I’ve been tracking what I call human singularities—people who embody rare and extraordinary talents—like Joseph of Copertino, or Arigo, or Lurancy Vennum, etc.. I’m trying to paint a composite picture of what I believe is our latent but still hidden super-humanity. Call it a portrait, a model of future humans, the next (urgently needed) stage of our evolution.
All the strange manifestations must have some purpose, some meaning. Besides, there’s no reason to believe that we have reached the climax of our full evolutionary potential. Far from it! Look around at the world. We desperately need to transcend the greed, violence, and stupidity spreading havoc and mayhem everywhere on the planet. Politics alone without a deep collective change of consciousness will never save us.
I think there are two big things we can say with confidence: One is that the growing dangers of social instability, multi-pronged global war, and eco-catastrophe cry out for sweeping change. The other big idea is positive: we have evidence for human potential for change—for mutations of mental capacity of a very high order.
The question is, How to awaken these much needed, often ignored and despised potentials? It is worth noting that American popular culture is awash in images of supermen and wonderwomen. In some way, perhaps, is the collective imagination priming us for the metamorphosis to come?
One way we can imagine how these powers may emerge is through a global near-death experience. For discussion of that grim possibility, see my book, The Final Choice: Death or Transcendence (2017). Here I want to say something about the psychological mechanism involved in the liberation of these higher powers. All the evidence points in one direction: They seem to emerge when we’re in a state of ecstasy. This term has various meanings, ranging from intense joy to madness (See the OED for details on this key Greek word.)
The meaning that concerns us here is close to dissociation. Suppose you’re driving your car, listening to music so intently that for a few seconds you cease being aware that you’re driving a car on a busy road—that’s the beginning of ecstasy. Going out of yourself—literally, “standing outside yourself.” It’s a matter of degree. When Joseph of Copertino got lost in music, you could set his robe on fire and he wouldn’t react.
There are many ways to dissociate from the external world to access our higher selves. One way is through mesmerism or, as we say nowadays, hypnotism. In 1784, the Marquis de Puysegur, an artillery officer who had trained himself in the methods of Anton Mesmer “took his freshly acquired skills to the provinces and began a series of animal-magnetic experiments that would change the course and the history of psychiatry and psychology.”[i]
The crucial discovery was made when Puysegur “magnetized” (hypnotized or entranced) a twenty-three-year-old peasant, Victor Race, who was suffering from an infected lung, and putting him in a state of consciousness with unique characteristics. Puysegur called this state “magnetic sleep.” But magnetism had nothing to do with this newly identified state of mind. So-called “magnetic sleep” is a state that fuses the waking and subliminal phases of consciousness. In the state we are talking about, you are in dream space and waking space at the same time.
During this strange “sleep-walking kind of consciousness,” the subject may find herself in telepathic rapport with the magnetizer, and in a state that is highly suggestible. Upon returning to his waking self, Victor forgot everything that occurred while ‘magnetized’; it appeared as if he had become two persons.
But here is the big point. The most striking change that Puysegur noticed about Victor was the change in his personality. He wrote that in a “magnetized state, Victor is no longer a naïve peasant who can barely speak a sentence. He is someone whom I do not know how to name” (ibid.p.39).
In this new state of consciousness, the subject displays extended cognitive powers, telepathic and clairvoyant. Puysegur’s work bore much fruit: a range of interesting effects were repeatedly observed. For example, ‘magnetized’ somnambulists became proficient at clairvoyant diagnosis of bodily ills, their own and that of others, and provided useful therapeutic recipes for response. Through this altered state the sick one becomes the healer. Seeds of a new health-care paradigm.
So the important idea is that seemingly ordinary human beings may well possess extraordinary abilities; and by learning to enter into the right altered state, it may be possible for each of us to tease out the hidden genius within. Most of us go through life unaware of the creative angels we’re harboring within.
We need to reorganize society in ways that fully acknowledge these hidden human realities. And we need systems of education designed to emancipate them. Above all, we need schools that turn out richly formed human beings, not drones of capitalism or bureaucrats of empire.
(I will be talking about all this at the New York Open Center on June 22 at 7 in the evening, in case you live nearby, and feel like a visit.)
22 East 30th Street
Phone 212 219 2527