This is a heritage article I wrote over a decade ago but it still has some pertinent points about the world future.
The last century stands of all centuries at the portal of humanity's great adventure in the cosmos, but it is also the gate of doom, for in this century we discovered, not only space travel and the marvel of our genetic identity, but also the imminent means of our self-inflicted destruction, both through nuclear holocaust precipitated by our own paranoid vision of the final battle of Armageddon and also through the unthinking genetic holocaust of that cosmic endowment, at whose crest of 3500 million years of evolution we stand. If ever there was a century of 'apocalypse now' it is this next one - the century of humanity's coming of age in the universe.
What is the nature of this cosmic doorway in space-time, this unfolding of human consciousness, this Nierika of shamanic adventure? Why are we here? What futures lie in store for us here on Earth, or threading through the trackless vastness of galactic space? How do we as visionaries, who have now become the creative artists of emerging life itself paint a fresco on the face of eternity for which we and our descendents will be proud? How can we emulate nature, so that our inspiration complements and enriches her, rather than subjugating and destroying her beauty and diversity forever?
The Nierika or cosmic doorway of the Huichol peyote shaman (Schultes and Hofmann 1971)
While some scientists and politicians may look at this era as one of ever expanding abundance and unforeseeable opportunity through undreamed of technologies, both the ecologists and the shamans of many diverse peoples, who stand closer to nature, are aghast at a process which appears as if humankind has become insane and lost all understanding of life and sense of meaning, direction and groundedness in our own continued existence. It is as if, in our love of the mechanism, which has proved so successful in scientific discovery, and our own desire for dominance and supremacy, that we have begun to turn ourselves, and with us the entire biosphere around us, into a reflection of our own mechanistic world view.
In a sense, all the history of Earth up to this point has been evolving towards this one catastrophic climactic transition. For all the vast millions of years that life evolved on earth, the planet has ever so slowly been elaborating an ever increasing diversity and abundance of life. At infrequent intervals this has been punctuated by dramatic species extinctions, often caused by astronomical impacts or major volcanic disturbances, but the rest of time, has seen the unfolding of a steadily enriching evolutionary endowment. Along with this biological unfolding has come an even more awesome unfolding of consciousness, from the simplest sentient organisms into the beauty and terror of the great mammals of the jungle and savannah. With each evolutionary stage has come a greater awareness, until the naked primate of all trades and manifold imaginations, Homo sapiens, appears on the stage.
Comparison of the evolution of the universe from the big bang and the evolution of life on Earth shows that life has existed for a full third of the universes lifetime and can thus be considered a long-term stable feature of cosmic evolution. Astronomical events including impacts and possibly also nearby supernovae have always played a major role in causing mass extinctions accompanied by volcanism possibly as a secondary consequence of the impacts themselves. However the advent of so-called human civilization is threatening in the next century to cause a mass extinction more serious than the cretaceous-tertiary event that wiped out the dinosaurs. The process is caused both by direct impacts such as deforestation and habitat destruction and by genetically modifying the very species upon which we depend without conserving their naturally viable forms, so that our future becomes brittle and fragile, dependent on maintaining artificial growing environments and high-tech food distribution processes which would be disabled globally by the slightest of astronomical disturbances, leading directly towards human extinction. For a single species to cause a mass extinction of life's diversity, possibly lasting 10 million years in one century is thus terminal folly. It is compounded by the ever increasing value biological resources have in the genetic epoch. There is thus a paramount need for us to rediscover our relationship with the cosmos and to take the responsibility to regenerate genetic and biological diversity to sustain our own future generations.
With the advent of humanity, a catastrophic change began to occur, as if we had fallen headlong from the natural paradise, just as in the archetypal myth of Eden. Having mastered the hunt and the art of agriculture, we have populated the entire surface of the planet in waves of urban development, military adventure, and environmental degradation. Vast areas have become cultivated, but this has in turn led to society's need for further expansion, to the increasing detriment of biological diversity.
Life has existed on Earth for a full third of the universe's own lifetime. It is the most eloquent and complete expression known of the universes cosmological capacity for complexity. The quantum universe is not the Newtonian machine we once envisaged and neither is it a substrate for human and religious dominion over woman and nature alike. Discovering that consciousness and free-will does have an impact on the evolving history of the universe may be a first step to regaining our survival prospects in the universe over cosmic time and thus regaining our natural and possibly pivotal place in the cosmic process which we lost in Jericho ten thousand years ago when men assumed reproductive imperative over women and the right to dominion over all the natural processes on the planet, overthrowing the evolutionary sexual paradox between the genders which saw Homo sapiens sapiens emerge sustainably in evolutionary time as gatherer-hunters over the last 100,000 years (King 1999). Human civilization, and with it the biosphere, is becoming increasingly brittle and fragile to the mildest of astronomical disruptions, which could take out our food distribution systems, severe our communications and render much of the arable area of the planet unproductive. It is essential for the evolutionary robustness of our future survival to preserve the full diversity of life, particularly the species upon which we depend in their natural viable state in well-conserved habitats, yet we are systematically on a global basis undermining the very source of our own genetic future. Not only is there wholesale destruction of species and genetic diversity by habitat destruction but we are failing to adequately maintain the natural habitats and diversity of even those food, medicinal and commercial species upon which our livelihood depends.
To many of the followers of ancient religions, our life today is but a shadow of greater events from the past dominated by prophetic figures of destiny revered as manifesting the divine intervention of God to save humanity from the error of our ways. In the century of Jesus the world population was only perhaps three times the population of the hunter-gatherers at the dawn of civilization. The devastation of Jerusalem was but a minor military campaign on a great political map. But why would any God of all creation choose a century millennia ago for an unveiling of divinity, so far off focus from the genuine cosmic apocalypse of nuclear and genetic holocaust? The time to unveil the true reality is now if it ever was.
Although population climbed only very slowly during successive centuries up to the beginnings of the medical and scientific revolution of the last four to five hundred years, a sudden explosion then occurred, both of scientific understanding and of human population and human impact on our planet. Although human impact began long back into the primitive era with the loss of large land mammals like the mastodon, the impact has recently accelerated at a devastating rate.
Historical trends and the predicted population crisis.
The rising crest of human population has now itself become the hand of the doomsday clock ticking to a midnight in which the greatest species extinction yet to occur in the entire history of planet Earth is about to happen, driven not by some cosmic catastrophe but by the very fall of humanity itself from our balance with, and interdependence upon, nature. Under threat are not only the diversity of species and the genetic diversity of our foods and medicines, but the ethnic diversity of humanity, for many of the world's most special peoples are themselves facing extinction and the loss of their cultural identity.
How can it be that, in the midst of this great flowering of understanding of the physical world and its intricacies, from the highways of galactic evolution to the byways of molecular biology, that we, humanity, are becoming the veritable grim reaper of doomsday through our own ignorance? What judgement does this cast on our future adventure through the Nierika of the Cosmos into eternity?
In addition to decimating our genetic resources, we are in one or two centuries appropriating much of the mineral resources which have accumulated over hundreds of millions of years, leaving only what cannot be economically extracted for our own descendents and destroying many of the great forests, wetlands and wild savannahs, the taiga and the tundra by exploiting every utilizable piece of the earth's surface for our own selfish purposes.
On the biological front, the advent of new genetic technologies promises to create mutant versions of our food plants designed to thrive on commercial biocides and whole life-forms converted into chemical factories to spin the golden web of any biochemical the heart could desire from insulin to reverse transcriptase. At the same time we are devastating the genetic diversity of our food plants by replacing all their regional variety with a few genetically engineered strains of near-zero diversity. We are also now at the threshold of genetically enginnering our own germ line and those of our sister species.
And each of these changes are happening, like the threat of nuclear holocaust in an ever-shrinking zero-infinity dilemma, for less than five multinational corporations on Earth lay claim to the rights to distribute a major bulk of world commercial seed stock and have the patent rights to coerce the bulk of the productive areas of the planet into biocide resistant genetically-engineered strains. Just as we we are learning to in-vitro fertilize and test for human genetic abnormalities, we are also learning how to tamper with the human germ line in ways which will create pressures to clone a mutant super-race of cybernetically designed humans.
On the communication front we are converging in the flash of an eye towards the 'noosphere' in which we will all find our electronic collective consciousness in mutual communion, while the battle still rages over the freedom of the net from tampering, spying and various forms of double-think generated by big business and the interests of consumer world order against the true and intuitive discovery of who and what we are. Since there can really be only one internet, the freedom of human society could stand or fall on the simple, yet far-from-resolved, issue of 'freedom of information of the net'.
Many books have been written this century concerning the great beyond in space-time - where humanity will head as it grapples with its destiny among the stars. To 2001 it was a technological apocalypse which immediately became a divine resurrection. To Dune it was a visionary jihad, a military saga reminiscent of the early days of Islam, permeated with the prophetic power of worm spice, whose blue eyes bear an uncanny resemblance to the blue tint of hallucinogenic mushrooms. To Star Wars, it has been the Zoroastrian and Essene final battle between the forces of darkness and light revisited in the knife-edge balance of destiny.
But it is we who now on a much greater scale are all embarking on just such an unknown journey in space-time on planet Earth, and although we have for the last twenty years looked outward into space for our inspiration, it is genetic technology and information technology which brings with it the most confounding changes to our future and the greatest horizon of all - the unfathomed mystery of human consciousness and the cosmic mind which remains an untapped abyss awaiting us. Although we may venture short distances into space, and may even detect signs of life elsewhere in the universe, the greatest challenges in the next few millennia are going to come from the impact of genetic technology on evolution and from the understanding of the inner nature of the conscious mind.
Humanity stands like a dinosaur with a butterfly in its hand. That butterfly is the entire evolutionary future of this planet and the wonder it could become, through enlightened stewardship. There are many science fiction stories that could be told about how we create a future cybernetic biosphere with but a few types of weeds, rodents and cockroaches fenced off as far as possible from a genetically-engineered world in which each food plant has become a virtual machine and in which vast vats of designer bacteria and yeasts manufacture all the toxins of chemical technology at the turn of a tap. A dead world in which natural evolution has become supplanted by biotechnology.
There are many stories about how we could slowly, through great ingenuity, selectively breed a super-race of humans with just those characteristics desired by an organized and ordered society. Starting with eliminating obvious defects like diabetes, we could selectively remove various forms of mental retardation and psychopathic behaviour. We could perhaps even ensure that all our citizens are straight-thinking extroverts who have a hearty liking for golf on Saturday and church on Sunday and who abhor any sort of anarchy or chaos, who never take drugs and for whom the black arts are of the devil and alternative philosophies are a subversive element. By such means we could eliminate all the visionaries, all the dissonant poets and drop outs. Slowly society would then converge toward that mechanised state of the android. Rather than building for ourselves robot helpers, by natural convergence we would have reduced ourselves to 'androids of ourselves'.
It is not even that we would have to pass draconian laws to do this, for with the rising costs of medical technology in a capitalist society, all it requires is for insurance companies to establish policy differentials for those who take genetic counselling and thus avoid their insurance companies needless bills for retarded children with genetic diseases, delinquent, or other 'undesirable' genetic profiles.
What would be the consequence of such a civilization heading off into space and populating the galaxy? A kind of terminal disease of order degenerating the potential abundance of life into a mechanistic nightmare. In short, we would have become a Darth Vader civilization, which would very likely through its own paranoia try to destroy any competing civilization it met, or would in turn be destroyed by it.
So is there an alternative to this nightmare vision and where does it begin?
The answer in short is that we have fallen out of balance in two ways, and to fulfil our destiny as stewards of Gaia and to become fit to assume our place in the universe, this balance urgently needs to be restored before we pass through the irreversible apocalyptic doorway.
One aspect of this imbalance has been caused by the patriarchal religions and their emphasis on the evolutionary strategy of the male and on the emphasis of the 'heavenly mind' over a 'flawed and sinful natural world' provided by God for humanity to dominate from the Fall from Paradise until the day of judgement. Although the fall from nature was the very process of civilization itself, the patriarchal vision broke the essential link of responsibility required to sustain and take proper care of the natural world and thus establish our place as stewards and guardians of nature, responsible for our actions as part of its very fabric.
This male strategy is to make as many impacts as possible, each on an exponential scale, and to examine the consequences only in the event the damage is conclusive, because if one impact fails many others will surely succeed. Along with this comes the principle of free competition and military combat - particulate reality rather than the wholeness of the wave, leading to endless economic exploitation, population growth and environmental degradation. What has been overthrown is the consciousness of careful nurturing for the future, that has from time immemorial been the evolutionary strategy of the female, who can produce only a small number of offspring and requires the confidence of a sustainable environment to ensure the survival of her family. The sky god, far from being a deity of fertility, like the ancient Goddess, is a God of judgement and divine terror.
Paradoxically, following this shift of emphasis from the physical to the mental of the male godhead has come the birth and explosive growth of an exclusively objective mechanistic science of the material world, for which conscious experience and free-will remain illegitimate shadows without objective status. Far from providing the missing link with the physical, lost with the fertility Goddess, science has mechanised human consciousness in the very process of elaborating its stunning detailed description of the physical universe.
Science, for all its wonders, is a descriptive shell with no ethical content. It cannot comprehend the conscious state, cannot fathom free-will, choice or intent and cannot suggest whether to produce a cybernetic desert or a vibrant living world, because both are in a sense equally valid scientific outcomes. For each devoted ecologist who would save every living species there is a dedicated genetic engineer in the employ of a multinational corporation, who would cast away the entire genetic heritage for a quick buck. For every visionary physicist of quantum non-locality there is a hard-headed Darwinian biologist who sees the entire game, including conscious experience, in terms of the mechanistic rules of DNA.
So where can we look to find the way out of this science fiction cul-de-sac? The answer to the two-fold problem lies in two human developments, both of which are as old as the birth of human culture, and are yet as modern and futuristic as the Tao of wave-particle physics and the yet untapped marvels of consciousness research. They form in a sense complements in the way of life of the hunter-gatherers, for they are the ways of the hunter shaman and the gatherer goddess.
The first of these two changes is to correct the imbalance of the genders which accompanied the fall from nature. The Tao of physics is the law of complementarity between wave and particle. No theory of the universe which violates quantum reality can hope to hold either for biology, for society, or for cosmology. The universe is forever a complementation of natures, of wave and particle, mind and body, female and male. By restoring the balance between female and male we will both achieve a sustainable nurturing society which can look with confidence, not just to centuries to come, nor millennia, but literally millions of years of unfolding wonder.
There are many myths which warn us of the present apocalypse and which can be celebrated in fulfilment of the vision of our forebears. One is the myth of Hathor, who Thoth recalled from searing humanity in the desert to become the Goddess of fertility, inebriety, dance and song. This ancient Egyptian myth foretells closely our environmental dilemma of desertification and climate change and spells out the solution - that man in his wisdom (Thoth) should reach out again to the feminine principle of fertility whose imbalance has led to the crisis and restore the balance. In this way the feminine principle, instead of becoming harsh chaos and climatic bifurcation, is restored to the emergent fecundity upon which we depend for our survival on planet Earth.
Complementing this restoration of the feminine is a second cultural current of equal importance to the unfolding of nature. Throughout the world are a diverse heritage of shamans, many coming from so-called primitive cultures who have retained the tradition of close merging with nature in the conscious vision quest, which was first embraced by the primitive hunters on their silent vigils. Many diverse ethnic peoples still have among them the last practitioners of ancient living traditions of shamanic knowledge handed down from generation to generation by personal contact. Many of these traditions have also reaped the benefit of ancient knowledge of visionary plant sacraments, probably first discovered by their feminine gatherer counterparts, as many origin myths describe. They also include practices of conscious dreaming and their visionary techniques parallel those of the meditative mystics of Eastern traditions and the prophets of Biblical history with one difference. While the prophets and mystics have retreated from their visionary sources in nature to a more abstract mysticism of the cosmic mind or heavenly God, the nature shamans have remained close to the original natural tradition.
It is here where a new generation, building on this ancient affinity with nature, need to come to our rescue, to add the missing component of visionary awareness, and conscious sensitivity to nature and the unfolding future, we need to express our flowering in its full splendour.
If we try to imagine for a moment a living future for the Earth, it would clearly be one in which flowering of the natural endowment is complemented by the blossoming of human society - where there are ample natural areas, from the tropical Amazon to the Arctic taiga preserved in their ecosystemic fullness, while other areas serve the verdant abundance of enlightened human cultivation - the paradisical garden. A world where the population is large enough to promote a diverse and creative society, yet small enough that large areas of the planet can remain untouched by destructive human impact.
Left: Reconstruction of the collision of Shoemaker-Levy with Jupiter (Internet)
This would be a world where there would be no nuclear weapons, but a good arsenal of extra-terrestrial missiles ready to help avoid a serious impact from a comet or asteroid with early-warning satellites in orbit close to Jupiter. We would set up both a separate small society on the moon as an evolutionary hedge against a major devastating astronomical impact on Earth and a second under-Earth society which could also live in the even of a major astronomical crisis such as the explosion of a supernova in the near vicinity of the sun. Eventually such projects would be followed by carefully designed 'generation ships' which could explore nearby stars, carrying with them a key complement of Earth's biodiversity.
It would be a world where genetic technologies are pursued for the good of humankind but with great care and patience in isolated communities and not foisted on whole world populations on an experimental basis, which could in one accidental step undermine the future of ourselves and our unborn descendents. A world where the natural diversity of medicinal species are preserved and enriched by human scientific ingenuity rather than being decimated. A world of long life unshortened by radiation and pollutants, but enriched by the complementation of natural medicines and sensitive medical technology. A living world fit to spread beyond the solar system because it has glimpsed the unifying wonder of conscious realization in space-time, and capable of doing so in some hundreds of millions of years time if and when Earth's habitable era expires, through the approach of the moon or final swelling of the sun to a red giant.
But in such a world, we would be free to evolve in many ways and to promote many novel evolutionary outcomes for the other species in the biosphere as well. It is a difficult dilemma for the poet or artist to express de novo creation on a blank canvas, let alone to usher in a new evolutionary age of life. Without the visionary awareness of the shaman - the dreaming reality of 'future vision' - we are inevitably going to create a mechanistic cul-de-sac. There are many logical ways to protect the evolutionary diversity of the biosphere, including ensuring the survival and continued evolution of each of the most unusual genetic systems. It is also inevitable that the future of evolution will be modified again and again by changes induced by genetic technology, just is already happening with our most productive food and medicinal plants. It is essential that these changes are done with foresight.
It is the foresight and nature-centredness of the shamans of Eden which will stand as society's resource to complement the innovations of genetic and other technologies with a path of heart and vision which keeps humanity truly alive and aware of our visionary potential in space-time.
Through the techniques of conscious dreaming, the experiences of power plants and meditative trance a complementary vision of reality to that of objective science can be maintained, which can help keep us in tune with nature and her future potentialities, free choices which cannot be gauged in their entirety by deductive science alone. This visionary prophetic nature of consciousness has been a long tradition in human culture shared by the biblical prophets, shamans of diverse cultures, Eastern mystics and portrayed in twentieth century visionary writings from Aldous Huxley to Frank Herbert.
"Deep in the human unconsciousness is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic". - from the sayings of Muad'Dib'
It is just such a visionary universe that we actually inhabit, for consciousness itself appears to have inherited the space-time encompassing properties of the implicate order of quantum reality in the chaotic phases of neurodynamic excitation. It is this very unfolding of the implicate order that subjective consciousness achieves it's evolutionary purpose - to fill the gap of reality where the chemical machine of the brain remains incomplete - the art of anticipation of the immediate future - the most essential skill for survival in the natural world of wild animals and in the unfolding universe we are about to set out on a voyage into. It is not that history is prefigured for us previously by the hand of God or by an inevitable doom, for it is by the very act of conscious vision that unforeseen contingent futures become realized potentialities. Thus, despite the apparent fatality of Maria Sabina's vision of the Eucharist, the visionary state is here for us to foresee potentialities and to alter history accordingly:
'The more you go inside the world of teonanacatl , the more things are seen. And you also see our past and our future, which are there together as a single thing already achieved, already happened . . . I knew and saw God: an immense clock that ticks, the spheres that go slowly around, and inside the stars, the earth, the entire universe, the day and the night, the cry and the smile, the happiness and the pain. He who knows to the end the secret of teonanacatl - can even see that infinite clockwork'.
This vision is one which could be summed up in the idea that all consciousness throughout the universe is in a sense synchronously aware of its collective existence as in a cosmic hologram, and shares at its core the flame of a great illumination that is to take place far in the future, when evolution reaches a truly cosmic level of awakening. Though we in our individual lives may pass in space-time long before this great event, we are yet still part of it and can feel it already realized in our cosmic awakening through the Nierika, or doorway of the visionary umbilicus. It is to this great awakening that all our actions, the love of life itself and the meaning of existence gravitates. It is both an awesomely joyful and intimately grave reality for which this entire universe we see before us was created to bring into being. We are but a step along that path, yet through our cosmic consciousness can in a sense experience it in essence during our lifetime. Alongside this great vision, there is no evil, only the ignorance of the blind, who have not seen the light of existence, and thus thrash like the nightmare automatons of our android mechanistic vision.
This is why in addition to the heritage of modern science, our Einsteins, Feynmans, Cricks and Watsons, we need for our own survival and natural awakening to accept the heritage of our visionary shamans and shamanesses, our Maria Sabinas and our Don Jose Matsuwas, who we currently put aside as coming from an older era too primitive to emulate modern scientific scepticism. We need to rexamine and cherish the prophetic myths of all cultures which have prophesied an environmental apocalypse. We need to adopt our new shamans of the modern culture on whose shoulders the natural conscious prophetic tradition of the ancients now stands.
For this very reason it is now time for forgiveness between man and woman, time to bring Jesus down from the Cross and with him the violence of sacrifice, the gender polarity of original sin and the dominance of the Kingdom of the Father over the immortal Mother Eve of the Garden of Eden and to accept and learn from his statement "Ye are the gods" in assuming true and full responsibility for our own visionary journey into the cosmic Nierika of eternity.