in human evolution that could throw us back several thousand years. Hopefully, that’s not going to happen, but it could happen, and even that would not be ultimately tragic, because I believe that consciousness is destined to grow and flower on this planet. I’m fairly confident that it is happening already, but we must not underestimate the gravitational pull, so to speak, of the old, dysfunctional consciousness that is still here and operates, as you can see when you watch the daily news. Most things you see on the daily news are reflections of the old, dysfunctional consciousness, or, rather, unconsciousness. We have reached a very interesting point in human evolution. It’s quite amazing to be alive at this time.


MORE: “A Conversation with Eckhart Tolle

Image by Kyle Hoobin (, via Gregcaletta at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Art, meaninglessness, and salvation by despair

Start the music playing and then read the excerpted texts that follow, which may or may not be connected to each other and/or the music.

(The music is Jóhann Jóhannsson’s “Fordlandia,” titled after Henry Ford’s epic, disastrous, and somehow mythically tragic folly of trying to create an artificial industrial worker’s utopia in the Amazon rainforest in 1928.)

The time to begin writing is when the events of the world seem to suggest things larger than the world — strangenesses and patterns and rhythms and uniquities of combination which no one ever saw or heard before, but which are so vast and marvellous and beautiful that they absolutely demand proclamation with a fanfare of silver trumpets. Space and time become vitalised with literary significance when they begin to make us subtly homesick for something “out of space, out of time.”

— H.P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters II

* * *

I had gone to the Louvre that night to lay down my soul, to find some transcendent pleasure that would obliterate pain and make me utterly forget even myself. I’d been upheld in this. As I stood on the sidewalk before the doors of the hotel waiting for the carriage that would take me to meet Armand, I saw the people who walked there — the restless boulevard crowd of well-dressed ladies and gentlemen, the hawkers of papers, the carriers of luggage, the drivers of carriages — all these in a new light. Before, all art had held for me the promise of a deeper understanding of the human heart. Now the human heart meant nothing. I did not denigrate it. I simply forgot it. The magnificent paintings of the Louvre were not for me intimately connected with the hands that had painted them. They were cut loose and dead like children turned to stone.

— Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire

* * *

I took up the theme again that music and acting were good because they drove back chaos. Chaos was the meaninglessness of day-to-day life, and if we were to die now, our lives would have been nothing but meaninglessness. In fact, it came to me that my mother dying soon was meaningless and I confided in Nicolas what she had said. “I’m perfectly horrified. I’m afraid.”

Well, if there had been a Golden Moment in the room it was gone now. And something different started to happen.

I could call it the Dark Moment, but it was still high-pitched and full of eerie light. We were talking rapidly, cursing this meaninglessness, and when Nicolas at last sat down and put his head in his hands, I took some glamorous and hearty swigs of wine and went to pacing and gesturing as I had done before.

I realized aloud in the midst of saying it that even when we die we probably don’t find out the answer as to why we were ever alive. Even the avowed atheist probably thinks that in death he’ll get some answer. I mean God will be there, or there won’t be anything at all.

“But that’s just it,” I said, “we don’t make any discovery at that moment! We merely stop! We pass into nonexistence without ever knowing a thing.” I saw the universe, a vision of the sun, the planets, the stars, black night going on forever. And I began to laugh.

“Do you realize that! We’ll never know why the hell any of it has happened, not even when it’s over!” I shouted at Nicolas, who was sitting back on the bed, nodding and drinking wine out of a flagon. “We’re going to die and not even know. We’ll never know, and all this meaninglessness will just go on and on and on. And we won’t any longer be witnesses to it. We won’t have even that little bit of power to give meaning to it in our minds. We’ll just be gone, dead, dead, dead, without ever knowing!”

But I had stopped laughing. I stood still and I understood perfectly what I was saying!

There was no judgment day, no final explanation, no luminous moment in which all terrible wrongs would be made right, all horrors redeemed.

The witches burnt at the stake would never be avenged.

No one was ever going to tell us anything!

No, I didn’t understand it at this moment. I saw it! And I began to make the single sound: “Oh!” I said it again “Oh!” and then I said it louder and louder and louder, and I dropped the wine bottle on the floor. I put my hands to my head and kept saying it, and I could see my mouth opened in that perfect circle I had described to my mother and I kept saying, “Oh, oh, oh!”

I said it like a great hiccuping that I couldn’t stop. And Nicolas took hold of me and started shaking me, saying:

“Lestat, stop!”

I couldn’t stop. I ran to the window, unlatched it and swung out the heavy little glass, and stared at the stars. I couldn’t stand seeing them. I couldn’t stand seeing the pure emptiness, the silence, the absolute absence of any answer, and I started roaring as Nicolas pulled me back from the windowsill and pulled shut the glass.

. . . The second day it was no better.

And it wasn’t any better by the end of the week either.

I ate, drank, slept, but every waking moment was pure panic and pure pain. I went to the village priest and demanded did he really believe the Body of Christ was present on the altar at the Consecration. And after hearing his stammered answers, and seeing the fear in his eyes, I went away more desperate than before.

“But how do you live, how do you go on breathing and moving and doing things when you know there is no explanation?” I was raving finally. And then Nicolas said maybe the music would make me feel better. He would play the violin.

I was afraid of the intensity of it. But we went to the orchard and in the sunshine Nicolas played every song he knew. I sat there with my arms folded and my knees drawn up, my teeth chattering though we were right in the hot sun, and the sun was glaring off the little polished violin, and I watched Nicolas swaying into the music as he stood before me, the raw pure sounds swelling magically to fill the orchard and the valley, though it wasn’t magic, and Nicolas put his arms around me finally and we just sat there silent, and then he said very softly, “Lestat, believe me, this will pass.”

“Play again,” I said. “The music is innocent.”

Nicolas smiled and nodded. Pamper the madman.

And I knew it wasn’t going to pass, and nothing for the moment could make me forget, but what I felt was inexpressible gratitude for the music, that in this horror there could be something as beautiful as that.

You couldn’t understand anything; and you couldn’t change anything. But you could make music like that. And I felt the same gratitude when I saw the village children dancing, when I saw their arms raised and their knees bent, and their bodies turning to the rhythm of the songs they sang. I started to cry watching them.

I wandered into the church and on my knees I leaned against the wall and I looked at the ancient statues and I felt the same gratitude looking at the finely carved fingers and the noses and the ears and the expressions on their faces and the deep folds in their garments, and I couldn’t stop myself from crying.

At least we had these beautiful things, I said. Such goodness.

But nothing natural seemed beautiful to me now! The very sight of a great tree standing alone in a field could make me tremble and cry out. Fill the orchard with music.

And let me tell you a little secret. It never did pass, really.


What caused it? Was it the late night drinking and talking, or did it have to do with my mother and her saying she was going to die? Did the wolves have something to do with it? Was it a spell cast upon the imagination by the witches’ place?

I don’t know. It had come like something visited upon me from outside. One minute it was an idea, and the next it was real. I think you can invite that sort of thing, but you can’t make it come.

Of course it was to slacken. But the sky was never quite the same shade of blue again. I mean the world looked different forever after, and even in moments of exquisite happiness there was the darkness lurking, the sense of our frailty and our hopelessness.

— Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat

* * *

Henry Ford didn’t just want to be a maker of cars  — he wanted to be a maker of men. He thought he could perfect society by building model factories and pristine villages to go with them. And he was pretty successful at it in Michigan. But in the jungles of Brazil, he would ultimately be defeated.

It was 1927. Ford wanted his own supply of rubber — and he decided to get it by carving a plantation and a miniature Midwest factory town out of the Amazon jungle. It was called “Fordlandia.”

. . . Fordlandia isn’t just the story of a plantation; it’s a story about Ford’s ego. As disaster after disaster struck, Ford continued to pour money into the project. Not one drop of latex from Fordlandia ever made it into a Ford car.

But the more it failed, the more Ford justified the project in idealistic terms. “It increasingly was justified as a work of civilization, or as a sociological experiment,” Grandin says. One newspaper article even reported that Ford’s intent wasn’t just to cultivate rubber, but to cultivate workers and human beings.

In the end, Ford’s utopia failed. Fordlandia’s residents, ever in hope their patriarch would someday visit their Midwestern industrial town in the middle of the jungle, gave up and left.

These days, Fordlandia is quite beautiful, Grandin says. The “American” town where the managers and administrators lived is abandoned and overgrown. Weeds grow over the American-style bungalows, and bats roost in the rafters, and little red fire hydrants sit covered in vines.

— “Fordlandia: The Failure of Ford’s Jungle Utopia

* * *

As soon as a receptive mind discovers the works of someone such as Lovecraft, it discovers that there are other ways of looking at the world besides the one in which it has been conditioned. You may discover what kind of nightmarish jailhouse you are doomed to inhabit or you may simply find an echo of things that already depressed and terrified you about being alive. The horror and nothingness of human existence — the cozy facade behind which was only a spinning abyss. The absolute hopelessness and misery of everything. After publishing his first book in French, which in English appeared as A Short History of Decay (1949), Cioran learned from that volume’s enthusiastic reception that his manner of philosophical negation had a paradoxically vital and energizing quality. Lovecraft, along with other authors of his kind, may have the same effect and rather than encouraging people to give up he may instead give them a reason to carry on. Sometimes that reason is to follow his way — to communicate, in the form of horror stories, the outrage and panic at being alive in the world.

— Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy against the Human Race (from a pre-publication draft)

* * *

One of the most powerful spiritual practices is to meditate deeply on the mortality of physical forms, including your own. This is called: Die before you die. Go into it deeply. Your physical form is dissolving, is no more. Then a moment comes when all mind-forms or thoughts also die. Yet you are still there — the divine presence that you are. Radiant, fully awake. Nothing that was real ever died, only names, forms, and illusions.

The realization of this deathless dimension, your true nature, is the other side of compassion. On a deep-feeling level, you now realize not only your own immortality but through your own that of every other creature as well. On the level of form, you share mortality and the precariousness of existence. On the level of Being, you share eternal, radiant life. These are the two aspects of compassion. In compassion, the seemingly opposite feelings of sadness and joy merge into one and become transmuted into a deep inner peace. This is the peace of God. It is one of the most noble feelings that humans are capable of.

— Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

You Are a Paranormal Phenomenon

The message, upshot , or bottom line of this Liminalities installment is stated in the title. What follows is simply a sketch of the train of thought and reading, extending over several years, that inspires such an assertion, as spurred by David Metcalfe’s recent report from this year’s Parapsychological Association conference in “Parapsychology and Intellectual Integrity: Words of Advice from Dr. Krippner.”

In 2010 Marilynne Robinson published Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self, a book drawn from her 2009 Terry Lectures at Yale on “religion, in the light of science and philosophy.” Her thesis was that the influential fusion of neuroscience, psychology, sociology, and philosophy in the works of such thinkers as E.O. Wilson, Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, who argue that all human thought and activity is driven by and reducible to unconscious biological motives, has tended not so much to explain religion, art, and other quintessentially human endeavors as to explain them away, and that this in turn stems from a central attitude and approach that hamfistedly and unjustifiably attempts to explain away the very reality of human interiority. As a categorical contrast with and refutation of this approach, she emphasizes the reality and significance of the fundamental sense of “I-ness” itself:

For the religious, the sense of the soul may have as a final redoubt, not as argument but as experience, that haunting I who wakes us in the night wondering where time has gone, the I we waken to, sharply aware that we have been unfaithful to ourselves, that a life lived otherwise would have acknowledged a yearning more our own than any of the daylit motives whose behests we answer to so diligently. Our religious traditions give us as the name of God two deeply mysterious words, one deeply mysterious utterance: I AM. Putting to one side the question of their meaning as the name and character by which the God of Moses would be known, these are words any human being can say about herself.

— Marilynne Robinson, Absence of Mind (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010), 110.

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On transmitting artistic and spiritual vision

Some years ago as I was searching for a way to introduce poetry to the high school writing and literature classes that I was then teaching — not just certain, selected poets and poems but the entire idea and import of poetry itself — I started telling my students that language can have an alchemical power. There is, I told them, a positively magical potency to language, particularly of the poetic sort, since language enables a person to recreate his or her private thoughts and emotions in somebody else’s headspace and heartspace. This is especially true of lyric poetry, because this form is specifically meant to capture and express an author’s state of mind and mood at a particular moment, and therefore a full understanding of a lyric poem entails not only an intellectual understanding of the poem’s formal content but an actual shared feeling with the author. When this magic works, it actually recreates the poet’s inner state in the reader (or hearer), so that poet and reader vibrate in sympathy, and the reader doesn’t just understand the poem “from the outside” but divines it “from the inside” by sharing the actual mental-emotional experience that motivated the poet to begin writing. The poet, sometimes speaking across centuries or millennia, acts as a linguistic alchemist who uses language to transmute the reader’s inner state into something else. And this same phenomenon is active to some degree not just in poetry but in all uses of language.

That, in combination with the reading of several short poems to serve as examples, was how I went about trying to “prime” American teens to understand the nature and significance of poetry. It has often been said that a person teaches best what he or she most wants and needs to know, and in this case that little homily was definitely true, because the issue of language’s magical/alchemical potency was something that I was only then beginning to appropriate consciously after years of grasping it intuitively and even using it in my own writings. And it’s something that has only become of more pressing interest in the years since then.

When we consider the ability of language, particularly in its poetical or otherwise artistically deployed form, to alter, shape, shade, and create states of mind and affect, what we’re really considering is a convergence of art and — for lack of a better word to encompass a vibrantly varied set of studies, experiences, practices, and disciplines — spirituality. We’re also highlighting a key distinction in the way language can affect us in both arenas. This distinction is between the transmission of visions, plural, and the transmission of vision. By the former I mean thoughts, concepts, stories, images — all of the actual content that can be communicated by language. By the latter I refer to the much deeper impact that language can have by working a change not just on what we think or “see” with our mind’s eye but on how we think and see. In art and spirituality, the most profound effects come from the alteration of a person’s basic outlook and worldview, his or her fundamental cognitive, emotional, and perceptual “stance” toward self and world. This is the level at which visions become vision, and an entirely new way not just of seeing but of being opens out from one’s first-personhood.

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Decline, collapse, and doom: Snapshots from Europe, America, and planet earth

This morning when I went to scan the day’s delivery of essays, news, and information, one of the first things that came to my attention was this:

Nothing I’ve heard from politicians or economists on the world crisis has shivered my spine like an hour spent with the gentle‑mannered historian Antony Beevor, whose mighty new book on the Second World War is making him the pundit of the moment. He does not mean to be alarmist, and that is why the soft warnings in his sunlit garden are chilling. Of course the rise of the Right in Europe is not the same as the rise of the Right in the Thirties, he soothes. But isn’t it terrifying the way the Greeks are portraying the Germans as Nazis in their popular press, with Angela Merkel in Nazi uniform? There are “far too many jibes” about a Fourth Reich. The weedlike eruption of extremist parties makes him “uneasy” – and if Beevor is uneasy, it probably means the rest of us should be scared witless. “The great European dream was to diminish militant nationalism,” he says. “We would all be happy Europeans together. But we are going to see the old monster of militant nationalism being awoken when people realise how little control their politicians have. We are already seeing political disintegration in Europe.”

— Elizabeth Grice, ” Europe is already falling apart,” The Telegraph,  May 28, 2012

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The world riots, nations shudder, Cthulhu wakes

The world tree is rotten and the axe lies at its base. The Midgard Serpent shudders and flicks open an eye. Cthulhu rouses from his slumber of aeons. Time to wake up. There’s a revolution calling. And not just in the visible world.

Or so my mood tells me on this otherwise mundane Friday morning. (And doesn’t “mundane” mean “insane” these days?)

* * *

Got no love for politicians or that crazy scene in D.C, it’s just a power-mad town
But the time is right for changes, there’s a growing fear. We’re taking a chance on a new kind of vision is due
I used to trust the media to tell me the truth, tell us the truth
But now I see the payoffs everywhere I look. Who do you trust when everyone’s a crook?

I used to think that only America’s way was right
But now the holy dollar rules everybody’s lives
Gotta make a million, doesn’t matter who dies
Revolution calling

* * *

“In the wake of a political crisis here in America that left both sides looking more than ever like cranky six-year-olds, a long-overdue downgrade of America’s unpayable debt, and yet another round of fiscal crisis in the Eurozone, stock and commodity markets around the globe roared into a power dive from which, as I write this, they show no sign of recovering any time soon.

“In England, meanwhile, one of those incidents Americans learned to dread in the long hot summers of the Sixties — a traffic stop in a poor minority neighborhood, a black man shot dead by police under dubious circumstances — has triggered four nights of looting and rioting, as mobs in London and elsewhere organized via text messages and social media, brushed aside an ineffectual police presence, plundered shops and torched police stations, and ripped gaping holes in their nation’s already shredding social fabric. It seems that ‘Tottenham’ is how the English pronounce ‘Watts,’ except that the fire this time is being spread rather more efficiently with the aid of Blackberries and flashmobs.

“Government officials denounced the riots as ‘mindless thuggery,’ but it’s considerably more than that. As one looter cited in the media said, ‘this is my banker’s bonus’ — the response of the bottom of the social pyramid, that is, to a culture of nearly limitless corruption further up. It bears remembering that the risings earlier this year in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere began with exactly this sort of inchoate explosion of rage against governments that responded to economic crisis by tightening the screws on the poor; it was only when the riots showed the weakness of the existing order that more organized and ambitious movements took shape amid the chaos. It’s thus not outside the bounds of possibility, if the British government keeps on managing the situation as hamhandedly as it’s done so far, that the much-ballyhooed Arab Spring may be followed by an English Summer — and just possibly thereafter by a European Autumn.

“One way or another, this is what history looks like as it’s happening.”

John Michael Greer, August 10, 2011

* * *

Movements come and movements go
Leaders speak, movements cease
When their heads are flown
‘Cause all these punks
Got bullets in their heads
Departments of police, the judges, the feds
Networks at work, keepin’ people calm
You know they went after King
When he spoke out on Vietnam
He turned the power to the have-nots
And then came the shot

* * *

Great Britain and other parts of the world are experiencing unrest at a time of global economic uncertainty and stock market volatility….[A]round the world…economic downturns are bringing protestors into the streets [in Great Britain, Israel, Spain, Greece, Portugal, the Philippines, China, Syria]. – “Global Uncertainty Leading to Global Unrest,” CNBC

Reaganomics, according to Asher Edelman, has been proven nonsense “time and time again…it doesn’t trickle down anywhere. The man with a million-dollar income who makes another $100,000 is more likely than not to spend it.” As the world watches London burn under the strain of economic uncertainty, Edelman warns it could happen here: “I think that you should watch very carefully for the possibilities of social unrest in this country unless Washington wakes up,” he tells Big Think. It is already becoming a global conflagration. – Big Think

* * *

“We need to, first of all, not believe what we’re being told in the media: that we should be in a state of fear, that the only real response, the only natural response to what’s happening, is a state of fear. That is an unconscious response. We need to see that change is absolutely necessary in this world, and the dissolution of many of the ego-based structures is absolutely necessary for the planet to survive and for humanity to survive. So what’s happening is not dreadfully bad. What’s happening needs to happen. The totality, the intelligence behind phenomena, is doing it. So it is a good thing.”- Eckhart Tolle

* * *

Revelations of personal insecurity continued to rise in the decades that followed [World War II and the advent of the atomic age]. Depletion of natural resources, spiraling inflation, religious warfare, governmental and industrial corruption, political assassination, street crimes, mass murder, and drug addiction grew and flourished. No heroes appeared on the scene to offer succor or solutions. Like the turmoil and upheaval that preceded the return of the Great Old Ones in Lovecraft’s fiction, the world seemed to be preparing for its final fate now that “the stars were right”…In a time of turmoil there is a widespread intimation — not based on hereditary impulse but on today’s realities — that the evils abroad in the world may come from without as well as from within ourselves. While we may consciously reject [Lovecraft’s] cosmology, a part of us finds in it a chilling confirmation of secret fears. At the time Lovecraft created it, the “Cthulhu Mythos” and its threat of Elder Gods rising and returning to rule over earth could be easily dismissed as merely a paranoid fable of the future. Today there is growing suspicion that this future may become our present.” – Robert Bloch, “Heritage of Horror

Fundamentalist preacher “debates” religion with Oprah

It’s the funniest and most pathetic fraud I’ve come across in quite some time.

A couple of months ago,, in March, the Rev. Bill Keller, founder of a Florida-based fundamentalist Christian “ministry” named Live Prayer (and yes, it deserves the scornful quotation marks), publicly challenged Oprah Winfrey to a debate about religion. Here’s the YouTube clip:

In the clip Keller announces to the world that Oprah Winfrey, because of her promotion of Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth, is leading people to hell. At one point he tells her, “God will take you down. It was God who raised you up and it is God who will take you down.” He concludes by not only asking but demanding — he uses the word itself — that she engage him publicly in a debate about religious matters.

To my surprise, Fox News gave Keller a huge platform by interviewing him remotely about his views on Oprah. (Or maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, it’s Fox News we’re talking about.) The ostensible justification for the einterview was the kickoff of Oprah’s network reality show Oprah’s Big Give but Keller devoted the whole of the three-minute interview to explaining why he believes Oprah is “the queen of the New Age gurus.” He even called her “the most dangerous woman in the world,” since she is “leading people down the path of destruction” if “you believe that the Bible is true and Christ is the only way to be saved.”

Here’s the YouTube clip of the Fox interview:

And now, most recently (as of April), Keller has posted to the Internet a video of the supposed interview he ended up conducting with Oprah. You can watch it below, but first be advised that the whole thing is a fraud. When I saw the title of the video, I was momentarily shocked that Oprah would even give the guy a second thought. Then as I went to click the link, before the video even started playing, I thought the thing had to be a fraud. Then I thought, “No way. He wouldn’t be that ballsy.”

But in point of fact, yes, he would. Observe:

What Keller has done is to create the illusion that he is debating with Oprah, with him sitting in a chair in his personal production studio and asking Oprah questions while she answers via video link from the studio where she held her webcasts for A New Earth. But what’s actually happening is that Keller has simply recorded himself asking the questions and then edited in segments of Oprah talking to the camera during the Tolle webcasts. He asks her what she thinks of Jesus Christ. Then he inserts a clip of her talking about her understanding of Christ. And so on.

I watched the video with a mixed emotion of hilarity and incredulity. Even when I caught on to what Keller was doing — which took about 30 seconds; it’s really a clumsy piece of work he’s put together — I kept thinking there was no way he could play it straight all the way to the end. I thought he would have to break down at some point and admit that this was all a simulated debate. I figured he would justify it by saying something along the lines that he had to do it this way, since Oprah wouldn’t respond to his challenge and the issue was so danged important.

But no, he played it as genuine all the way through. If you watch the video, I hope you pay particular attention at around six minutes into it when Keller cuts back to a shot of his own face while the Oprah clip keeps on playing. He winces. He rolls his eyes. He mugs shamelessly for the camera to show his disdain  for what Oprah is saying. Then he starts taking her to task and laying down “the truth” for her. In other words, he really works hard to pull off the illusion that he really is debating her live, and that she really is present on the other end of a video linkup, responding in real time to his questions and comments.

Not since the glory days of deliriously fraudulent, fatuous, and breathtakingly funny Robert Tilton in the late 80s and early 90s have I witnessed such televangelistic gall. Tilton fell like an anvil dropped from the Empire State Building after ABC’s Primetime newsmagazine exposed him for what he was. I have to wonder whether Keller will suffer a similar fate, since he seems to be possessed of the same astonishing audacity and cartoonish presentation. If Sister Oprah decides to turn her baleful eye upon him, we can know that his fall will be great indeed.

Not incidentally, aside from his really amusing theatrics and lies, the man also amuses by mispronouncing Tolle’s last name as Toll, like in “toll bridge” (the name is correctly pronounced “Toll-ay”) and claiming that Oprah is promoting something called “A Course on Miracles” when it’s actually “A Course in Miracles.” He can’t even bother to get his facts straight, so it’s hard to take him seriously.

But then, he positively begs not to be taken seriously via the media persona he has deliberately cultivated. Is he maybe winking at us all as he drives home his schmaltzy schtick? I don’t think so but I can’t rule it out. So in the absence of evidence either way, I’ll just adopt an attitude of (sharp-edged) amusement toward him and enjoy the show.

Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, and the fundamentalist hijacking of Christianity

A few weeks ago I went and jumped headfirst into the ruckus about Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth over at Oprah Winfrey’s message boards.

Surely you’ve heard about the controversy, haven’t you? Ms. Winfrey recently picked Tolle’s book as the subject for a groundbreaking 10-week video class that streams across the Internet and around the world. Her decision has catapulted the book to the top of the bestseller lists (making it by far the most awesomely popular of her numerous book club picks) and has elicited both great excitement and great negativity from crowds far and wide.

The excitement has come from two types of people, those who already know Tolle’s brilliant work as a spiritual author and teacher and those who are thrilled to be introduced to it for the first time. The negativity has come from legions of fundamentalist Protestant Christians who are filling Oprah’s message boards, and also a lot of the rest of the Internet and World Wide Web, with criticisms of and attacks upon Tolle as an evil New Age deceiver and Oprah as the founder of a proprietary cult that probably has something to do with the anti-Christ and is certainly leading many people away from God, Christ, truth, and so on. It’s as if Winfrey’s decision to promote Tolle’s book has popped a kind of boil on the face of American religion, releasing a flood of pent up, festering nastiness.

You can find out all about it, if you like, by visiting YouTube or Google and entering Tolle’s and Oprah’s names as search terms. You’ll find homemade video segments about Tolle and Oprah that aspire to the status of exposés. You’ll find Pentecostal pastors speaking to large crowds at revival meetings about poor and/or dastardly Oprah Winfrey and her satanically inspired deception of the masses. You’ll find an Internet pastor challenging Oprah to a public debate about religion. You’ll find articles and blog posts by fundamentalist Protestants arguing that Tolle is just America’s “guru of the moment” who preaches a watered-down New Age pantheism and feel-good self-help philosophy, and that Oprah is a veritable she-devil who has made it her mission in life to twist, corrupt, and oppose the (literal, inerrant, non-negotiable, non-interpretable) truth of the Bible.

You can also visit the section of Oprah’s message boards devoted to discussing Tolle and A New Earth, where you’ll find vigorous conversations and arguments in progress about all of these things. If you poke around there long enough, you just might stumble across the following message written by me in response to somebody who suggested that participants in those conversations should consider drawing distinctions between types of Christians, since not all of the self-identified Christians who have been jumping into the conversation at those message boards are writing from a fundamentalist viewpoint.

I happen to know a little something about religion in general and Christianity in particular. I even have the by-God academic credential to talk with some authority about the matter. So here’s what I wrote in response to this very reasonable suggestion:

* * *

You raise an excellent point. Over the past 30 years the words “Christian” and “Christianity” have been hijacked, so to speak, in America’s general public discourse to refer primarily or even solely to fundamentalist Christians and Christianity.

Fundamentalism is the attitude or approach to any given subject or issue (not just religion) that reduces it to a handful of rigid beliefs that are then held as utterly nonnegotiable. They’re also viewed as being pretty much the only points worth talking about. Moreover, in the specific phenomenon of religious fundamentalism, the beliefs are generally held in a literalistic, externalized sense. Anybody who won’t give assent to these rigid beliefs is viewed as an outsider, somebody who’s completely wrong and probably dangerous to those insiders who assent to the beliefs. In short, fundamentalism reduces religion etc. to a dogmatic belief system.

For American fundamentalist Christians this belief system involves a number of standard items, including the idea that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the only Son of God; that his death on a Roman cross was in reality a substitutionary sacrifice where he played the part of a sacrificial lamb according to the old Jewish system of ritual animal sacrifice (an idea that came not from him but from later interpreters of his life, death, and teachings, including, especially, Saint Paul); that the 66 books of the Protestant Bible are completely without error, are to be read in a literalistic sense (six days of creation and so forth), and are the sole statement of religious truth, beside which all other purported scriptures are satanic deceptions; and so on. Fundamentalist Protestantism is entirely about “right belief.” It teaches that spiritual salvation is found in intellectual assent to its propositions.

That’s why fundamentalist Christians are so suspicious of competing belief systems: because their entire religion is at root nothing more nor less than embrace of a belief system. Doctrinal purity is everything to them. This means they’re putting intellect in the chief position. Their religion is, as Tolle would say, “nothing but thoughts in their head.” That means they have trouble even recognizing that some religious and spiritual approaches are completely different, that some religious and spiritual paths are not belief-system based but what we might called “way” based, that is, ways of transformation instead of systems of doctrines. For fundamentalists this is generally incomprehensible and often infuriating.

Obviously I’ve drawn an ideal type here. Most fundamentalists aren’t really as rigid as all this. But they are pretty danged rigid, and some of them conform entirely to the broad picture I’ve drawn. Thankfully, there are lots of other Christians who are not like that.

The sadness of America and the need for a new consciousness

A couple of months ago I began catching wind of a new documentary film titled What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire. It sounded intriguing so I started reading pretty much everything I could find about it on the Internet. At this point, having informed myself as much as I can by means of secondary sources, I’ve decided I definitely need to acquire a copy.

The thing that attracts me to What a Way to Go is not just the subject matter but the deep emotion that’s apparently layered into its overall sensibility. A particularly informative review by Dan Armstrong at Mud City Press describes this vividly:

“A personal commentary on the direction of modern society in the twenty-first century, WHAT A WAY TO GO is described on the back of its DVD package as ‘a middle-class white guy coming to grips with peak oil, climate change, mass extinction, population overshoot, and the demise of the American lifestyle.’ It might also be described as the non-Hollywood version of Al Gore’s documentary on climate change. This is not meant to be dismissive. Not at all. It’s an accolade. If what Gore offered was an ‘inconvenient truth,’ WHAT A WAY TO GO gives us the ‘whole truth.’ That is, Gore’s story with peak oil, unsustainable agriculture, and our mass assault on the community of life added in to fill out the picture of climbing atmospheric carbon concentrations and melting ice caps.

. . . . “Little by little, as the narrator expanded this metaphor [of a runaway train] to climate change and the economics of peak oil, I gradually understood that T.S. Bennett was not just recounting the Club of Rome’s scenario of unchecked industrial expansion and his own awakening to the meaning of it. He was revealing what he felt about the condition of our planet in a very visceral way. We all have an intellectual side that allows us to put the pieces of this story together. And we can hold this out, away from us as an abstract analysis. But there must also be a psychological response, perhaps held muted within, to the prospect of vast social upheaval brought about by egregious mismanagement of the planet. There must be deep emotions within all of us connected to this sad socio-biologic unfolding. We’re watching, to some large extent the world, but more specifically the United States face a brutal fact of life. Cheap oil held this nation together economically. The wealth, the lifestyle, our dreams. Cheap oil is now a thing of the past. America as we once knew it is dying. And there is real reason to grieve. And yet it seems denial or evasion is the more common response. That’s the problem. And perhaps why we have yet to really confront the problem head on. We aren’t truly feeling the sadness and frustration that destroying ourselves and our planet home should impart. WHAT A WAY TO GO is one man saying what he really feels about the insanity of it all. One man letting out a deep primal scream. How could this have happened while we were watching so closely? How could this have happened at all? We just filled the skies with carbon exhaust until it suffocated us and all of life with it. AGGGRHHHH!

“America has changed. It’s become a caricature of itself. The democracy has been compromised. We are a country gone to war to defend burning fossil fuels–and a way of life that has proven wasteful, foolish, and disastrous. And to face that, you must also accept that you are no longer who you thought you were, because the social premise that provided you with a belief system has proven to be false. Grief is called for. Grief is justified. We face a great turning in the ways of earthlings, and there is good reason to scream–or cry.”

So according to Armstrong (and also a number of other reviewers), the film gets its power as much from the narrator’s palpable sense of shock and grief as from the inherent gravity of the subject matter.

Armstrong notes another important point: “[T]he material is put together so artfully, with such attention to detail and with such clear emotion that it becomes something more. Mixed in with the interviews of thoughtful commentators like Richard Heinberg, Daniel Quinn, Jerry Mander, Ran Prieur, Chellis Glendinning, and Derrick Jensen, is a wonderfully edited docu-collage and prose poem. There is enough footage from the 1950s, cuts from televisions shows, commercials, movies, and grainy home movies to remind us of our own lives, our own evolution from believing baby boomers to disillusioned young adults to lost pawns in the grand chess game. Add to this, T.S. Bennett’s lyric writing, its depth, its tragic irony, his clear frustration, voiced over clips of film Americana and current events, and the viewer gets a very powerful psychological make over from the 123 minute film–with one very disheartening conclusion. The life we have just lived, the last fifty years, the height of the fossil fuel era, is headed to a dead end, a collapse. And so is the psychic infrastructure of the personalities created in that great gush of comparatively free energy. We now enter a tenuous time of social revolution. That will be impossible to dodge or ignore. And while the presiding powers are hanging on to every last penny of profit with denial and propaganda, the middle-class American sees it happening day by day. A definitive pinching in, gas prices, medical insurance, food costs, daily news of young men and women’s lives lost to war. And all the while, no one is letting up. The highways are more tightly jammed than ever. We burn more and more petroleum with each passing day. This insane lemming-like race to the edge just continues. Blindly. A contradiction to life and reason. That merits human grief and anguish. And if you don’t feel that, if you’ve missed that critical point, Bennett and Erickson’s documentary brings it into focus for you and does this powerfully, with emotion, a measure of derision, a certain resignation, and a sad refrain, ‘what a way to go.'”

I can’t help but read all of this in light of my “Doomerism and Realism” post from last week, in which I talked about my recent inner move toward toning down the shrillness of my ongoing critique of the imperialist theme park culture America has become. Armstrong’s observation that America has “become a caricature of itself” — which may or may not come directly from the film; I guess I’ll find out when I watch it — expresses my own feeling perfectly. Nor do I think the point he’s making is shrill or histrionic (something I’m sure I’ll be watching for in myself and others for a long time to come). Although I’m not a boomer but a member of Generation X, having been born in 1970 and come of age in the late 1980s/early 1990s, I feel temperamentally at one with the outlook and, at least as importantly, the emotion being described here.

Considering all this, a possible critique of the film occurs to me. Some time in the past year I read an essay — whose author and title I have now forgotten — in which the author opined that America’s mounting sense of doom, which in the past five years or so has swelled to become a distinct chorus, may be nothing more than a transient and subjective cultural moment that’s being unconsciously perpetrated by members of the boomer generation. The author speculated that since the boomers’ attitudes have come to define American culture over the past several decades owing to the sheer demographic weight of their numbers, the nation’s growing sense of doom is simply a case of boomer sensibility writ large. We’re well into the era of mass communication, in which our collective sense of self derives primarily from the mass media. The boomers are presently the gatekeepers of these media. As they enter old age and begin to sense their own mortality with newfound vividness, these people project that sensibility onto the general culture and amplify it via their control over so much of what we see and hear. So according to this analysis, what a lot of us are now sensing is not our own imminent collective death but theirs.

It’s a fascinating bit of cultural-psychological analysis, and for months now I’ve regretted my failure to note where I read it. But presently when I’m told by the reviews of What a Way to Go that the film erects its argument on the narrative backbone of a middle-aged boomer’s awakening to America’s rush toward collapse, I can’t help thinking of that other writer’s idea and wondering whether it might be in play.

Having said that, what inspired me to blog about all this is a post I discovered last week at the blog maintained by Sally C. Erickson, who produced What a Way to Go. It’s found at the film’s official website. I didn’t even know such a blog existed until last week, although I had visited the main site several times. A post from last Wednesday (June 14) titled “The Hard Bullet for Progressives to Bite” describes some of Ms. Erickson’s thoughts and emotions as she and director Timothy S. Bennett are currently preparing to take the film on the road. These thoughts dwell on the actual felt experience of life in America right now, and they ping my own thoughts and feelings so directly that I’m going to quote them at length. I especially like Ms. Erickson’s non-hysterical tone as she expresses her honest observations and accompanying sadness over what we Americans have become, since this resonates nicely with my own newly adopted resolution to pursue such thoughts in a similarly honest, as opposed to overblown , manner. In my own view this approach carries a ring of truth that largely undercuts, sidesteps, or at least qualifies the charge of psychological projection mentioned above.

Erickson writes:

“[W]e know that, besides the most clueless and insulated of the very wealthy, everyone else knows that things are not right. We all feel it. The weather’s not right. Our collective paychecks don’t go far. Our collective debt is huge and getting huger. We try to keep up a hopeful attitude. But we know things are not good. We see only the very rare politician that we like and trust, and almost never see one of those make it to Washington.

“People want to be hopeful. We want to believe what we learned in school about the miracles of science. We want to believe in the American values of innovation and progress; that we are indeed pursuing progress; and that progress will eventually make life better for everyone on the planet. People want to believe these things because people are basically good.

“What people actually experience, if they stop shopping long enough to notice, is the opposite. Lives are stressed. Work is unsatisfying. Children are unhappy. What most have to look forward to is going out to eat. Think about it. It’s a place where someone will take care of you and treat you with a modicum of respect. At least in a chain restaurant, the average person has some power. You can leave a nice tip. Or not.

. . . . “Is it possible that we can innovate enough new technology to meet the current human energy demand with non-polluting, renewable sources? None of the sources I’ve seen with reliable, holistic data say we can. William Catton, author of Overshoot, says in What a Way to Go that the way we are living now, we overshot the carrying capacity of the planet with the population size we had at the time of the Civil War. Yikes. That’s like five and a half billion people ago. Five and a half billion! That’s a lot of people. More than will fit in your new Prius. More than the local co-op grocery can feed with organic food. That would be a lot of organic ramen to come up with. This is serious.

“Even if we could find a magic energy elixir that would keep things going as they are, there are other gigantic questions that follow. Could we pull off a mass consciousness change that would ensure that we utilized that energy elixir in fair, sustainable, life-supportive ways? I don’t think so. Look around. Look at the world that has been created since the discovery of the last magic energy elixir humans got their hands on. Do you like this world where the rich get richer and richer and spiritually sicker and sicker while the poor get poorer and poorer and the shrinking middle class works longer and longer and longer? I don’t.

“We don’t need more energy. Looking for a technofix is a distraction. We need something else entirely. If more energy were going to create a saner, more spiritual, more just world, that would have happened in the last two hundred years. We’ve had our high dose of magical energy. It hasn’t helped. It’s made things worse. We’re teetering on human-caused extinction of our own species, to say nothing of the human-caused wreckage to the rest of the species already in progress. That hasn’t happened before.

“No. It’s not more energy we need. It is a consciousness change, a radical reconnection to life itself, and to one another, that we ache for.

“Some of us are kind of aware of this. We want a bunch of people to wake up, quick. We hope for that. We carpool to our jobs and we shop locally and we do the best we can. Some of us participate in protests and write emails to our congresspeople. Some of us have changed every single light bulb in our houses and recycle every scrap of paper and every aluminum can and resist all unnecessary driving. We’re hoping there will be a mass consciousness change.

“We want that so much.

“The sad possibility that Tim and I have chewed on these past three years is that there may be no mass movement. As much as we want it, there may be no gentle transition to an ecologically viable way to live harmoniously with the rest of the non-human world. We’re on a crash course and there doesn’t seem to be any widespread move to stop.”

* * * * *

If it is at all possible in plain, everyday thought and discourse to “see around our own corners,” as Nietzsche might have put it — that is, to gain a real sense of what’s happening in the world outside the boundaries of our self-enclosed subjectivities — then the above combination of calm observation informed by authentic emotion strikes me as one of the most likely ways to achieve it.

As for Ms. Erickson’s speculations about a change in consciousness, these remind me of some things said by one of my favorite writers, contemporary spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, and it’s with these that I’ll conclude this long, rambling, patchwork post. Tolle is, for my money, simply the best spiritual teacher around today. His books present the message of nondual/mystical insight with a depth, clarity, and power that I’ve rarely encountered elsewhere, and that’s really saying something since I’ve studied literally hundreds of books on religion, religious history, spirituality, consciousness, etc. Never mind that his endorsement by Oprah a few years ago, followed by the predictable marketing overkill his American publishers engaged in, may have generated the unfortunate impression that he’s just a faddish guru of the insipid New Agey/self-help variety. Never mind that Jim Carrey and a few other Hollywood celebrities have lent a superficial glamour to him by becoming prominent students of his (Carrey has actually traveled to Canada for the express purpose of learning from him). Aside from these things, this guy is the Real Deal. He not only explains the fundamental human problem — mistaken identification with thought, the mental world, the ego self — and its solution — seeing through the mistake and identifying with one’s true self in Being — with uncommon clarity, but also offers penetrating advice on how to accomplish this in actual experience (aside from which the whole thing is just one more idea, one more mental abstraction that perpetuates the problem).

Another part of his being the Real Deal is his willingness to address painful topics like, you guessed it, the sickness of modern culture. Unlike the execrable rehash of New Thought that is The Secret (which Oprah has also famously endorsed, and which teaches that Everything Is Great and You Can Have Whatever You Want), Tolle specifically and pointedly addresses the very same issue of societal-cultural collapse addressed by What a Way to Go. And like Sally Erickson in her recent blog post, he links the issue of collapse to the pressing need for us to change our collective consciousness since our present political, social, and economic institutions are direct expressions of the ego’s dysfunction. He also takes the extra step of drawing a connection between natural environmental trends — not just global warming but things that might otherwise seem unrelated to human involvement — and the collective human dysfunction.

Here’s a portion of how he says it all in his most recent book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (2005). For me these words, with their simultaneous recognition of the inevitability of collapse, the reasons behind it, and the paradoxical hope it portends, pretty much say it all:

“The ego is destined to dissolve, and all its ossified structures, whether they be religious or other institutions, corporations, or governments, will disintegrate from within, no matter how deeply entrenched they appear to be. The most rigid structures, the most impervious to change, will collapse first. This has already happened in the case of Soviet Communism. How deeply entrenched, how solid and monolithic it appeared, and yet within a few years, it disintegrated from within. No one foresaw this. All were taken by surprise. There are many more such surprises in store for us.

. . . . “A significant portion of the earth’s population will soon recognize, if they haven’t already done so, that humanity is now faced with a stark choice: Evolve or die. A still relatively small but rapidly growing percentage of humanity is already experiencing within themselves the breakup of the old egoic mind patterns and the emergence of a new dimension in consciousness.

. . . . “Ego means no more than this: identification with form, which primarily means thought forms. If evil has any reality — and it has a relative, not an absolute, reality — this is also its definition: complete identification with form — physical forms, thought forms, emotional forms. This results in total unawareness of my connectedness with the whole, my intrinsic oneness with every ‘other’ as well as with the Source. This forgetfulness is original sin, suffering, delusion. When this delusion of utter separateness underlies and governs whatever I think, say, and do, what kind of world to I create? To find the answer to this, observe how humans relate to each other, read a history book, or watch the news on television tonight.

“If the structures of the human mind remain unchanged, we will always end up re-creating fundamentally the same world, the same evils, the same dysfunction.

“The inspiration for the title of this book came from a Bible prophecy that seems more applicable now than at any other time in human history. It occurs in both the Old and the New Testament and speaks of the collapse of the existing world order and the arising of ‘a new heaven and a new earth.’ We need to understand that heaven is not a location but refers to the inner realm of consciousness. This is the esoteric meaning of the word, and this is also its meaning in the teachings of Jesus. Earth, on the other hand, is the outer manifestation in form, which is always a reflection of the inner. Collective human consciousness and life on our planet are intrinsically connected. ‘A new heaven’ is the emergence of a transformed state of human consciousness, and ‘a new earth’ is its reflection in the physical realm.’ Since human life and human consciousness are intrinsically one with the life of the planet, as the old consciousness dissolves, there are bound to be synchronistic geographic and climatic natural upheavals in many parts of the planet, some of which we are already witnessing now.

. . . . “So the new heaven, the awakened consciousness, is not a future state to be achieved. A new heaven and a new earth are arising within you at this moment, and if they are not arising at this moment, they are no more than a thought in your head and therefore are not arising at all. What did Jesus tell his disciples? ‘Heaven is right here in the midst of you’ (Luke 17:21).

“In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes a prediction that to this day few people have understood. He says, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’ In modern versions of the Bible, ‘meek’ is translated as humble. Who are the meek or the humble, and what does it mean that they shall inherit the earth?

“The meek are the egoless. They are those who have awakened to their essential true nature as consciousness and recognize that essence in all ‘others,’ in all life-forms. They live in the surrendered state and so feel their oneness with the whole and the Source. They embody the awakened consciousness that is changing all aspects of life on our planet, including nature, because life on earth is inseparable from the human consciousness that perceives and interacts with it. That is the sense in which the meek will inherit the earth.

“A new species is arising on the planet. It is arising now, and you are it!”