Apocalypse is by nature global. All existent systems seize up or deflate, or underlying public support for them evaporates – whichever comes first. At the core of this is a fundamental change in the way people see things – it could literally happen on one day, even though there would be a long buildup and aftermath. Apocalypse is not simply an inconvenient seizing-up of trade and services: it is a spasm of reality itself, a coincident, serendipitous, irreversible interlocking of outer events and inner experiences. It is a cognitive and metaphysical crisis of enormous dimensions, a plunge into the utter unknown.
Such a floundering situation can be sparked by small yet strategically-crucial or symbolic events. The crisis we're talking about here is multi-level, material, psychological and spiritual – it is a total show-stopper. Time actually seems to stretch or stand still. We have already had plenty of rumbles of such a phenomenon, saved by the fact that not too many ignited at once.
Such a local and overnight event as the Kobe earthquake, Japan, in 1995, had secondary and indirect repercussions everywhere, lasting at least five years. Such a crisis is manageable if unaccompanied by other crises of similar or greater magnitude.
However, if several crucial crises should arise around the same time, the complexity and seriousness of consequences can compound, bearing heavily on sensitive stress-points such as money-markets, military alliances, diplomacy and public opinion, as its effects reverberate. The world can move rapidly into a potentially disastrous situation. The world's immune system and resistance to shock has become vulnerable as a result of a dubious lifestyle.
Into such a tenderised situation comes the public mood. If, in this circumstance, the arising of suddenly-controversial issues evoke exceptional public response, and if authorities respond inappropriately... and then, to cap it all, a world-threatening event arises, we have potential lift-off. Such trains of events are not as implausible as we would prefer to believe – they tend to happen just when we think they won't.
Specific glitches might at first spark things off, precipitating further multiplying chain-reactions. The world suddenly finds itself in an utterly new situation, vulnerable to the slightest shudder, for which few are prepared. It could be an initially-innocuous local problem which sparks things, such as a riot in Irian Jaya or the discovery that cornflakes induce arthritis. However, knock-on effects can multiply further knock-on effects which can then put the world into an uncontrollable spin, affecting things which appear to have no relation to the original bushfire spark.
There is choice though. When one has a heart attack or is told one has cancer, one is faced with a choice to meet reality with openness and honesty, or to enact emergency avoidance measures in order to deny the impact of the crisis and what it is demanding. If one chooses honesty, there is an immediate feeling of empowerment to act, to break old habits and engage in radical therapies. This involves perceiving and accepting the situation as it is and acting on it, no holds barred. Things go on from there.
The alternative is to deny the challenge, to go catatonic, to go wild or to go into terminal decline – each leading to eventual regret. This sort of predicament has a tremendously enabling effect on us if we are willing to say yes to what it presents. However, this is rare. Often, we go into shock or are caught unprepared. Grasping at simple proffered solutions or bleating for help from others is a frequent first response. However, answers and assistance are in practice available only when we render ourselves fully open and eligible to receiving them – and this demands change, not avoidance or resistance. If we are unhelpable, we cannot be helped.
Apocalyptic situations would rapidly become known to the world public, not only by satellite TV (or even its sudden absence), but also by a mass psychic-instinctive knowingness, an overriding atmosphere of undercurrents which become almost palpable – as was the case with Chernobyl or at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The collective unconscious, not sectioned-up and individualised in the way that egos perceive selfhoods to be, resonates beyond and between individuals. Such mass intimations occur more commonly than we acknowledge – the collective unconscious operates at all times, unbeknownst to most, but when its dynamics and imagery shout loud and shake our foundations, we notice.
When it bubbles up to the surface, it creates an all-pervasive atmosphere affecting everybody far and wide – on the night of the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 there was a crackly excitement in the air, palpable even in the isolated forests of Canada. Paradoxically, far from the madding crowd, such atmospheres are more tangible. On this occasion, the world psyche twanged strongly to the resonance of "freedom and democracy!" – and everybody was deeply moved. Such atmospheres are activated in subtle spheres and undercurrents of shared thoughts – helped by rapid media coverage, phone, fax or Internet communication.
These psychically-charged atmospheres do not require major events to catalyse them. Profoundly symbolic and suggestive events can be deeply stirring, even to people thoroughly unaffected. They can catalyse immense changes of perspective. The death of but one person can mean the end of an era. In the mid-80s, the sight of young Ethiopian and Sudanese children with matchstick limbs and distended stomachs stirred unprecedented feelings worldwide. The simultaneous bushfires in Australia and the floods in Europe in January 1994 symbolised a global trial by fire and water, a forced purgation evoking considerable stirring and shock.
Symbolism-rich situations can bring an enormous turn-around in public consciousness. There had been hundreds of nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s-80s, yet the 1995 proposition by newly-elected French president Chirac to test a few nuclear devices at Muraroa Atoll in the Pacific sparked public uproars far beyond any rational explanation. These raised anti-colonialist sentiments in Polynesia, moral outrage in Australasia, currency pressures on the Franc and diplomatic stresses in the European Union. Meanwhile, China detonated a bomb test of its own which hardly anyone noticed.
Chirac had turned a key and opened a flood-gate in the world unconscious – and its contents were decanted in multi-coloured textures and hues. Exaggerated public response indicated that the public unconscious had reached a threshold of non-acceptance of nuclear testing – historically and from depth-consciousness, the brakes on the bombs were being unconsciously applied. However, this also represented an entirely unconscious response to something else of which the public was unaware and uninformed: France was actually utilising nuclear tests as a means of disposing of large quantities of low-level nuclear waste from its large civil nuclear programme, by deep-level underground nuclear incineration, far from home.
Resolving issues by constructive crisis-management tends to be more efficient than gradual reform, in the long run. Reform is subject to conservatism, forgetfulness, corruption, complacency and downright manipulation. A crisis turns keys to deep doors of perception and to sources of action, if thunderous enough to throw the public into a quiver. Crises threaten.
Crises turn the screws to a critical degree, coercing adequate response – our very existence is threatened, or it feels to be threatened. In such situations, normal ego-awareness and normality itself are short-circuited, and a clearer kind of insight takes over. The outcome depends on people's responses to razor-sharp perceptual clarity: some welcome it and thrive in it, others struggle to avoid and deny it. If we choose panic, chaos results. If we choose to look bravely at our situation, breakthrough is possible.
This is what the people of South Africa chose in March-April 1994, when an ugly and ruinous civil war threatened to overwhelm them. They chose civility and sense, by some public miracle nobody has rationally explained – though the symbolic rectitude of Nelson Mandela played a large part. Mandela held a magic key which made him, in effect, one of the most powerful people of his time.
Something deep inside us wells up and intervenes. Even if chaos and panic have begun their confusingly destructive work, a new level of brilliance and capability can enter the fray, amidst a crisis. It comes from a still place, deep down. It has qualities of utter newness to it. There's a change of gears. Bottom-line verities are met full-on, with a new simplicity and straightforwardness. Fundamental decisions are made: there is no going back.
These can affect all spheres of life, from Holy Communion to billion-dollar bank accounts to tubes of toothpaste. The crucial element here is awareness itself, which perceives thoughts, feelings and beliefs without actively participating in them. With a shift of awareness, every single thing takes on a different light. Awareness is central to any root-level change.
Complexity is rendered into to its basic components: issues become dreadfully, starkly simple. An utterly new world-view and set of priorities quickly emerges, as if it had always been there. In a sense it was always there – the quiet seers, servers and visionaries dotted throughout society had cherished and nurtured it, giving it voice when possible.
This new world view might either come in the form of a flash of inspiration and new seeing, or as an abyss-staring state wherein all has been taken away and nothing has replaced it. Revelation can take the form of absolutely nothing – a void in which all knowns have collapsed and nothing takes its place. This can be debilitating or it can be a blessing. In states of emergency where there is nothing left that is safe, such voidsome states have saved many lives.
It's funny how most people pray only when in dire trouble. This derives from an age-old human habit of propitiating the gods when human power seems exhausted or overwhelmed. In the modern secular world God is dead. Yet a mountain of modern evidence shows otherwise: in near-death experiences non-religious people report profound experiences of the Divine, the world of Spirit. Feelings of oneness, bliss, humility and reintegration are frequently reported, leading to profound healings or life-changes. These arise once a person has given up or lost their hold on their normal living functions – it demands a large-scale letting-go, giving an immediate pay-off of calmed storms and peace.
This has interesting implications, since apocalypse as an experience is akin to a near-death experience on a mass level. This doesn't have to be a time of suffering – it could be a time of dawning relief. On the moment of death – or an experience akin to it – pain is forgotten.
This is where the spiritual aspect of our modern-day crisis is rooted. Inner transformation is publicly criticised and denied as a subjective, irrational and unbusinesslike form of behaviour, yet the centrality of transformation in our modern day cannot be overlooked. The root of our problems – and the source of our most central answers – lies in depth-psychological and spiritual domains.
The seeming godlessness of modern techno-culture doesn't mean that divinity is dead – though it does mean that profound shake-ups are necessary if godfulness is to arise. Divinity simply lies in wait until people are able and willing to perceive it and live it again. The crux of any mass apocalypse-experience is spiritual in nature. The rigid hold of civilised self-control ends if there is a mass apocalyptic experience – yet, paradoxically, it has been much of the cause of apocalypse too.
Apocalypse is the logical conclusion of the inexorable progress of modern Western consciousness – a consciousness which has substituted economic and material growth for inner growth. Thus cancer has become a major epidemic – growth of cancer cells arises from blocked emotional-spiritual growth. It is a result of humanity's departure from the ways of natural order and human sensitivity.
If growth cannot happen in the whole being, it does so in rogue cells and body-parts where unwellness has concentrated - terrorisms, dissenters, mishaps, saboteurs and force majeure. Millennial mythology is not as mad as it looks. Our global system is constructed with an inbuilt capacity for fatal collision with reality.