While I was writing The Millennium Myth (1995), I got tired of recording dates for all the predictions of when the world was supposed to end. Doomsday was regularly announced as imminent, but the doomsayers didn’t know what they were talking about.
But by 2017 something uncanny had happened. It now appears that there are several global trends, all gaining momentum, which clearly point to a coming disaster of unprecedented proportions. All these trends are the result of what human beings have done, are, as they say, anthropogenic.
First off we have the twin terrors of nuclear destruction and climate catastrophe. Barring major, large-scale changes of behavior and consciousness, these two outcomes seem inevitable. Signs of their approach are everywhere. (See, for example, Dr. Helen Caldicott’s just published, Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon.)
To understand the logic of the present situation, we need to look at the third trend, key perhaps to the fate of the Earth. The third trend is driving the twin terrors. The third trend is the shocking inequity of the world’s wealth—in a phrase, the triumph of untrammeled greed.
It is a grotesque fact that a fraction of one percent of humans owns the main bulk of the world’s wealth, leaving the 99 percent plus to scramble for what remains before it is all swiped by the reigning plutocrats. This colossal rip-off is destabilizing the entire social fabric, even as it rationalizes the nuclear weapons industries and hastens the march toward climate catastrophe.
Massive change is clearly necessary, if we hope to avoid the grim dénouement of this story—the crash of world civilization. As far as I can see, however, the kind of change needed goes beyond politics, and beyond conventional religion and science.
What seems necessary is a radical reshaping of our default consciousness; a refining of our collective values; in a broad, existential vein--a new model of how we view, feel, and act in the world. A tall order! It no doubt sounds excessive, but the times are excessive, and so are the dangers and the need for change.
What do we need? Large-scale changes of consciousness among people from all walks of life—but how? I have tried to imagine this in my book, The Final Choice (see accompanying cover photo). The speculations I explore are grounded in matters of fact, for example, the phenomenon of the near-death experience (NDE). This, to my mind, is the template for a romantic paradox, the idea that death is a gateway to new life, that, as T.S. Eliot put it, “in my end is my beginning.”
The NDE seems to subvert common-sense reality and has the character of an archetype--an ancient image--that links being near death to ecstasy, to illumination, and to transcendence. It may be that as we plunge headlong into the chaos of nihilistic materialism, the latent “light” will have occasion to erupt into our consciousness more readily and with increased frequency and effect.
A near-death experience may occur without one literally being near death, for example, in circumstances of intense fear, deep depression, or the mere perception or belief in the proximity of death. This shows that the NDE is essentially a psychic phenomenon, most often (but not invariably) evident in cases of literal near-death.
It appears that we are entering a kind of near-death experience of civilization, and that our latent psychic potentials may therefore awaken, just as often occurs in this or that individual case. We know that an extraordinary potential for transformation exists in the individual. The question is whether that individual potential extends to our collective potential. I believe that it does.
Facing three apparently unstoppable global trends toward catastrophe, I’m asking about what inner resources we may possess for a collective response.
What I attempt to do in my book is sketch a map of human potential. The evidence strongly suggests that we possess latent powers of self-transformation, powers that can be awakened and mobilized. What more stimulating emergency to actualize these potentials than the near-death experience of civilization?
What’s missing amid the avalanche of information assailing us 24/7 is a plan, a story, a vision of what we might become and where we could be going. However strange to say, we seem to be facing a final choice between succumbing to the death-instinct or launching a new kind of revolution--in the name of life.