The following is Daniel Pinchbeck's guest blog at Powell's Books, which he has been keeping since the release of his new book Notes from the Edge Times. Daniel is in California this weekend for the San Francisco premiere of his documentary film 2012: Time for Change at the Landmark Lumiere Theater on Saturday & Sunday at 7 pm. Please click here for tickets to the screenings, which are all followed by panel discussions. He will also be reading at City Lights Books on Monday night at 7 pm.
"Coherance Between Thought and Action", October 18, 2010
It is Sunday night, the end of an intense week for me. The documentary that features me as narrator and interviewer, 2012: Time for Change, came out in Los Angeles on Friday, October 8, at the Laemmle Sunset in Hollywood, and debuted in New York at the AMC Village East on Friday, Oct 15. At the same time, my new book, Notes from the Edge Times, was released by Penguin. Last weekend, I suffered with a bad cold and then had an extreme allergic reaction to the dogs living at the house where I stayed in LA. This became a full-scale asthma attack in NYC that sent me to the Beth Israel Emergency Room for treatment today, as my breathing was getting extremely shallow.
The lungs are one of my constitutional weak points. In Chinese medicine, the lungs are associated with grief and mourning. I don't know exactly what I am grieving for so intensely. As the author of a previous book on the prophecies of the Classical Maya and other traditional cultures about this time, I have an unusual, occult perspective on the world. The vision presented in my work and in our new film is ultimately optimistic, proposing that the human species is undergoing an evolution of consciousness and behavior that will lead to a new, more equitably and ecologically balanced planetary culture. At the same time, we may face intensifying crisis and global catastrophe along the way, quite soon, in fact.
In the evolutionary process that I describe in my writing and now the film, I often feel like a transitional test-case and still, in some ways, an unsuccessful one. Perhaps that is part of the grief that I find myself carrying with me at this point. Over the last several months, I have been dealing with my inveterate habit of not taking care of myself properly, of giving less priority to my own health and well-being than to the "mission" I am on, and the various responsibilities I keep hoisting onto my shoulders.
Some artists and writers have a tendency to ignore all warning signs and plough forward, despite any distractions or pains, even crippling ones. My father was like that and I seem to have inherited his disposition. The artist's mission is a bit like a possession trance falling into it is fascinating, also frightening.
After my last book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, came out, people at my talks kept asking me what I thought they should do in this transitional time. I felt a responsibility to develop some answers to that. My 2012 book was very philosophical and did not present a set of tangible or practical ideas. This led me, ultimately, to make the film and also to launch a web magazine, Reality Sandwich and a social network, Evolver, as well as the new book. I wanted to build a foundation for critical inquiry into culturally suppressed areas, along with a tangible infrastructure for local communities to find each other off-line, to transform society by melding visionary ideas with practical techniques. Building a company, making a film, writing the essays collected in the new book, doing public appearances all over the place, taking care of my daughter, almost simultaneously, have taken a toll on my health over the last years, and have left me aching to escape from all lesser commitments in order to dive back into the deeper waters of research, thinking, and writing the edge realm of potentiality, where it is possible to transmute bits of the unknown into the known.
I grieve for my own imperfections, the areas where I do not behave coherently, and how my mistakes reverberate on people around me. Luckily, I am seeing a woman, a fantastic Viking faerie queen, who is wise, deep, and forceful enough to challenge me in many areas. This morning, after waking up with euphoric howlings at the sunny blue sky, she pointed out that it was far easier and more glamorous to go around talking about all sorts of great ideas than to actually make changes in your life that are essentially invisible to other people, such as buying a water filter or composting.
Personally I often find it difficult to break old, gnarly patterns of behavior and start new, healthier ones. This is why I feel it is necessary to build communities where people share an intention and at least elements of a vision. Peer groups are an effective way to change behavior, as the Burning Man festival demonstratesPeer groups are an effective way to change behavior, as the Burning Man festival demonstrates each year. It is amazing how a policy like "Leave no trace" is enforced immediately by the collective. Still that's not an excuse; as we all know by now, change starts from within. And I am not suggesting Burning Man is some perfect model, either.
Right now, I am seeking to find my way forward to a more coherent, balanced, and integrated way of life. I know it is crucial for my own well being perhaps my long-term survival as well, as I am oddly sensitive and, at 44, not as immediately resilient as I was in the past. If it is less glamorous than taking large gulps of ayahuasca in the Amazon, or gagging down iboga in Gabon, establishing basic coherence between your thoughts and actions is no less important. Considering the world we live in, it may even be more difficult, and therefore more heroic.
Another annoyance this week that may have intensified my sense of grief was the review of our film from the New York Times. Titled "Waiting for Something Big," the short, snide putdown by Neil Genzlinger had almost nothing do with the film, projecting the author's biases and hostilities. Genzlinger wrote:
"2012: Time for Change," 85 minutes of naïveté with the occasional interesting idea thrown in, gives Daniel Pinchbeck another chance to flog his 2012-theme books ('2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl') and the notion that a little over a year from now Something Big is going to happen.
The film, directed by João Amorim, spends much of its first third looking like a cable TV scare-u-mentary on Nostradamus, using images of destructive waves and such to illustrate the prediction (the Mayans foresaw it all) that 2012 will bring cataclysmic change. But Mr. Pinchbeck tries to nurture the notion that this change doesn't have to be negative; it could instead be a global consciousness-raising that embraces one-with-nature ideas from the counterculture handbook.
Mr. Pinchbeck talks to assorted experts on such things. All of them look well off and self-satisfied. None of them seem to acknowledge that the planet has almost seven billion people on it or have room in their worldview for annoying facts of life like brutal dictators, ethnic hatred, entrenched poverty and plain old greed.
Everything will be fine, this film argues, if we all just chew some hallucinogenic roots, get a worm-filled personal composting box and hike into the rain forest for a 'shamanic experience.' The line forms at the border."
I could easily go through this review line-by-line and deconstruct the deliberate lies and misconceptions in this piece. As I noted on Facebook, where I asked people to write letters to the NY Times if they saw the film and disagreed with this assessment, "I don't feel the film is perfect but it is certainly far more nuanced and worthy of deeper consideration than what is presented here."
The film is less about specific solutions than about the methodology and mindset necessary to deal with the catastrophes the human species is bringing upon itself, out of unconsciousness. Underlying poor NG's review is his own sense of nihilistic hopelessness that the 7 billion poor humans are doomed to endless war and ethnic conflict and will always be preyed upon by greed and misery. The alternative perspective pioneered by Bucky Fuller is that we can make use of design science to create a planetary culture that works for everybody.
Why wouldn't you at least want to encourage people to encounter that thought and that idea for themselves, rather than cutting it down in this miserable and pointless way?
The one thing that makes me happy about this review is that from now on I will give up seeking any validation from the mainstream establishment for my work in any way. This film was deliberately, and I would say, cunningly, constructed to build a bridge. If they can't even allow for that, I won't waste any more of my thought or my time on them.
The NY Times is in any case a blatant tool of the corporate military industrial complex with basically no integrity, as the Judith Miller case demonstrated without a doubt.
Counteracting the weird negative bias of the NY Times, here is a piece on the film that the BBC did on their show Talking Movies.
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"What Would a 'Post-enlightenment' Culture Look and Feel Like?", October 19, 2010
We are so accustomed to a certain base level of conflict, drama, and brute violence in our world that it is difficult for us to imagine another state of being and if we try to, the guardians at the gates of the establishment will quickly rush over to mock us, shake their fists at us, and say we are "naïve." Don't we know that "human nature" is fixed and immutable, that greed and war will always be with us, that the rich will always grind the poor into the dust, and so on?
But actually there is no fixed human nature one can point toward. There have been and continue to be many human cultures tribal societies that had no interest in amassing material possessions, and thus no greed as we understand it, no poverty and wealth, no oceans of human misery, no giant war machines (although they did have local battles for glory or spoils). Many of these societies were matriarchal rather than patriarchal.
It was Gandhi, apparently, who noted that children are not born literate. We must teach kids to read.It was Gandhi, apparently, who noted that children are not born literate. We must teach kids to read. Literacy is, quite obviously, not just part of "human nature," but anyone can learn it. Similarly, nobody is born nonviolent, but they can be taught nonviolence as a way of being.
Our present-day culture does the opposite: It entrains people to be violent, and to accept violence as a normal way of life. Television shows blare gun battles and domestic violence around the clock. Video games where shooters kill vast armies of shadowy figures function as secret indoctrination tools that prepare young people to participate in war, or at least see war as normal in the default world.
We grow up in a control culture where the mass media is used as a technique for indoctrinating people to accept hell on earth as a natural and even seductive state of being. Who concocts all of this exploitative and apocalyptic content, and for what purpose?
One of my current favorite websites is www.vigilantcitizen.com, which analyzes popular music videos by artists like Rhianna, Lady Gaga, and Christina Aguilera, along with other artifacts of mass culture. The Vigilant Citizen finds these videos to be rife with occult symbolism that he relates to a hidden Illuminati and Free Mason conspiracy, and also to secret government mind control programs like Project Monarch, which purportedly used extreme techniques, such as sexual abuse and dosages of psychedelic drugs, in order to create "sub-personalities" in children, who can be programmed to follow directives. The concept is much like what is depicted in the film The Manchurian Candidate.
It is quite astonishing to watch Lady Gaga's videos, and many others as well, accompanied by the VC's analysis of them, as there does seem to be an astonishing repetition of particular imagery the framed single eye, bondage gear, white and black checkerboard pattern, references to Alice in Wonderland, etc. recurrent themes of domination and control and annihilation of the will. The VC proposes that the major music awards are orchestrated as occult spectacles. For those interested in this type of inquiry, vigilantcitizen.com can provide many hours of entertainment.
I also enjoy, and often return to, a video series on Youtube that demonstrates how neurolinguistic programming (NLP) techniques are blatantly used by Fox News anchors like Sean Hannity to control the discourse, belittle those with differing views, and create an illusion of authority. Employed in this way, NLP becomes a form of sorcery that uses subliminal cues and a technique called "anchoring" as well as sorcerer's passes to get beneath the conscious level of the mind and program the subconscious.
I often wonder if there really is a "they" some orchestrated evil conspirator group that makes conscious use of mind control techniques to keep the global population in a state of idiocy and distraction. If there is a "they," one is tempted to say that they are doing a great job in keeping humanity blind and numb, asleep to our true potential as a species. It is conceivable that "they" are a non-human influence, like the Archons, the off-planet entities that the ancient Gnostics believed were running the show. Possibly, the dire suffering and misery spread across the surface of the Earth functions as an energetic charge for these off-planet entities, who feed like vampires on the emotional frequency emitted from the human energy body. While I don't know if this is the case, it is sometimes difficult to make sense of what is happening on our planet from any other perspective.
If the great slumbering mass of humanity were ever to awaken, we could quickly rise up and evict the malevolent overlords who control our world through sigil and symbol. Once this tiny minority was dethroned, the multitude could use design science principles to construct a global garden culture, a return to Eden (or Pepperland) but with all of the benefits of our modern technical prowess and metropolitan savvy. Some form of equitable distribution of goods and resources could replace the current suicide system.Some form of equitable distribution of goods and resources could replace the current suicide system. We could then turn to new areas of inquiry, such as refining methods to train our extrasensory perceptions and develop our currently dormant psychic capacities. We could give birth to ourselves as the "supramental" beings that the mystic philosopher Sri Auribindo foresaw we would someday become.
But hey, it is much more comforting to lie on the couch and watch the next meaningless baseball game as the last forests and few remaining animals are mowed down to make room for more hamburger farms.
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"Keeping Me Up Late In Denver", October 20, 2010
I am in Denver today, where I spoke on a late night talk radio show on Clear Channel, before my bookstore appearance here tomorrow night. The topics we covered in the show included large, complex systems such as the global financial system and what happens when they collapse. The host of the show said that he had a "pessimistic" perspective, looking over history as a series of failures leading to wars and revolutions. I said that my approach was to think of history from a design science point of view: The designer develops a prototype in the laboratory, and watches it work for a while until it breaks down, then builds a new model to address the flaws of the old one. Governments, political and economic systems are, in a sense, experiments in human social design where we explore different ways to make these odd, alienated little units of individual consciousness collaborate and work together for the greater good. Although the wreckage from past experiments have been costly in terms of human lives and suffering, it is also not surprising we haven't gotten it right yetit is also not surprising we haven't gotten it right yet. The human species hasn't been at it very long.
Recently, friends of mine (James Mathers, Paradox, and Raven of Datrium) have been focusing on one metaphor for the type of transformation we appear to be facing as a species: The transition from caterpillar to butterfly. Once the caterpillar is in the cocoon, the entire body of the caterpillar melts down entirely into jelly and a small group of what are called "imaginal cells" propagate the genetic information that leads to the reorganization of this mass into a butterfly. These imaginal cells are attacked by the caterpillar's immune system as a threat, but are able to distribute their DNA to ever-larger groupings of cells, until a new instruction code is introduced. In this transmutation, the insect goes from rapacious consumer to elegant pollinator, and is lifted off the earth by gaining the added dimension of flight.
Many people have used the term "dimensional shift" to describe what we may experience on a species level as we pass through the 2012 portal or transition from the Hopi's Fourth to Fifth World. I sometimes find all of this to be maddeningly abstract and indistinct. What do we mean by "dimension?" However, the caterpillar to butterfly metaphor is interesting because in this mutation, the caterpillar actually gains a literal extra dimension of vertical movement, and no longer needs to crawl.
If we were reliably able to access one extra sensory capacity, that in itself might qualify as a shift of "dimension"If we were reliably able to access one extra sensory capacity, that in itself might qualify as a shift of "dimension" for instance, if we became capable of coherent telepathic rapport, or suddenly evolved to perceive another spectrum of color or light. These types of new perceptual modalities can occur temporarily during psychedelic journeys it is conceivable that these aspects of the psychedelic experience are a kind of harbinger or indicator of some kind of transition that will be accessible to the wider species mind, at a certain juncture. The evolution of more refined sensory capacities is still mysterious. Some theorists argue that our ability to perceive the entire range of colors we now see only occurred within the last ten thousand years, and before that green and blue were indistinguishable. If this was the case, it would have been more like a quantum jump as a species rather than a trait developed through standard evolutionary models. The evolution of language is another similar conundrum for scientists and theorists, as I discussed in my 2012 book.
Perhaps it is possible if, as I have theorized in previous works, we are transitioning from the physical to the psychic phase of our evolution as a species, a range of modifications of our sensory mechanisms and biological organism could become almost simultaneously available to us or our immediate descendants. In a sense, the evolution of biotechnology which often seems to me to be threatening and potentially dehumanizing might instead be revealed as a logical advance of our natural evolution. As Barbara Marx Hubbard notes, "conscious evolution" is the "evolution of evolution, from unconscious to conscious choice." Perhaps in the end the dualistic divide between technology and nature will be superseded entirely, as we graduate to the next phase of conscious life accompanied by a liberated capacity for transforming the physical organism.
It is hard to decide whether such a development is desirable or repugnant perhaps it is both.
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"Extinction of Ego as Mechanical Ballet", October 21, 2010
Those of us living in the fast lane of the information superhighway rapidly approach a maximum density of data and communication, a black hole where there is no signal left, and everything becomes noise. Under the force of this incessant barrage, our experience of being a person is undergoing a shift. Being inside of one's subjective self no longer feels particularly static or stable; our identity seems, instead, increasingly permeable, relational and relative. We discover that our personality gets perpetually shaped and reshaped by the flow of images and messages that press on us like a second skin or a high wind that blows against us. It becomes increasingly obvious that we are like cybernetic functions, only able to put back out what we first take in.
The ceaseless assault of new information in every area of study, so much of it seemingly so crucially important if we could only find the time to grasp it, shakes us from any presumed sense of certainty or authority. The deepening uncertainty, on so many levels, leads many people to regress, out of anxiety, into a reductive and simplistic mind-state. Rather than accept that they don't know anything, they pretend to believe in something, to identify with some ideology, political party, or religious faith, whether Transhumanism or Dominionism. As a saner but more stressful alternative, one can choose to remain open to the almost crushing cacophony of competing opinions, ideas, and viewpoints, which is best done by maintaining an inner detachment from all of it.
Our new tools of social media erode the boundary between private and public, self and other.Our new tools of social media erode the boundary between private and public, self and other. These technologies flatten the depth dimensions of interiority and privacy that novels once celebrated and which defined the shape of bourgeois identity in the Modern West, once seen as the great achievement of modern culture. It is hardly productive to ask whether this is a healthy or unhealthy development, since it is clearly both. Above all, it is a change of state, a shift in perception and a reorientation within a new social landscape that our ever-evolving technology continues to reshape and reformat.
The visionary philosopher G. I. Gurdjieff distinguished between "essence," our original nature at birth, and "personality," what we become after essence is deformed by family patterns, the imprint of culture and society, and other factors. It was once very difficult to retrace our steps and recover the original openness we had before the world carved its mask over our face. Oddly, we may find this easier today than in previous eras.
Non-attachment is a concept common to Eastern metaphysics. Over the last century, Eastern philosophy has exerted an increasingly powerful influence on the modern Western psyche, a process that parallels the evolution of our media technologies. Buddhist and Vedanta philosophers welcome the alienation of the observer from what he observes as the basis of liberation. Eastern thought proposes the ego is ultimately an illusion, with no intrinsic existence. Fixated on the drama and dream of the ego, Western culture traditionally finds this separation between observer and observed to be unsettling, although in the age of information overload, it has become our natural state. Through what Jean Baudrillard called "the ecstasy of communication," our sense of identity becomes less dense and more supple, strangely impartial and almost impersonal.
Perhaps this is what "global enlightenment" will actually mean: As enough of us realize that our "body-mind organism" is purely determined in all of its thought and action, this leads to the end of our ability to identify with our personality, which causes liberation, or the extinction of ego, whether we want it or not. Once this awareness reaches a global scale, the party or the annihilation event still goes on as before according to the precise karmic sequence, like a mechanical ballet, but nobody is left around anymore to either enjoy or detest it.
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"Why Do I Bother", October 22, 2010
Recently a few people have asked, "What motivates me in undertaking my work?"
Unfortunately, even with the option to live an increasingly jazzy life as jet set bohemian or psychedelic pseudo-guru, I can't seem to find happiness or peace in this world as long as it creates such vast amounts of needless suffering. I despise the inequities promulgated by our current financial system a crime against humanity perpetrated by a tiny elite who find it appropriate that they should prosper obscenely while vast multitudes beg for scraps or starve to death in ignorance. I can't stand that we allow so many millions to rot in prison for crimes that should not be crimes, such as exploring their own adult consciousness with chemical substances. I am horrified that we let girl children around the world be sold into the sex trade, while our bland tasteless clothes get made by other exploited children working in factories. I find it unbearable how even in this so-called "free world" most of us, myself included, fear persecution or ridicule or worse for speaking what we know to be true and feel in our hearts. I hate living in a mass consumer culture that degrades the human being and turns "we the people" into brain-sucked zombies. I find our current civilization to be a sham built on lies that robs us of our birthright as spiritual beings, shamanic initiates, and star seeds. I simply cannot understand why we allow our society to continue making war and desecrating the natural world, causing mass extinction of our wildlife kin, ruining the climate, spreading toxic pollutants and poisons that become cancers in our flesh and the organs of our children; and committing so many other grim, glum, grimy old crimes.
For all these reasons, and more I could name, I remain committed to whatever revolution or evolution is necessary, whatever insurrection of the imagination or global awakening can be brought about in the time we have before our species behavior brings about the catabolic collapse of this dumb-fuck excuse for a civilization. I am not saying that the past was ever better or that we need to regress to find some archaic golden age. I think we are in an ongoing evolutionary process, and the threshold of evolution has shifted from the physical to the psychic dimension. When we unfold into time that is radial and no longer linear and perpetually insufficient, we will find the golden age waiting within us, and meld with it instantly.
I believe that we possess the capacity to bring about this revolution in time, but it requires the evolving stem of humanity to go beyond the illusion of separation and reach a state of pure collaboration, with all ego and pretense and self-interest completely dropped. We need to become not just students of revolution but psychologists and anthropologists, tacticians and clowns, making use of every technique available to us to work our way out of this self-destructive trap created by the human mind. We need to go far beyond our comfort zones, to cross every bridge to reach out to the other side that is wallowing in ignorance and fear, lost in dire fantasies of Armageddon and redemption through violence. They will soon bring those fantasies to life, if we don't stop them.
In pursuit of this mission, I co-founded Evolver, an organization which currently has 45 local groups meeting each month around the world as part of the Evolver Social Movement. Our strategy is to quickly build a network of local communities that share similar values, and test new techniques for transforming society in directly beneficial ways, working in collaboration with other groups that have similar aims, such as Transition Town and the Zeitgeist Social Movement. You can join the Evolver community at www.evolver.net and help us build this movement directly. As a member of ESM, you have the option to make a regular contribution to help spread our movement and support our infrastructure. If you find yourself aligned with Evolver's principles, I hope you will consider joining or forming a local chapter, as well as supporting us with a small regular contribution, so we can grow quickly.
There are no enemies, nothing to fear, and the time may as well be now.