In my first post on future consciousness, I spoke of what may be coming into play in the next phase of our evolution. What’s at stake is what it means to be human. We may be changing into something new – whether better or worse remains to be seen. The problem is that technology is accelerating everything and the ultimate outcome is obscure. We know that it is changing our climate. There are more subtle changes. Technology is wiping out time and space, eroding the difference between real, unreal, and surreal.
And think for a moment about this. An unknown (‘dark’) energy is increasing the rate of expansion of the universe; but something analogous is happening, as technology creates an explosion of information, which in turn is altering our consciousness. It looks to me like a spectacular synchronicity of cosmos and consciousness.
All the information and rapid communication may be speeding up the growth of consciousness. Unfortunately, technology offers us no guidance or anything that resembles wisdom. Mere information cannot stem the tide of wars and civil wars, mass migration, mass killings, suicide bombings, trafficking, violence against women, catastrophic illness, homelessness, addiction, psychosis, natural disasters, poverty, injustice, and oppression spreading practically everywhere.
So what are we supposed to do about all this? Is there something we need to think about that is beyond the powers of technology? Yes, there are resources for improving our rational, emotional, and esthetic intelligence. But when it comes to training our voluntary or willing intelligence, where can we go? Where are the schools, the classes, the professors?
For one thing, the ethos of science dictates against this form of intelligence. Science has planted in our minds the idol of determinism, before which we’re all supposed to genuflect. The free shaping of our lives is not something we’re officially allowed to take seriously. One rarely hears of training the capacity to reflect, plan, choose, and form one’s inner as well as one’s outer world.
Meanwhile, the ethos of consumerism is about dismantling the will. It is better for business to have automatons rather than free agents. If scientism takes a dim view of the ‘will’ and its freedom, our consumer economy is designed to orient us constantly toward consumption – a bottomless abyss. But without some ability to be the directors of our lives and of our consciousness, we’re likely to wreak havoc on ourselves and others.
It’s hard to live our lives, if we’re pushed around all the time by our needs, fears, impulses, grievances, worries, and resentments. Being immersed in seas of information is no help -- we just drown in distractions. Traditional societies, in this regard, are better off. They have rites, codes, services, dogmas that one has to master, which, in effect, force people into some kind of will training – and the responsibility that implies.
But in our world that celebrates endless options for everything, like the one thousand variations of Wheaties in the cereal section of the supermarket, the corporate plan is to answer all our metaphysical questions in terms of the consumer culture. Slavery to appetite is the consummation of capitalism. It’s the wrong place to go if you want to explore your potential for self-mastery.
The Greek philosophers called the intelligence of the will encrateia (self-mastery). There are great modern writers on the subject such as William James and Roberto Assagioli. To mobilize this power is key to breaking free from our lower selves and from the dark side of our superiors. It’s the ur-skill, the sine qua non, without which the whole spectrum of human skills becomes dormant.
It looks as if we’re on the cusp of unprecedented crisis. Collective transformation of consciousness is fast becoming a necessity, if we hope to survive the singularity of human idiocy we’re hurtling toward. Voluntary intelligence is the pivot to our future consciousness. By means of it new forms of social and cosmic awareness will become possible.