37. Freedom of Choice
Since the 1960s we have become clearly aware of the need for deep and thorough change. Everyone knows it – unless they actively bury their heads in the sand. Yet we have not acted with the commitment and fundamentality needed – we have practised denial and avoidance to sophisticated levels. The 1980s characterised a period of extreme escapism – freedom became a marketable commodity with a designer label and a strange case of indigestion and headache afterwards.
As a result of our enormous historic omissions we have renounced critical degrees of capacity for future choice. If choice is declined or avoided when presented, its scope diminishes until the choice is withdrawn and imperatives follow. Meanwhile, we have created new problems which compound and complexify the problems we previously had. We have developed such an addiction to resisting The Big Question that it is difficult now to break the habit – addiction slowly moves from a dulling diversion to a deadly killer, an unstoppable self-destruction urge.
We have omitted to take hold of positive opportunities, despite strong presentations in 1965-68 and 1987-89: underlying hopes for change were smothered and dashed in a barrage of war, marketing-spin and self-interest, causing many people to give up on change while still secretly wishing for it. We have allowed ourselves to subside into reaffirming our hidden hopelessness and disappointment with life.
Large-scale disaster is a much greater likelihood than most people wish to acknowledge. Serious disaster has personally struck many people already, in their bodies, homes, workplaces, landscapes and societies – though most prefer not to see things this way. Some come forward with definite-sounding predictions of a future date when disaster is to come, many of which dates have already passed. Edgar Cayce, in 1943, predicted tectonic upheavals by 1976 (though, to be fair, he said '76', which equally could mean 2076, or 76 years from 1943, which is 2019). Astrologers expected tectonic activity in 1989-93 (connected with multiple conjunctions in Capricorn) – though there was indeed great social tectonic shifting around that time.
Modern Western advocates for the Mayan Long Count calendar predicted an end of the world as we knew it on 23rd December 2012, at the end of a cycle which began in 3114 BCE (though the Mayans themselves didn't say this). However, this could be a reflection of deep Mayan and Aztec beliefs, since both civilisations knew themselves to be failing and were highly preoccupied with their mortality. So afraid were they of downfall that in the early 1500s the Aztecs were sacrificing some 250,000 people per year, to forestall catastrophe.
What is fascinating about such predictions as these is that while they not infrequently turn out to be incorrect, they can still have symbolic elements of truth to them – and the apocalyptic interpretations infused into them by modern people can overemphasise or misconstrue what is actually being said. Obsessive haggling over dates and theories can obstruct a clearer and more mature analysis of such predictions. However, above all, proliferating predictions – a new Nostradamus book emerges every two years, because it is good business – are a symptom of the state of the collective unconscious. We sense something is coming.
In our mythologies, there are many images of a Great Reckoning, a final whiplash arising from our errors. We have no proof of the validity of a prediction until something happens to prove it – by which time it is too late. The most popular prediction is that nothing at all will happen and life will go on more or less as today – most governments officially work on this assumption, though background departments do research other options. In this, the world's authorities are just as superstitious as anyone else. Leaning on predictions, whether psychic, religious or scientific, is an article of faith and a question of interpretation: we can only wait and see what becomes true.
Yet commonsense and simple observation, culled in the streets, fields and climates of every country, is sufficient to tell any sane person that something is afoot and something must be done. Psychic vision or scientific training is not needed – if anything, they can obstruct accurate forecasting. They omit to reckon in the ongoing influence of choices made – whether by humans and our institutions, or whether by higher powers which could, conceivably, be conducting a 'holding operation' to optimise our deeper education and awareness such that we are obliged to make our choices ourselves. They also focus upon some future disaster time while ignoring the unfolding realities of the disaster which visits us now, today, in every part of the world – humanity is lost, Mother Nature is crying out, and the Great Tribulation has been upon us long enough for us to have got used to it!
However disaster, great or small, might manifest, we are nevertheless confronted with sufficient facts to work on, and we face an enormous choice, now. This is not an extremist statement: it's simple commonsense. We know approximately what is necessary. We know what many of the issues are. Yet the will to carry out appropriate redemptive actions is strangely, painfully absent, except amongst a minority – some of whom are paralysed by fear, by exaggerated doomsterism or by a transfer of power to divine or malign forces beyond our grasp. UN conferences have been left to sort it out, as if diplomatic ventilation and a few dollars might make them disappear. A dangerous impasse pervades humanity, a dangerous pretence. And, with it, a deep perplexity over where on Earth to start unravelling such an almighty tangle.
We live today in a global laboratory experiment to find out what the outcomes truly are from our past historical choices. We live in an enormous experiment to find out how we might react. No one truly knows the outcome, even though predictions are attempted. This brings us to the crux of the matter.
"The inability of those in power to still the voices of their own consciences is a great force leading to change" - Kenneth Kaunda, president of Zambia, Observer, July 1965.
Options lie before us. The way things look today, by year 2100, humanity will experiencing either some form of extinction, or we'll be severely damaged and diminished in number and condition, or we'll be populating a very different and perhaps happier world, brought about as the outcome of an enormous breakthrough.
A century seems a long time, yet a younger person born in recent decades is likely to see these profound changes take place, whatever they turn out to be, in their own lifetime. By the end of their life (say 2040-70), many necessary changes will need to have been successfully enacted - or, alternatively, things will have got very bad. In fact, on a deep down level, a person born today probably chose to be born in this time specifically to be involved with such changes, to be part of an enormous encounter-session with reality and with the future.
Let's work on an assumption that humanity responds positively to its challenges and that, despite the lateness of our response, we survive and deal well with whatever crisis or changes we must face. To have navigated the 21st century successfully, we will have needed to transform our world civilisation and the nature of life considerably, thoroughly and deeply. Using a modicum of commonsense and imagination, the kind of safe and surviving civilisation we might see in one hundred years is likely to have the following general characteristics:
A world society of relatively happy and safe people, positively overcoming difficulties and in a position to realise their full potential as human beings;
An ecologically-friendly civilisation which not only avoids harming nature and its balances, but also constructively enhances nature, according to its own rules and needs;
A world ecosystem, climate and atmosphere well on the way to achieving a new dynamic balance, under wise management by its dominant species, humanity;
A world society where different social, cultural and ethnic groups, regions and nations may appreciate their variations and sense their basic unity and commonality, peacefully coexisting and reinforcing each other's identity, life-ways and cultural wealth;
A world economy which is equitable, humanly and environmentally sustainable, operating in line with true human necessity and environmental sense, supplying goods and services without damaging resources or people;
A balanced population-size and demographic structure and a mutually-supportive community-sense, locally and globally;
Restoration of meaning and wonder to birth, life and death, matters of the spirit and daily life;
An emotional clearing- and healing-process of the core historic hurts within humanity, and psycho-spiritual change of an individual, collective and cultural kind;
A reconstruction of civilisation (cities, buildings, technologies) and a management of nature which reflects and enhances joy, creativity and human soul;
Communication and contact with other life-forms in the universe and in other dimensions of reality - and successful assimilation of the consequences of such interaction;
Spiritual and psychological learning, growth and expression as a general norm;
A basic unity of human purpose which interweaves and contextualises all of these points, acting as a prime motivator in human life.
Without such qualities, survival is unlikely, as far as things look today. What these points signify is an utter shift in our reality, our collective psychology and sense of purpose. This might sound high-minded and idealistic, yet successful redemptive changes to life on Earth cannot be made unless changes such as these are made fundamentally and root-to-branch. Changing symptoms and appearances does not constitute a solution. What it all boils down to is a change of our core consciousness - not just of values, but of the very awareness by which we form our values, awakening a fuller potential within us. Not a stone is likely to remain unturned.
It might well be that, forward in the future, there still are hardships, periodic disasters or errors made - we are not talking about a perfect world. A perfect world is unlikely, an expression of the utopianism which has been necessary to bolster good folks' hearts amidst dreadful times. However, it is nevertheless possible for humans to generate an awareness where we clearly perceive the perfection which exists within every moment. We're talking of a world where energy no longer gets stuck, where people are heard, where helplessness and victimhood have disappeared, where constructive solutions are possible, where human nature shines and where nature's soul becomes re-enchanted with wonder.
This state of global being is where the real work of humanity at last unequivocally starts. In other words, we'll be very much in process. Whatever conservatism is present would be of the stabilising, not the resisting kind, and whatever radicalism is present is of the inspiring rather than the rebelling, insurgent, antipathetic kind. Achieving all this presupposes an enormous turn-around in humanity's direction and purpose. How might this be brought about?
We humans tend to act affirmatively when our arms are twisted behind our backs, when we no longer have any alternative. Despite our species name homo sapiens, 'Human the Wise', we tend to avoid exercising our propensity for sagacity. Wisdom: that acquired capacity to see the patterns in things, to live maturely by a greater understanding, to engage a sound moral sense and to utilise the full benefits of long-accumulated experience. Surely, by now, we have well enough historic experience behind us? Yet we wait until we're forced to act, even when we know action is overdue and that danger beckons.
One of the difficulties with voluntary affirmative action is figuring out where to start. All things are so interdependent. Changing one thing changes the effect it exerts on other things. Changing one thing thus brings a risk of changes snowballing, going out of control, over the edge. Profound changes have been delayed for a very long time, building up pressure, leaving multiple layers of issues unresolved - it's a case of layers of the onion.
Added to this, we are hesitant to address the root-causes of our world's problems: it looks quicker, simpler and cheaper to do a cosmetic fix, plastering over symptoms, delivering quick, visible and marketable solutions without demanding sacrifices of the tetchy public and the corporate world. We moan about symptoms and symbols without looking seriously at the institutions, the basic rules, norms and ways by which such symptoms are created.
To get a grip on world change, we need to have the courage to zero in on core issues. Courage tends to arise when crisis breaks out, in response to need and imperative - immense feats are carried out amidst crossfire, earthquakes and high-risk, free-fall situations. Britain experienced greater national unity of effort and purpose in its war effort in WW2 than at any other time in the 20th century. However, the British nation is beset by a tragic psychological relationship between national unity of feeling and war, in which war becomes necessary as a means of rousing the nation. War is a state of emergency with which we have adequate experience. Yet, when we contemplate world change, we're looking at a state of real emergency - hopefully, without the guns.
When things are comfortable, secure and affluent, courage seems out of place - dulled routine is what's required. When things are dire and threatening, we pull out all the stops and act with great energy. The difficulty lies in moving out of our comfort-zones into the risky and fluid area of dramatic change. 'Rather the devil we know than the devil we don't know' - a very dangerous belief which vainly justifies acceptance of the collective crimes we nowadays participate in. It was used very much in the earlier 1990s.
Institutions, belief-systems and social mores to which we are accustomed seem inadequate to catalyse sufficient thorough change - even when these beliefs and mores are progressive or reforming, they can get stuck in complication and resistance. There must therefore be some intervening switch, some circuit-breaking catalyst which forces core issues to the surface, activating mass positive action. This switch, this tide-turning, is what is often called apocalypse.
What, realistically, is apocalypse? Leaving aside the biblical imagery of celestial horsemen, archangels and thunderously-blaring trumpets (more Mithraic and Zoroastrian in origin than Judaeo-Christian), the true meaning of the ancient Greek term apokalupsis is revelation. Revelation implies the unmasking or uncovering of things previously unseen - or perhaps unaccepted. It's a process of uncurtaining - yet what lies behind the veils has probably always been there.
Our current civilisation thrives and perpetuates itself not on forethought and wider longterm and overall considerations, neither on truly realistic, mundanely-practical foundations - even though economists, politicians, scientists and other pundits currently hold the high moral ground in defining what 'reality' is. Rather, our civilisation is founded on an intricate system of interwoven half-truths, rationalisations, persuasions and illusions. Put bluntly, this house is built on lies. Lies we all have bought into, to the extent that we find difficulty stepping outside them. We have grown so used to untruth that we no longer notice them - our frame of reference is skewed.
What we are told and what we have come to accept is not what the final reality actually lands up being. This is a common factor throughout life, even if many of us only realise this when we lie on our deathbed. Therefore, revelation implies a breakthrough into our consciousness of reality as it is. The pressure of reality would be such that many of our beliefs could no longer hold up. It implies a collapse of false ideas and illusions - however this comes about.
Russians had a case of localised apocalypse in the late 1980s. The Soviet system proved systemically unworkable and could no longer continue. Soviet bloc regimes collapsed and abdicated when people expressed their accumulated thorough disenchantment with the system. Was this a practice-run for the world? It didn't actually, in the end, take too much effort for the Soviet edifice to be pushed over. Yet, look back to 1980, and no one, even the best-informed, would have guessed it would happen. That's a clue: revelation comes about when it is least expected, in the most unforeseen ways.
How does such a mass state of revelation come about? After all, prophets have long spoken their messages and the writing has long been on the wall. Only marginal minorities have tended to hear the message, while majorities have customarily disregarded it. Yet this phenomenon of revelation gathers strength through the agency of personal experience, as individuals interpret their own individual and local life-predicaments in ways which begin to run counter to the prevailing social ideology.
Revelation is experiential, often circumstantially-prompted, not a specialised, remote mystical vision received by the few out in the desert. Patients turn away from doctors to healers, consumers turn away from shopping malls to make qualitative lifestyle changes, away from 'due political process' to various forms of quiet dissidence or divergence from the norm.
However, institutions by nature resist change, since they have a will-to-live outstretching their actual relevance and contribution to society and outmanoeuvring the capacity of any one individual to change them. So there is an ongoing institutional containment, a media-hijacking and trivialisation of all serious manifestations of awakening, a co-option by marketing men and, if necessary, suppression by security forces, even by religious leaders.
This might not be moved to action by more than a few, yet the majority tends to accept such a sate of affairs as normal or tolerable, though it still has the effect of suppressing revelation or its effects. As a result, movements for change are slow to coalesce into viable and coherent majorities which might make a visible difference.
Movements for change do however act effectively as seed-beds for new ideas and initiatives, or as single-issue protest movements. It takes a long time for an idea or a movement to progress from a peripheral or underground position to a mainstream influence. The summated personal transformations of individuals take time to add up to an overall tide of far-reaching social change.
How do such personal and sub-cultural turn-abouts convert into a majority social turn-around movement - a movement which bravely addresses the fundamental causes of civilisation's discontents? How do ripples become a wave?