Healing the Hurts of Nations
and building a world fit for humans
Part Three: Geopolitical Healing
Turning around the momentum of world events
In this section we look at the deeper issues around the planetary redemption process.
It addresses the age-old question: what is the mechanism which can and will bring about actual fundamental change in our world?
It has foxed many people for a very long time - and the answers are not simple, or a mere wave of a magic wand.
But looking into the psycho-dynamics of humanity's hope, despair and life-urge, and the wisdom of forgiving and moving on, give a few clues. Here lie some secrets revealing the releasing of the pain of the collective past, well summed up by Archbishop Dsmond Tutu's statement on the right.
Forgiving and being reconciled are not about pretending that things are other than they are. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the pain, the degradation, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse.
In forgiving, people are not asked to forget. On the contrary, it is important to remember, so that we should not let such atrocities happen again. Forgiveness means taking what happened seriously and not minimising it; drawing out the sting in the memory that threatens to poison our entire existence. It involves trying to understand the perpetrators and so have empathy, to try to stand in their shoes and appreciate the sort of pressures and influences that might have conditioned them.
Forgiving means abandoning your right to pay back the perpetrator in his own coin, but it is a loss that liberates the victim. We will always need a process of forgiveness and reconciliation to deal with those unfortunate, yet all too human, breaches in relationships. They are an inescapable characteristic of the human condition.
Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, 1994.
12. Conscience and Natural Justice
Unawareness is a well embedded historic institution. Living in modern society demands serious acquiescence in a fog of under-consciousness. Life's complexities work against sensitivity and empathy, instead demanding unawareness and ethical laxity. We each maintain these traits as a result of our conditioning, guilt and avoidance strategies - we stifle unconscious feelings and withhold our deeper truth.
Unawareness comes sharply into focus when we choose to cultivate awareness, ethical sensitivity and moral consistency. These clash with life's pressures, multiplying life's tensions. Spiritually- and ethically-conscious people take on doubled responsibilities in which conventional social obligations can conflict with their calling to pursue truth in their lives.
Life presents a choice to bury our moral concerns or to defy society's norms by prioritising them. Awareness-maggots eat away at us, leading us to an inescapable breaking-point that we all must sooner or later face.
Our collusive culture of unawareness is pervasive. We live a schizoid life, holding secret, privatised perceptions we don't share openly. Subscribing to a shared template of normality and convention, we reinforce it with convoluted explanations and reasons. A loaded catchphrase - 'the war against terrorism', 'the national interest' or 'the threat of unemployment' - can cause us to lock unthinkingly into step with conventions - even when we don't believe in them.
There is a joint-and-several totalitarianism to this: when sufficient numbers of people collude, morally questionable ideas are legitimised and normalised, even rationalised to be good and necessary. This can include supporting wars, discrimination, excess, destruction and loss of freedom.
"Just another chocolate won't make a difference" - but chocolate caused a civil war in Côte d'Ivoire! Mini-crimes add up to enormous transgressions. In future times many actions deemed acceptable today will become criminal.
Specific measures to foster public awareness can resolve many problems. By forcing exhaust pipes to stick up on the front of a car, fumes would enter the awareness of drivers. If electricity were generated on a local basis from renewable energy sources, communities would become locally more self-empowering. At gas stations, signs should say "Today's consignment comes from the Nigerian Delta, with diesel from Venezuela".
These sound simplistic, yet they build awareness into our life-process, and the wider payoffs would be large. They spread responsibility and educate the public. Awareness is the 21st Century key - the alternatives are heavy regulation and force, or deterioration and wars.
Raising prices doesn't change much since, when addiction is involved, rising prices don't necessarily reduce demand. We are addicted to things as if life would lose its meaning if we didn't have them. This is actually criminal behaviour, made permissible by a fog of unawareness.
Molehills out of mountains
Many of today's problems arise from a denial of the tension between seeing and behaviour. Denial involves giving implicit permission for crimes and hypocrisies to happen. We know of the AIDS epidemics in Africa, India, Cambodia and Russia, yet we feel there is little we can do except perhaps contribute money and buy condoms.
At the receiving end of such treatment, this resigned impotency appears to be a callous indifference. And it is. Most people don't think about depleted-uranium bombs unless they fall on us.
But this apparent lack of concern is not just heartless indifference: it represents a gridlocked inner conflict between concern and powerlessness. This conflict is aided by the way our society conceals the causes and effects of the world's problems: how can fully-stacked supermarket shelves in Belgium or Minnesota be connected with famine in Zambia or the felling of the rainforests?
Indifference is one of the most malignant forces of our age.
Unawareness and indifference are far-reaching.
A primary cause of the spread of AIDS is social taboos - denying there is a problem and that it is our problem. It reaches into official public health policy worldwide. Yet failing to own up to our responsibilities creates large numbers of orphans, population loss and a pervasive eating away of social support structures and local economies. What a price to pay!
Whatever the causes of AIDS, social denial must end, or AIDS will replicate. Collaborative mobilisation to deal with the obvious causes and side-effects of AIDS is vital. This will lead to greater outcomes than solely preventing AIDS: it leads to social innovation, community re-constitution, the transformation of social support structures and a potential rebirth of society.
The answer is to bring victims into the centre of communities, to remove all shame, to hear their stories and to make their tragedies ours. Countries taking this approach, such as Uganda, have quickly reduced the spread of AIDS, getting on top of other social problems in the process.
Worldwide, we customarily seek medical, policing, judicial and technological solutions, without seeing that a systemic social dishonesty lies at their root. Devolving problems to experts, we avoid thinking about the nature of society and modern life. If such chronic dishonesty were addressed, society would change fundamentally. Correction would arise increasingly from grass-roots social activism. Today's conventions and normalities are designed to encase and replicate unawareness, so things needs changing at a deep level, addressing that unawareness.
Culpability and scruples
We cannot get away with the current state of affairs longterm. Many people are aware of this, yet it is difficult for them to do anything unless they are willing to make personal sacrifices.
Change depends a lot on despair. Despair is a heightened state of conscience and a deep-level conflict between awareness and presented reality. Conscience is a secret moral regulator that signals to us when we go too far, or we witness things going too far. Such ethical sensibilities operate beyond cultural conditioning or belief. They raise our insight and integrity, injecting a sense of wider context, offering us increased options. Liberty depends on conscience and moral vigilance. So does democracy.
Two contrasting notions of conscience are easily confused. One is the conditioned guilt we experience when we break social obligations and taboos - over spilling ketchup on the carpet. This is an inculcated psychological and cultural issue - it's disposable or can be changed.
The second is an inborn, self-regulatory sensibility related to beauty, naturalness, justice, simplicity and authenticity. This kind of conscience signals those occasions when we go against nature or human nature - overstretching ourselves, causing problems or collaborating with things we cannot respect ourselves for. It is independent of social values, taboos and conventions.
The golden rule of good behaviour is simply: do to others what you would prefer them to do to you.
Something either fits with nature, inherent 'rightness' and the 'will of God' or it does not, irrespective of what has been accepted or believed up to that moment. When we're in tune with conscience, we feel we're in the right time, at the right place, doing the right thing. This is a clear feeling and instinct.
Conscientious scruples can be deemed 'wrong' in conventional terms, but there comes a point where conscience overrides convention and things change.
'Rightness' is a deep-seated feeling that something is 'in order', 'meant to be' or 'central and correct', even when other people fail to see it. There is something enduring to it, that goes beyond our customary judgements of rightness or wrongness, social or ideological acceptability. Unpremeditated, it usually involves taking the best available option at that moment, because we just know it's right.
When we feel something is just not right, bells ring to say we are off-the-mark, susceptible to derailment, or that we're causing regrettable consequences. This happened for millions of people in February 2003 when they felt unhappy about the Iraq War, whether or not they knew exactly why - and circumstances since then have proved them right.
It might be socially tolerated to get drunk and use offensive language on Friday nights but it just isn't right - it creates outcomes we are likely to regret or, worse, outcomes that other people remember more than we.
The primary issue preoccupying conscience is not specific situations or 'crimes', but the unawareness that causes us to blunder through life committing such 'crimes' - markers of a deeper malaise.
Michael Herr, scriptwriter of Apocalypse Now, said in 1989: "All the wrong people remember Vietnam. All the people who remember it should forget it, and all the people who forgot it should remember it."
On some issues we ought to feel more responsible than we do: in the 20th C, convention regarded rising property values as 'a good thing'. In fact, such profit is actually sucked in from other people who lose from it, and it is taken without their consent - it is legalised theft. But we don't look at it that way - our conditioning tells us that profit is good and a sign of success.
Moral rectitude is complex, with no hard and fast rules. Some on the political right or left might think otherwise. A big problem with evaluating moral issues is the influence of moral absolutes. A Westerner might think, "Anyone subscribing to a traditional religion is just backward and submissive" while a Muslim might think, "Anyone who is not a Muslim cannot be a good person" - and both are equally incorrect, because....
There is no right or wrong - there are only outcomes. Rightness and wrongness can and do change, even overnight.
It is not things like divorce, abortion or even killing that are inherently right or wrong, but the way we do them and what drives them. Every moral judgement must be made uniquely and conscientiously, with a willingness to learn if life proves us incorrect, to deal with the outcomes of our actions, and to correct historic patterns. True morality grows out of garnered experience, and rigid rules undermine and corrupt this growth.
Morality isn't about guiltily living a stiff, rule-bound, puritanical life. If we try to stop doing 'bad' things, we often set up a fight inside us between guilt and desire, which can make things worse. Human rights have actually suffered as a result of the Declaration of Human Rights - the writing of moral rules has somehow allowed us to beak them more easily.
Moral rigidity causes us to starve or punish ourselves to placate our guilt, then to binge and overdo it because of doubt and weakness - and then we feel bad about that, and the battle gets even more complex. Guilt kills more people than nicotine or cholesterol - though it's also true that smoking or comfort-eating frequently cover up chronic guilt and fear.
Our modern world is a manifestation of this struggle between guilt and excess. The 20th C saw enormous excesses, with the contrasting secret growth of a moral sense of culpability. This exacerbated guilt levels and tension, leading to sophisticated kinds of guilt-avoidance, excess and mass-addiction. The world developed a growing wish for peace yet it created more war. It sought security and created insecurity.
Since this is unsustainable, the grossest ills limit themselves to 'theatres', areas of their concentration, where horrors are acted out by proxy: hence Israel, Colombia, Iraq and Cambodia have seen senseless degrees of pain, disproportionate to the local issues at stake - these countries have unconsciously taken on other people's shadows.
Making new connections
Many of the world's current problems are signs that things are actually beginning to get better. The ascendancy of conscience can tend at first to create greater destruction. But this is to cause us to look at what we have done.
The soul of humanity is forcing us to look squarely at our errors and see their full effects. We are protected from global war and degeneracy by the localisation of harm into 'theatres of war'. This is no excuse for dumping crises on vulnerable societies. But it does focus healing attention on certain arenas where they are concentrated, enacting 'movies' to help us work things out.
Palestinians and Israelis fight it out to exhaust themselves, to get to the bottom of something we all dare not look at. They will eventually cooperate out of sheer exhaustion - and weariness is one of the greatest bringers of peace and resolution. Yet if Israelis and Palestinians resolve their own conflict, the whole world will be helped. Also, they cannot end this conflict - the world's longest-lasting conflict - until the rest of the world gets engaged with them, since outside interference, arms and money have been major causes of the conflict.
This is perverse but very human, a consequence of the historic habit of denying human wisdom and conscience. The path of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake. True, though excess isn't the only path to wisdom. The alternative is to observe our life-patterns, acknowledge our actions, watch how their consequences unfold from there, and learn from it.
Before long, awareness lights up. We make new connections, seeing a deeper understanding of the relationship between action and consequence. We then get a handle on our unwholesome patterns. This is a seeing of truth. Perception is the key to improving our world.
In conciliation sessions where victims meet perpetrators, perpetrators are often shocked when the full chain of consequences of their actions is presented to them. They often just don't think, or they believe their actions have few effects, apart from those they sought.
Our ingrained cultural beliefs inform our moral choices. Western secularism believes we have only one lifetime, and that death means 'The End'. Thus, murder is deemed a serious crime, and medical life-saving is taken to enormous lengths. In Buddhist cultures believing in rebirth, the most serious crime is to deflect a person from their spiritual path. In their way of seeing things, this affects a soul in multiple incarnations. Murder indeed is a major crime but, to Buddhists, it is more reparable than crimes against awareness: awareness helps deal with murder, but murder doesn't usually help deal with awareness.
Repeated spiritual damage reduces our capacity for conscience and self-correction. In the West, deflecting others from their spiritual path is standard practice - advertising, education, entertainment and daily life do it. In Japan, disturbing a person's inner composure is deemed a misdeed.
One consequence is that Western culture is spiritually lost. Yet traditional Buddhist beliefs have made individuals' lives appear expendable - which Western values can teach something about.
Rightness and wrongness aren't straight, simple, unchanging and absolute.
Traditional religious codes tend to prescribe absolute moral values and sanctions, yet their applicability now needs thorough review. In Islam it's the argument between religious orthodoxy and ijtihad, or independent reasoning.
Many traditional moral strictures are valid. Moses' stricture 'thou shalt not kill' needs much more observance, and the Buddhist and Hindu idea of ahimsa, or non-harming, is a standard that could be applied everywhere. Yet there are instances where killing or harming sometimes have value: if someone had bumped off Saddam Hussein at the right time, they might have done the world a favour and saved many lives.
We stand on a shifting moral boundary here. Do pre-emptive military strikes against weapons of mass-destruction constitute justifiable killing? Where is the boundary between a just humanitarian war and an excuse for something else?
Different times and cultures judge things differently, and the effects of specific actions vary in individual cases and at different times. Many of the world's great crimes are committed because judgement of current situations is often based upon the values, standards and rules of the past. World events present a stream of exceptions, shocks and precedents to keep us insecure and questioning ourselves. Events force us to review and update our standards.
There are basic moral standards which can be applied globally. The Asian ahimsa, non-harming, needs little explanation and few sub-clauses - it has immense judicial and geopolitical implications. Another significant guideline is the Judaeo-Christian rule do to others as you would have them do to you. This also implies see yourself as others see you. This is a primary key to ending world terror, violence and exploitation.
The alternative to ethical principles is a stultifying regulatory and legalistic system stuffed with rules, legislators, lawyers, inspectors and verifiers. Regulation breeds a culture of mindless compliance and permission-seeking, or rule-breaking and loophole-finding, both of which eat away at good sense and sensible behaviour.
Regulation de-emphasises moral relevance and sensitivity, breeding obedientism, a seeking of loopholes and ways of 'getting away with it'. To happily observe and conform to laws and regulations we need to feel their relevance, otherwise they will be broken, bent or circumvented. A great weakness of civilisation is the gulf between its regulations and real life.
In the 21st C the re-evaluation of transcultural standards will by necessity evolve 'on the hoof'. Our traditional moral codes have worked insufficiently well to bring about the kind of world that was intended. Sixty years ago a template for global behaviour was laid down - the UN Charter of Human Rights - but transgressions have been so many and enforceability so fraught that the charter has under-performed significantly. It is noble and good, yet it is heavily evaded, manipulated and infringed. But it is the best option we have.
Raising world standards
We are confronted today with a torrent of precedents and threshold-crossings that shift moral goalposts and parameters really fast. This is the soul of humanity at work, setting out to loosen us up by creating vexation, paradox and exposure of double-standards.
A world moral consensus will always be coloured by cultural viewpoints. We must achieve degrees of ethical convergence while avoiding blanket standardisation and rigid moral orthodoxies. Imposing a catch-all moral framework invites a torrent of erosive events and dissension, prompted by the collective unconscious and reality. This is the influence of force majeure, the overwhelming power of events and the true 'will of God'. But what we gain depends on whether we consider force majeure to help or hinder us. We need to recognise that everything that happens has a meaning and is here to teach us. It's a matter of perspective.
Raising planetary standards rests on raising global emotional sensitivity. There is one army that can scare the hell out of the toughest of guys: women and girls, acting together. Women and their sensitivities and moral judgements are important for the future.
Collective sensitisation shifts society's emotional context and its immunity to abuse. It reduces trauma, disruption, the hardening of social responses and the seeds of violence, abuse and atrocity.
It increases mutual consideration and inclusion, starting a virtuous spiral of truth and cooperation. So raising world standards involves a rise in interpersonal emotional standards.
It is a cop-out to label terrorists, criminals or abusers as evil, though they are seriously mistaken and dangerously obsessed. Terrorists exist because they feel their voice is unheard - they represent something in the collective psyche, something to do with us. The key lies in hearing and understanding how and why they became terrorists. They are part of a general human tendency to brutalise the world.
Every act of violence and hard-heartedness densifies and thickens human standards and insensitivity. Jangle, bloodshed and explosions stop us noticing the finer tones of life. They increase unhappiness, blocking social trust, tenderness, sharing and creativity.
Social conscience is embodied in people who work in the charitable, voluntary and social sectors, in campaigns and popular movements, and in those who practice good-neighbourliness. It works through artists, poets, helping professionals, conservationists, philanthropists, visionaries, 'prophets', 'server souls' and altruists.
But there is a problem. Unless social values shift, cynicism and self-interest carry on and altruists' work is never done. The abolition of slavery was admirable, but other things did not change, so has slavery been abolished or just disguised?
Humanitarian aid programmes save millions from hardship, yet they change recipients' circumstances and mindset, drawing them into the global development frenzy. Some aid organisations have got wise to this. But they are hamstrung since many problems arise from politics and war. Supporting aid projects is important, yet the benefits are limited while the world continues to create the problems that aid organisations set out to relieve. Something needs to chage, so that the damaging and the repairing influences in society are brought together.
Satyagraha - truth-force
Our mission is not to eliminate the world's problems or avoid making mistakes. It is to create a momentum of forwardness, a culture of growing candour and integrity based on learning from our errors. Today's development threshold concerns the world's moral, human and spiritual fibre.
The Marxist vision of a century ago was altruistic and far-sighted, but it foundered on the idea that people would change in heart if their material and social circumstances were transformed. It didn't work. Catalysing a change in the human spirit has little to do with ideology, planning or material conditions. Capitalism's own premise, that prosperity and success make people happy, is also flawed. Many of the world's rich are psycho-socially poverty-stricken and isolated, and this is dangerous for humanity.
The historic lesson is that change starts from the heart of humanity, working outwards. Circumstances don't ultimately determine our happiness. Spiritual teachers told us this millennia ago.
The collective psyche and its twin sister, reality-as-it-is, operate anyway, regardless. What we intend, assert or hope for is not what happens, especially at crunch-points.
Conscience counterbalances excess, imbalance and stuckness. It mysteriously translates into real-life events and situations which then confront us, to teach us valuable lessons. It operates despite our wishes, exposing self-undoing patterns, hypocrisies and oversights. The collective unconscious has its own agendas: it is a great teacher.
The 'war against terror' was not the only option in dealing with terrorism. It was the product of a hawkish lobby who omitted many factors from their calculations. It was so counter-intuitive that it started adding to the causes of terrorism. Both al Qaeda and USA became strange bedfellows in re-militarising the world. Behind this lies a geopolitical avoidance-game: avoidance of the real 21st C agenda. USA's heavy money was on weaponry and war. Consequence: al Qaeda tipped America into the trap USA had set for USSR in Afghanistan in the 1980s - a war scenario so costly that Goliath is undermined.
Gandhi's satyagraha. Truth force: the sharp distinction between what we're told and what is actually happening. This grating generates conscience, a niggling feeling that something is just not right. If humans fail to see truth and act on it, events will reveal truth. The simple aim is to show us things as they are, to de-illusion us.
In the media age, billions witness the imagery of world events. Public calm is periodically rocked, compounding an underlying insecurity. Such events are localised, yet their significance rolls out into a wider global and historical context. The hidden significance of events lodges deep down, itching and nibbling away, building a head of steam for a future blow-out.
The world media, although they encourage unawareness, also act to aid the collective unconscious and the world's conscience.
All the world is a stage
Occasionally a character appears out of nowhere to enrich the plot - remember that woman in Mozambique, perched up a tree above the floodwaters, with her newborn child? Who was she? What's that child like now? Do you remember the Vietnamese girl running, crying, toward the camera, naked and burned by napalm? She, Kim Phuc, now works for UNESCO as a goodwill ambassador.
In crowd scenes, people report that they just had to be there, to be part of the crowd, to play a part in history. Affluent women with top-brand clothes suddenly identify with rough-handed Afghan women in burkas. Starving children with protruding stomachs and flies in their eyes become our children. These people embody characters, forces and imagery within the collective psyche, each bringing us a message.
Who writes this screenplay? We do, together, unconsciously. The script contains everything we fail to talk through and act upon, everything we repress and ignore. This comes up in nthe form of events. Humanity unconsciously creates circumstances which force us to face bundles of connected lessons we otherwise don't want to face. Force majeure - it challenges the 'free will' and 'in control' ideology of modern humans, especially Westerners.
In 1989, everyone shouted 'Freedom and Democracy!' But did we realise that freedom means rising to our full spiritual stature and integrity, taking full charge of our lives? Did we understand that democracy means developing a world consensus which truly respects everyone? Did we understand the future was calling? Emotionally, yes. Mentally, not really. Herein lies our strange schizophrenia.
Tornadoes and earthquakes, civil wars, accidents, oil spills and other tragedies bring up whole bundles of issues. Multiple messages emerge: extreme weather can expose the corruption of property developers and government regimes, or bring home a deeper message, saying "The past is gone and it's all going to be different from now on".
These crises move people into insecure spaces, quicksands of the soul. Events rub at our edges and unguarded bits. It's as if there's a coherent intelligence behind it, trying to upset us.
Symbolism prises open the collective psyche, releasing streams of associations, memories, fears, hopes, images and extra elements to add to the simmering brew. All these erode our inner defences. The truth oozes out: it doesn't have to be like this.
These blasts of truth are collective dunkings in the realm of dreams and nightmares. A public shift of feeling can happen overnight. Truth-impacts are proportioned to their intensity: a few days can sometimes be a very long and definitive time. These collective experiences shift boundaries and values, changing the substance of current history, the meaning of the past and the possibilities of the future.
The best medicine tastes bitter and is often difficult to swallow.
We all have a problem, together. The decision to tolerate and understand others takes but a change of heart, yet it often requires a heavy dose of 'truth-force' to kick it into action. Truth is a very difficult business.
Note: I'm saying 'truth', not 'the truth'. Truth is relative and it evolves - it is revelatory, and the revelations can change over time.
We know the world is in deep trouble. We can argue ad infinitem about statistics, scientific evidence and who has the best approach, yet it still remains true that the global climate is changing, the number of armed conflicts rarely goes below fifty, toxicity and pollution are still increasing, hunger and obesity are both still growing, depression is the world's biggest disease, and some sort of showdown is looming.
We know this won't go away. It awaits a critical moment of truth, a clash between belief and raw actuality - a major quake of conscience.
Whether there is to be one big showdown or a protracted series for smaller showdowns is a theoretical question: we already live in times of showdown. The times of tribulation are already here. The sign of this is the intensity of events and of public response to them. The nub of the matter is conscience, a factor with a life of its own. What will finally turn the world's conscience, so that humanity will see clearly what it is party to?
17. That Vision Thing
Intimations from the superconscious
The future has a causative influence on present-day situations. This goes against all that historians and common knowledge accept to be true. What pulls on us is our sense of potential which, on the whole, exists in the future and suggests greater happiness.
We can talk of a superconscious, where lie the dreams, aspirations, unfulfilled possibilities and higher goals of humanity. It is a timeless zone where future, present and past melt away. Its messages concern possibilities lying evolutionarily ahead of where we stand. It's inspiring - and for some it brings up fear.
It is a repository of humanity's highest moments, budding capabilities, advanced options, spiritual callings and evolutionary promise, a body of 'treasures in heaven' stored up especially through the sufferings of people in hard circumstances. It contains the seeds of visionary ideas, brilliant solutions, acts of goodwill, fortuitous turns of event and quirks of destiny, accumulated prayers and hopes.
When higher powers are invoked or cries of despair rise from the heart of humanity, or when people set out to do good or achieve the impossible, this repository of light, release and relief is called on - and added to. What Christians call 'treasures in heaven'.
History has been quite unspiritual and vision-weak. Humanity has been the victim of many master-plans masquerading as visions or callings, and genuine visions have sometimes had mixed or tragic results.
A battle goes on between, on one side, small-mindedness, conformity and self-interest, and on the other the urge to awaken and rise up to greater heights. It's a battle between rising to humanity's potential or hanging on to the past and to known ways, even if they hurt.
Visions usually involve awakening and change, while master-plans usually involve big ideas driven by specific interests. Both might claim to work for people's benefit, but it's the abiding outcomes that matter.
An able visionary has pragmatism and a 'magic touch' with organising people and resources. The Prophet Muhammad was an organiser and community father, creating a faith which also reformed law and society. The rapid Muslim invasions following his death were adverse only for some of its victims because Islam, whether or not it was adopted, brought general social improvement and modernisation. Though not without problems.
Compare with Genghiz Khan, who believed the gods directed him to unite the world. He killed masses of people and razed whole cities if he was resisted. The Mongols devastated whole civilisations. This vision was either misunderstood, misguided or misapplied. Though it had redeeming factors.
The superconscious has its own agendas and momentum, and it operates through visionaries and innovators, social movements or the medium of 'ideas whose time have come'.
Incidents of fate
Or the future dawns through the power of events. Funny things happen. Earthquakes can lead to the ending of wars. Under adversity, a nation can achieve a peak in social cohesion and innovation. The threat of war can rouse peace movements out of otherwise docile people.
'The hand of God moves in strange ways'. Visionary advances, or the dawning of a new mindset or cultural wave, don't always arise from what we would see as visionaries. They can arise from situations and quirks of fate.
Not long ago in Britain, two national visionary events took place: the death of Princess Diana in 1997 awakened deeper public feelings and values, ending a period of narrow self-interest, and the outbreak of the Iraq war in 2003 generated the biggest street-demonstrations in British history.
In the first, emotional sensitivities were touched off by the death of just one person - it was the symbolism that mattered. In the second, an indifferent nation was roused to express a widely-felt intuition against the war. The public didn't know why, but they knew it wasn't right, and subsequent events proved them correct.
These were not led by visionaries: they were collective, unforeseen phenomena, arising amongst very ordinary people as a result of a sharp juxtaposition of events and issues.
'For the triumph of evil it is necessary only that good people do nothing' - Edmund Burke, 1700s. But when people are roused to do something, it's momentous - or sometimes tragic. The mechanism of change is not always the obvious one.
In South Africa around 1990, it was conservative whites who ended apartheid. They wisely yielded to the drift of history. They were isolated, with no future. The visionary in this case was the Afrikaner president de Klerk, who radically changed his mind - he saw what could happen if apartheid continued. His pragmatism was visionary inasmuch as good sense is very unusual.
The same applied to Mikhail Gorbachev in USSR in the late 1980s: he was realistic, yet this too was visionary and exceptional. But the problem was also too big, and his government was so embedded in the past that it could not create the future. So another visionary, Yeltsin, was needed to push through the necessary changes. But the outcomes were mixed.
Leaders are often publicly catalytic, but their actions have little power unless they express an emergent consensus - or trick people into acquiescing in regrettable things.
A true visionary with a big picture, such as Mahatma Gandhi, rises to power because, when the chips are down, he or she is the only person capable of articulating and guiding an enormous social process. They act as a lightning-rod for much bigger dynamics. The public can be visionary too, as a mass.
Some people engage intentionally with the superconscious - they pursue a spiritual life. Only sometimes do they become publicly or politically prominent because this requires a thick skin and dirtied hands.
The influence of visionaries is more usually indirect, through teaching, healing or feeding ideas and perspectives into the public arena. In some cases this influence has been enormous: Gautama Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth, Confucius and Muhammad the Prophet, or Mani, ibn Rushd, Isaac Newton, Hildegard of Bingen and Zhu Xi have had a profound effect lasting many centuries.
The critical issue is the execution of visions. Marxism was ruined by the questionable and painful means by which Lenin, Stalin, Mao and others enforced it. Traditional religions have brought mixed blessings, giving us sophisticated architecture, art, literature, music and philosophy, together with terrible and senseless wars and persecutions.
Belief-systems go wrong because the creators or their successors lose the essence of their vision. Muhammad did not prescribe invading much of Eurasia - it was effected by his successors. It fulfilled a different vision. If Marx had met Stalin he would have sent him packing. Jesus had no intention of setting up an institutional church to last two millennia, many actions of which he would have judged as unchristian - he set out to bring about social and spiritual change in his time.
Rulers applying genuine spirituality have been uncommon. Akbar, Mughal emperor of India in the late-1500s, was religiously tolerant and invited teachers of many faiths to his court, attempting a religious reformation. But he pushed further than religionists were willing to go, and the project was abandoned. Yet he did more for reconciliation than most rulers.
Spiritual visionaries have a mixed track record. The Taiping Rebellion in China (1851-65), led by Hong Xiuquan, started with a vision of some merit. Hong's followers took Nanjing and set up a Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace. It all went terribly wrong, owing to internal divisions, Hong's loss of vision, foreign intervention and government repression. The rebellion failed, with 20 million lives lost.
The mission of Shabtai Zvi (mid-1600s), a mystic rabbi and messiah in Ottoman Turkey, stirred an enormous surge of faith and a movement for Jewish return to Israel, but this derailed - he landed up shamed and rejected and it all fell flat.
William Penn, a Quaker social reformer of the 1600s, counts as one of USA's early leading lights. John Wesley, late 1700s, an evangelist and social campaigner, was the first to propose comprehensive social care systems later common in Europe. Mahatma Gandhi was a lawyer, politician and holy man who raised the spirit and effectiveness of the Indian independence movement by advocating non-violence and self-sufficiency.
Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama, serves as a deity, a papal figurehead and the Tibetan head of state. He has adopted a global moral role, and his quiet opinions carry great weight. Rarely, he is an accessible spiritual teacher and statesman.
Such visionaries seek to bridge spirituality with politics and social reform because these are naturally connected: improved justice and wellbeing adjusts social conditions to the needs of humanity's deeper nature.
Religious leaders can hold great sway, one example being the Ayatollah Khomeini - but Khomeini imposed orthodox principles going against the drift of modernisation, costing his people highly. Archbishop Makarios, president of Greek Cyprus (1960-76) helped gain Cypriot independence from Britain in 1959 but his Greek Orthodox chauvinism clashed with the needs of Turkish Cypriots, and an ugly civil war and land division resulted.
Here, dogma and reality can clash, and tragedy can result.
There's a difference between a vision and the application or mis-application of it. A vision needs to contain relevant, doable, redeeming qualities, comprehensible to the masses and proposing an impartial and all-round solution. Its application is far trickier. Edison: 'Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration'.
Many visions under-achieve their goals because of problems with visionaries' styles, corruption, unforeseeable circumstances, repression by authorities, misfortune or loss clarity. Often keeping power comes to override the initial purpose of gaining power.
There are moderate and radical visionaries. Reformers can, over time, nudge society in a positive direction, but with mixed outcomes. Often the deals that have to be made with vested interests while gaining power compromise the sincerity and integrity of the reformer. Clarity is difficult to sustain when under political pressure, no one is perfect, and moderates can also land up upsetting both conservatives and radicals. But some good principles get through the sieve of history.
Radical visionaries assert a pattern-changing influence, from 'outside the box'. The three classics of the 20th Century were Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, both lawyers, and Mikhail Gorbachev, a former intelligence officer. Such people come to power by dint of crises and special circumstances which cannot be resolved by insiders.
Some public figures do not set out to be visionaries, yet their periods of office yield dramatic outcomes. These can often be right-wingers. The US presidents Richard Nixon (1969-74) ended the Vietnam War and reconciled with China, and Ronald Reagan (1981-89) ended the Cold War. Chancellor Kohl masterminded Germany's reunification - an unpremeditated, gut decision.
Right-wingers have three advantages: first, an eccentric, grandiose streak, especially in their second term of office; second, the support of business and the establishment; and, third, at times, guilt complexes motivating them to altruism.
When in office, un-visionary leaders can be thrust into far-sighted situations. This does not require a clear, specific picture of future goals. What is important is a leader's and a society's capacity to act far-sightedly when faced with the need. This is instinctual or intuitive or sometimes just 'luck'.
Today has become common for former presidents and prime ministers to enter international service or champion a cause. This serves the world well - especially since such people are motivated to do things differently second time around.
One final distinction: visions and master-plans. A vision helps the greatest or ultimate good, and fits somehow with the future. A master-plan applies an ideology or effects the preferences of a specific interest group. These are different master-plan, though they can appear the same.
Freedom and democracy
Fetching possibilities from the future does not mean free-will is suspended. A grown tree is contained within a seed, and a seed reaches for its potential. Humanity is programmed to reach its potential too - whether or not we know what that is. Children don't know what adulthood is, but they still grow toward it.
The manner in which we fulfil this 'destiny' is up to us. It is not pre-determined: we have a tendency toward our future, but how we get there and what precise shape it takes is our business.
It is possible to foresee a time when (for example) world warfare ends. How long this will take, how it comes about and whether we need (another) 'war to end all wars' to get there are the big questions. Whether or not an objective is currently seen to be doable, this doesn't mean it is impossible. Many of the world's great advances looked impossible, especially just before they happened.
Breakthrough occurs in several ways, through people dedicated to visionary life-paths, or through innovators, researchers, think-tanks and problem-solvers. Solutions are at times found while people are busy doing something else. Sometimes a miracle answer arrives 'by chance', late at night or amidst a crisis. Some innovations come about without their future significance being realised. All these are channels by which the future enters the present.
This 'download' process has inefficiencies: inspirations can be mis-received or misinterpreted, or their execution and manifestation can go awry. Recipients are often insufficiently competent to make visions manifest, or untrained in the practicalities, management and engineering.
Conversely, managers, fixers and engineers are often insufficiently imaginative, intuitive or interested to see or apply visionary information effectively. Executive committees are unwilling to live with unanswered questions or to proceed intuitively.
Many superconscious downloads are revealed progressively: answers come stage by stage in response to need, often in the guise of a stream of dilemmas.
We are usually unwilling to look at longterm, big issues. In recent times, though we have known we are endangering our future survival, we still avoid the main issues, thinking and acting in the short term and blinkered. Narrow interests rule. Hanging on to security makes us ultimately insecure. Resolving world problems is deferred to our grandchildren.
This forces the issue, longterm. We choose to let 'fate' and circumstances decide. We choose to be forced into change, In doing so, we voluntarily sacrifice freedom and democracy - we reduce our options and avoid collective decision and action.
In our time, some technological innovations have far-reaching effects, as if they were part of a larger process we're hardly aware of.
When the steam engine, telephony and broadcasting came along, humanity went through a connecting-up process. The time-delay between events and public awareness of them reduced sharply. This increased humanity's capacity to think and act as one being.
In the 1990s Internet and mobile phones came along. They symptomise an awakening of humanity's psychic connectivity - its capacity to think and act as one being.
Connectivity nudges us toward direct mind-to-mind networking, planetary-scale - this lies in our future, and we're edging toward it. At times the web and phone networks buzz with instantaneous responsiveness: users' antennae are attenuated to shared collective impulses. The implications of this are huge.
The British empire wasn't ever really planned - it arose as a result of a stream of events, decisions and actions. This is not uncommon. A plan can be seen and opposed, but a process is seen only by some, and overtakes us surreptitiously or over generations. We walk into the future backwards.
One characteristic of 'visionary' is that it overturns or transforms all that went before. It's not just a big stage in a process, but a quantum change of the game-plan and rules.
Sometimes this is led by known figures - Goethe, Einstein, Marx or Mandela. Sometimes the mass of the people wakes up one day with an unstoppable imperative. Sometimes events seem to conspire to engineer a sequence of shifts and breakthroughs, often wearing the clothing of misfortune or difficulty. Sometimes secret groups or collectivities of interest try to steer things. Sometimes the Law of Unforeseen Consequences operates.
All these represent the future pulling us forward, overriding the past. The impossible becomes possible. Resistance to change is a sure sign something is on its way. Only sometimes does change happen overnight, and often the biggest changes come in through the back door, through the unexpected.
This force in history is hardly recognised - the Western notion of 'chance' and 'randomness' and the Darwinian evolutionary theory blind us to what is going on. Authorities prefer it this way since, if the people see the implicit pattern in events, they will at times act on it.
And sometimes they do. We're approaching one of those times.
Master-plans have a way of going wrong because they are often based on a narrow seeing of reality, and reality proves to be bigger. But they can be painful.
The Project for a New American Century planned to strengthen US superpower dominance in the 21st C. Hatched in the 1970s, it co-opted right-wing, Christian, isolationist believers to back it - though corporate and controlling interests steered it.
The historical effect was to provoke the opposite - the dawn of a global system of culture-groupings without superpower dominance. India, China, USA and EU are nations or unions, while others, such as the Middle East, Black Africa or Latin America, are communities of increasingly shared interest.
The Socialist movement of 100 years ago played a big part in the 20th C yet by the end it was dead. Its core principles - justice, collective action and equity - are relevant for the future, but the application - people's dictatorships and command economies - didn't work. Reality was bigger. Capitalism out-survived it because it is an evolving process.
This doesn't make capitalism right. It makes it a stage, a basis on which the next system will operate. The next system involves a changed psychology - something where the good-heartedness and far-sightedness of humanity prevails, whatever system we live in.
But master-plans have their value, as a tragic kind of mass-education. We learn what's right by experiencing what's wrong and then making a deep moral choice. But we have a habit of perpetuating hardship as long as we can, preferring the known over the unknown.
Yet hanging on to the known eventually invokes the intervention of the unknown. Master-plans provoke a reaction, and the long-lasting pain they can create can clarify things in the collective psyche. 'Never again' is a common driver of history. It united Britain, Germany and France, and one day it will unite Palestine with Israel.
Yet we tend to walk backwards into the future. Solutions often come inadvertently. Except when a visionary innovator identifies the problem clearly and articulates the solution everyone knew but hadn't quite seen yet.
Or except when events force the issue, and The Big Lie crashes down to reveal a whole new situation. Everything simply looks different from that moment on.
Revelation is simply the opening of curtains. Like when the Berlin Wall came down. The curtains reveal what everyone already knows but didn't own up to. Things simplify immensely. It can bring a crisis, but things get straightened out, pretty quick.
We live in vision-weak times, and the challenges before us demand global far-sightedness. We have no neat global roadmap. No vision or philosophy satisfies all people or nations, and the world's public doesn't welcome new grand plans. Filtering existing visions is necessary too: while there is much to learn from traditional beliefs - now including the 20th C faith in modernity, science and materialism - reality is demanding an update in every existing world-view.
One symptom of vision-weakness is fundamentalism. In the West we have had manic free-market fundamentalism, wrapped in a blanket advocacy of freedom which happily disregards the trash and porn accompanying such freedom. It advocates democracy without seeing that democracy in the West has become dysfunctional. Westerners get upset about Muslim fundamentalism because it reminds us of our own unquestioning dogma.
Fundamentalism is a sign of cultural disorientation and uncertainty. It is a protection for eroded beliefs, seeking to reclaim something already lost or to create something the future will not permit. Intolerant and demonising, fundamentalism relieves us of the need to think or feel: just subscribe and conform, and the imams will sort out the rest.
In modern times we think we have a future roadmap, but nowhere is it mapped out. Really it's just more of the same, with some fixes. Globo-capitalism offers prosperity and freedom to all, but this is a market-penetration strategy, not a future agenda for humanity - and it is out of kilter with global, environmental and social needs ahead.
Many big, historic issues are at stake today. To pick just three: genetic cloning, deforestation and the militarisation of outer space - each is a thumping great issue. Modern thinking has few satisfying answers. No one thinks seriously about year 2100. Few consider the guiding principles for the coming decades.
The future is hard to predict, yet we can identify and research possibilities, likelihoods, alternatives, preferences and standards for the future. Do we want poverty, epidemics, droughts, wars and pollution in 2100?
This lack of a roadmap is risky and healthy at the same time. Risky: it is assumed that this century will be a continuation of the last, with some tweaks. Current civilisation is taken to be the best we can achieve, and therefore any change means deterioration, not advancement. Healthy: driving by the seat of the pants looks as if it's the way we're going to go.
Far-sightedness intuitively senses how things might be, seeing beyond today's landscape and horizon. Principles and priorities are crucial, though tactics and ways we get there can be adaptable and flexible.
Visions seem to be best when they're organic and fact-based in format, intuitively unfolded as we go along. But if core principles are lost or eroded, danger looms.
A world vision
A new world vision is needed. An implicit vision for the future does already exist: it talks to us through today's events.
We need to create a world safe to live in, where equity, justice, ecological sustainability and peace are central principles, where everyone may fulfil their potential and get on with each other. Roughly stated, this is the minimum we must achieve before anything else can significantly progress.
Behind current events, this is the message that is running. The biggest missing ingredient is global commitment. Our failure to commit turns the initiative over to 'the power of events'. The hidden purpose of such events is to force choices to be made.
Humanity has a tremendous power to adapt, when pushed. But there are two problems. One is humanity's complexity and resistance to fundamental change, and the other is the world's controlling interests.
The crucial question is timing. What is ahead, and what much of the world does not consciously accept, is a paradigm shift.
This shift started in the 1960s but it has not yet predominated. It involves completely shifting the context by which we see things and the basis by which we do things.
This sounds sweeping and complex, yet it involves a simplification, and the key question is our response to the issues and events presenting themselves to us today. A truth-seeking, healing, reconciliatory approach takes effort and soul-searching, yet it brings multiple, unforeseen benefits, arguably making life easier longterm.
Working far-sightedly involves taking risks and facing demanding situations, with a resolve normally reserved for war. It requires clear, simple, sound principles and objectives, consensus, commitment and a sense of historic process. The unknown is unpredictable, so it can make for a bumpy ride.
This scares many people, yet herein lies a choice: if we wish to reduce crises, we must face, not avoid, them. When we are faced with a geopolitical crisis - several times each year - it lies in our best interests to respond openly by addressing the fundamentals.
In relation to our customary way of creating future history, this is a visionary approach. Yet it is immensely practical.
Untangling polarisation and conflict
The collective unconscious plays an enormous role in history and international relations. It behaves non-logically, yet it has its own coherence. To perceive this one must shift attention to an intuitive way of seeing.
Carl Jung, who developed the idea of the collective unconscious, died in 1961. Just a few years later, the collective unconscious erupted like a gusher: the mid-Sixties. Ideas, perspectives and innovations bore little logical relation to what went before, as if to demonstrate what Jung was talking about.
One concept Jung talked about was synchronicity. When two things happen simultaneously or in close sequence, the connection is significant, even if it makes no sense. In the language of the unconscious it makes perfect sense.
Unconscious imagery speaks in short, pertinent, meaning-rich statements, with no explanations or reasons given. Left in its own domain, it retains its multi-dimensionality, filling any life-scenario
The unconscious talks through two major mechanisms - instinct and symbolism.
An instinct is an unpremeditated, gut-level response - it lashes out when threatened or reaches out to save a child in danger. It can involve a 'feel' for things, a gift or magic touch, an animal intelligence that helps us do the right thing at the right moment - or helps us avoid danger.
If instincts are aberrated, perhaps by fear, traumatic memory, conditioning or education, distorted responses can ensue. Unconscious associations bring up painful or charged memories that pollute our experience and activate inappropriate responses. This happens in geopolitics. It's a major cause of war.
A symbol is a shared unconscious image or scenario stuffed with meaning or charge, often inherited from collective lore, history, deep-memory or shared imagination.
A few suggestive examples: the fairy godmother, the Pyramids, Auschwitz, a crusader, Attila the Hun, Queen Victoria. Their imagery or mythology convey archetypal meaning, feelings or pictures.
Interpreting symbols varies because different people have different dispositions and past experience. 'Christmas' to most Westerners brings up warm feelings and associations, while 'Ramadan' evokes something different - and generally these responses will be opposite for Muslims.
The unconscious emotional charge attached to a symbol affects our responses to situations. Osama bin Laden carried symbolic qualities of Attila the Hun, the Old Man of the Mountain and even Jesus - a mixed bag of imagery that confused many people.
Slavery or mastery
We do not have to be slaves to the unconscious. We can experience psychic or emotional charge and acknowledge it without having to impulsively act it out.
We can accept things as they are, using the imagery within situations to gain added insight. This brings solutions.
In geopolitics, this is important: nations and peoples need to acknowledge their charged feelings and associations as their own, to better understand their and others' responses to situations and to reduce trouble.
Terrorism symbolises a war in the unconscious - you cannot tell when, where and how it will happen, and the threat is just as effective as the bombs themselves, and equally scary. Responses to terror are often instinctive and irrational.
Today we have a fear of epidemics - ebola, SARS, avian flu, MRSA - because they threaten to devastate, and they're unpredictable and uncontrollable. This fear arises from an unconscious feeling that we modern people have gone too far, and we risk comeback and retribution.
Symbolism makes up much of the furniture and wallpaper of our cultural cosmologies. It isn't thought through - it's just there, sourced indistinctly from a long-forgotten past.
We look up to presidents, royals or popes, and down on outlaws, paedophiles or criminals, regardless of the merits of what they actually do, in each individual case. Women can unconsciously seek knights in shining armour and men can seek sleeping princesses to kiss awake.
Symbolism gets woven into facts, tinting our experience. Once, America represented all that was good, modern and free, and now it represents what we don't want, what's passing.
Symbolism has a way of turning around and biting back. It has a life of its own, and it cannot be held down - only recognised and befriended. Our ghosts and ghouls then become glimmers of insight.
Yet we invest reality with symbolism and often form our judgements and decisions around it.
If we are to get to grips with the issues of our day, we need to see beyond the surface and strip out emotional charge, to see things as they are and make good decisions. Fact is, terrorists can be gentle and democracy can be tyrannical. Crises can bring solutions, and security can create nightmares.
The paradoxical logic of the unconscious
One can predict certain events without being a seer, simply by observing the unconscious crazy logic of events.
One law of the unconscious says: chickens come home to roost or, what we sow, that too shall we reap. When watching tanks assaulting a refugee camp, something in us says "This will lead to no good". It all turns around.
In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, each side fulfils the other's worst nightmares. Both sides refer back to the past to justify current actions, without remembering that current actions affect their own future fortunes. It's not a war on the 'enemy': it's really a war on peace, humanity and decency.
This conflict is self-justifying, a vortex from which there is no escape until a change of attitude takes place on both sides: the other side is not the main cause of our problems, and hurting them does not remove our pain.
An ancient Judaeo-Christian teaching says: treat others as you would have them treat you. The full implications of this are enormous. Why don't we practise it?
There are two kinds of communication: intended messages, spoken through words, and unintended messages spoken through body-language, tone of voice, hidden nuances and unconscious self-betrayals. Frequently, double messages are broadcast and the public accepts the explanations given while knowing, deeper down, that they are untrue.
"I did not have relations with that woman" said president Clinton, under oath. Oh, yeah? - the public rumbled it and simply knew the truth was otherwise. Loads of reasons were given by president Bush for invading Iraq in 2003, but much of the public didn't believe him - they knew otherwise. They knew there was a hidden agenda.
It is easy to project imagery on others. Some public figures wear it well. Saddam Hussein tipped Osama bin Laden from the top spot in 2002. Previous bearers such as Castro and Gadaffi slipped into the background. Does this mean they weren't so bad after all?
This is demonisation. Saddam Hussein was dangerous and despicable. But there are more like him, and many other countries had WMDs too. All countries demonise others to make themselves look good.
Demonisation covers up wider truths - it covers the tracks of the accuser. But there is a predictable risk that the tables will turn. The spotlight can fall on the accusers - their own hands are usually dirty.
Shimon Peres, Israeli foreign minister in 2002: "We made an error by giving up our traditional position that says you have to negotiate while fighting terror and fight terror while negotiating. When you decide not to negotiate until terrorism ends, terrorism never ends and the negotiations never begin".
Communication signals thus travel down two separate wires, speaking separately to different parts of our psyches. "Osama bin Laden has evaded detection, and we don't know where he is." Hidden message: "Osama helped us justify invading Afghanistan and, now it's done, we no longer need him".
Keep your antennae up, because official statements betray hidden messages. This is problematic. We need to see through propaganda and disinformation. But education and civilised living teach us to overlook our deeper knowings, disbelieving our instincts and 'uncanny feelings'.
'The media defend freedom of speech' - no they don't, they set out to make profits and serve their owners' interests. Freedom of speech is not a licence to offend, oppress and demonise people.
There's a deeper problem: values and judgements change over time. Old beliefs can be invalidated. Today, growing numbers of people no longer consider warfare, slavery, violence, pollution or fanaticism to be acceptable - yet they were accepted not long ago. The tables turn, and formerly respectable people suddenly turn into criminals and suspects.
This is fine, but today's public hectoring and pillorying can also conceal enormous collective hypocrisies: it is easier to blame a bad guy than to change society and quit demonising. The public needs to take responsibility for its shifts of feelings and blame, with less projection on public figures. Accusing others does not clear us of our complicity.
The world is riddled with double standards. Britain and USA are prudish over sexuality while hosting sizeable pornography industries. Tits-and-bums and pornography are defended on a basis of freedom of expression. Is this not an abuse of freedom? A sad admission of lack of genuine love in society? The British are conservative over sex education in schools, yet UK has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe. There's a bulging, throbbing hypocrisy here.
Double standards are not always hypocritical, since they can reflect changing values. Italy, home of the Catholic church, has one of the world's highest abortion rates and lowest birth rates - public values have changed and the Church lags far behind. Either Italians are rampant sinners or the Church needs to moderate its teaching.
Sweden, one of the world's fairer and most peaceful countries, has one of the highest suicide rates. This arises from long, dark winters and the way Swedes internalise their dark side and bury their spirituality. These are genuine and deep national issues which aren't just simple hypocrisy.
Paradoxes such as these symptomise deep dilemmas in nations' souls - areas of sensitivity they feel unable to resolve alone.
The West and the Muslim sphere each cannot accept the other's hypocrisies. Muslims say Islam is a religion of peace, yet Westerners frequently see Muslims fighting. Westerners dogmatically advocate their own kind of freedom, while directly supporting repressive regimes and contributing to deprivation and conflict in the Middle East. Double standards.
Internal conflict resolution
To relieve ourselves of the guilt of living by double standards, we suppress the negative in ourselves, projecting it onto others, and then we take the moral high ground.
Something in the other party then interlocks with us, and they project back characteristics they do not wish to acknowledge in themselves. It becomes an action-reaction game, a loop of escalating conflict.
By projecting, each side protects itself from owning its own reality, shoving the faults over to the other side. This goes against the longterm interests of everyone and it costs the world dearly.
Yet humanity is locked into a game of mutual projection in which dishonesty and conflict are valued more highly than truth and peace-building.
Conflict resolution through owning our projections threatens to reach down into the dungeons and sink-holes of our societies' souls, where few dare to tread.
Yet confronting our collective ghosts and ghouls is rarely as bad as expected. Often it brings great relief.
The alternatives - war, corruption, disaster and difficulty - are not easier options. Humanity is perversely addicted to difficulty and suffering: our big collective fear is mutual love, respect, support, trust and tenderness. We avoid them like the plague.
Knotty issues are frequently fought out in war. But, as Bertrand Russell once said, "War does not determine who is right, only who is left".
War and violence are indicators of serious social or national failure, arising from low collective integrity, fear and mutual sabotage. They are a death-dealing addiction worse than heroin, and too easy to shoot up. War is a legitimised collective madness in which sane behaviour is suspended. Whipping up war requires dehumanisation and demonisation of the enemy. This, in the fullness of time, dehumanises everyone.
In any conflict, both parties are right and wrong, and they'd better own up to it. There is no absolute right or wrong, only consequences - and we had better choose the consequences we really seek. In war, too many people die before their lives are complete, and too many people's lives are diverted onto sidetracks.
This is a planetary issue affecting everyone. Some might have 'a good war', but this overlooks the silenced dead, injured people and landscapes that have had 'a bad war'. Conflict would disappear if the full costs were reckoned up. We would quit projecting.
What upsets us about 'the enemy' concerns our own behaviour. We might not be doing precisely those things we condemn in others, but what they're doing reminds us of something we are deeply ashamed of. Our upset is proportional to the errors and evils we're covering up.
If we had no need to cover our tracks, others' actions would activate little emotional charge. We would see situations for what they are and deal with them more appropriately.
The war between the conscious and unconscious
In USA, 9-11 shook something deep and genuine in American hearts. To people around the world, the scale of the fuss was difficult to comprehend: when thousands die in Guatemala, Bangladesh, Zambia or Ukraine, few tears are shed.
Thoughtful Americans became aware that their country readily bombed others and thus could expect terrorist assaults. This didn't cause the US government to change its foreign policy, and thoughtful Americans were clamped down on too.
It is difficult for a nation to face its shadow and take ownership of its shame. USA faced this challenge in 9-11: a direct hit that brought enormous implications for American society. It brought an eruption of pent-up imagery and pathos, offering an opportunity for healing. This was not taken up - instead, wrath was projected on Afghanistan and Iraq.
This was followed by gut-wrenching scenes from Afghanistan - humanitarian crises, drought, refugees, medieval-style warriors bearing AK47s and high-tech bombs falling on humble villages. When the Taliban fell, public attention subsided in relief - Afghanistan was soon forgotten.
Many people were compassion-fatigued, needing to switch off. Events had activated deep feelings. But lessons from 9-11 and Afghanistan were not really learned, and the 'clash of civilisations' was not resolved. Instead it was put off until another day.
If the message is not understood or processed and the wounds of the unconscious are not healed, then further events will sooner or later hit home to raise such feelings again. We need to learn this and get things right first time around.
The unconscious is an educator, presenting important lessons to come to terms with. It has remarkable ways of undermining our defences and catching us unprotected.
If we don't get the lesson first time around, it tries again. If we don't get it second time, it changes strategy, striking directly at our blockages against learning.
One message of 2001 was that times of indifference are over. Indifference caused these events. It's now time to feel for our fellow humans, and keep that empathy open. Otherwise, harrowing scenes and further disasters are guaranteed.
The collective unconscious stage-manages collective experience to get ideas and home-truths through to us. Events exist objectively and are caused by objectively traceable causes, yet they interlock magically with deeper unconscious agendas too. They evoke symbolism.
The objective causes and our responses to them are coloured by our inner predispositions - pride, hate, inferiority, defensiveness. These affect national policy and strategy, amplifying reactivity to a degree that further exacerbates the train of events.
There is more interactivity between the-world-out-there and our inner world than we would prefer to believe. This is true personally and collectively. Even 'chance' factors connect with our deeper psyches, whether or not we see that connection.
The bigger chess game
We are all part of a much larger chess-game. This is the ongoing, unfolding movie of the world's soul.
We become unknowing victims of this chess-game by denying the deeper meaning of our experiences, failing to see the bigger picture. To change future history we must acknowledge truths when they face us. This heals conflicts between the conscious and unconscious, reducing the need for storms, quakes and wars.
We see ourselves as free individuals, yet this is a myth. We are part of something much larger, and our choice lies between intentional and unconscious participation in it.
Too often our actions are clouded by unconscious factors that we deny, suppress and have lost control of. Thus we sacrifice our free-will.
To heal the world of its ills, we have a lot of owning-up to do - becoming more conscious. If there is a problem, the solution starts with us, not with the people over there.
The world is a complex interactive organism and, if something happens over here, something will happen over there. Shopping in your local supermarket affects Antarctica.
The consequences of our actions touch people we'll never know or even hear of. Westerners caused what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq and, reciprocally, Afghans and Iraqis cause things in our lives too.
Afghans have wanted for food because we over here have excesses of food. This isn't just a material polarisation. Excess in one place creates deficiency in another, psychologically too. Iraqis have wanted for freedom and security because we abuse and waste them. They suffer surfeits of weaponry because we export arms and conflict to proxy countries, so that we may live in peace.
We have not resolved war, but shunted it on someone else, further away. This is 'dumping'. So, in 2001, while we got upset about hungry, defenceless Afghans for genuinely compassionate reasons, the Afghan scenario also drew our attention to something inside us - our own social undernourishment and vulnerability. An awkward deficiency was exposed. We were being asked to 'own' something.
We are but wriggling cells in a heaving mass of transpersonal psychic-emotional activity, planetary in scale. When we think of the Earth, we think of continents and oceans, but shift your vision and see a writhing ball of thought-and-feeling stuff emitted by billions of people. This is Earth the being.
We are bit-part players in an enormous epic movie, with a vast cast and an unknown director. We believe we're film-stars, but actually we're just bit-parts in an enormous crowd-scene.
The world psyche is one being, and we're its eyes, ears and hands, feeding data into an oceanic repository of experience. It feeds experience back to us, through our inner feelings and the mysterious power of events.
One world, one humanity
Afghans live their lives on our behalf and we live our lives on theirs. Thus the world psyche optimises its total experience. TV and mass media intensify this interactivity, bringing faraway experiences home to us.
What is the underlying aim of this interdependence? The world psyche seeks perpetually to become whole in itself. Where there is imbalance, it creates counter-balance.
If some people get ridiculously rich and indifferent, someone else gets ridiculously poor, unsupported and isolated. As wealth disparities grow, rich and poor feel less included in each others' lives - their worlds separate.
Re-balancing often happens through the agency of things going 'wrong' or by the law of unintended consequences. It should happen by human decision.
To heal the world's extremes and make the world a better place - to lessen the polarity - the extremes need to befriend and reincorporate each other. Crises and disasters, fraying our psychological defences, assist this reincorporation process. Strangely, things going 'wrong' are, in the fullness of time, actually going 'right'. They offer healing opportunities.
There is a further twist to this: when we witness the pathos and pain of others (such as Afghans), they become our teachers. Most countries are not at war, but our societies and our psyches are nonetheless battle-zones. The suppressed feelings amassed in this tumult shift to other places - places susceptible to open conflict - and conflict duly breaks out. Then it becomes our 'theatre', where our inner battles are acted out.
When we watch Israelis and Palestinians wrecking each others' lives, these people help us become aware of issues inside ourselves of which we would otherwise not be aware.
If we truly wish to help them, it helps to look at our own issues and work out our own conflicts.
In doing so we contribute to reconciling polarisation across the world. We do this by reducing the total amount of conflicted feeling within the world psyche.
The resolution we create in our own lives and neighbourhoods gets passed on down the line. If the world as a whole took such an approach, things would change fast. We can build conditions favouring peace.
One of the best things we can do is make contact with people living in circumstances that contrast our own, to bear witness to their situation and allow them to bear witness to ours.
This knits a web of reincorporation, bringing together the disparate bits of the world psyche. The universe seeks balance, and we can help this.
Afghans don't have to live in dire circumstances, just for us. We don't have to live in privileged circumstances to compensate their poverty. This is a state of extremity and imbalance - we need to adopt a middle way.
Comfort and security charge their price: colourless, passionless and stultifying, they spread suffering thinly, making it quiet and insidious. At least with acute pain you can identify and grapple with it. But pervasive, surreptitious pain - the pain of wealth, false security and worry - is difficult to pin down. We call it stress.
From the viewpoint of the soul, it is debatable whether comfortable people are happier and poorer people are unhappier. The soul doesn't judge, it just experiences and bears witness.
Today, humanity has reached a zenith of polarisation, indifference and separation. It doesn't have to be like this.
It arises from a collective paradox in which peaceable people suppress their mutual differences and conflict-ridden people suppress their mutual understanding. Yet the value of such polarised extremity is that it makes us aware of the value of balance and re-bonding in the human family.
We live on the same planet, but polarisation means we live in extremely different worlds. In richer countries, we send aid to disaster victims without realising that they send us aid too - ours is material and theirs is human and socially enriching.
They live lives we don't live, and they give us life-experience we lack. The aid that Afghans send us is human feeling, pathos and poignancy, real-life intensity and an aliveness of spirit.
To bring Afghans back from the edge, we need to take on some of these qualities, investing less in protecting ourselves and more in being truly alive.
We need what Alan Watts once called 'the wisdom of insecurity'. Reciprocally, Afghans need relative security, regularity and enough to live on. But they don't need burger bars.
Economically and psychologically, the world does not have to be acutely polarised. When we see footage of refugees and war victims, whatever stirs or upsets us signals something to us, about ourselves.
Humanitarian concern confronts us with deeply existential questions. We have an unconscious need to witness confrontations in Afghanistan and Iraq to help us raise uncomfortable issues in ourselves, giving us opportunities for compassion, concern and understanding that we lack in our own daily lives.
Don't take such an idea too far, but there's truth in it.
By looking at our unconscious role in creating the equation of conflict, something shifts.
This has enormous geopolitical consequences, exercising a longterm transforming effect on policy-making, conflict-resolution and the state of society.
Conflict transformation. True development. The adoption of true civilisation.
If we deplore terrorism, what role does terrorism play in our own histories? What terror do we foist upon others? What are we a part of that permits terrorism? Does our economy profit from weapons and the creation of hardship for others?
What have we done that we regret? What do we do that others don't like? What can we do to unmake polarisation? Healing ourselves and helping others are part of the same equation.
In the 1980s, USSR realised it could no longer sustain its part in the Cold War. Both sides had undergone massive militarisation, diverting immense resources from other uses.
USSR spent 25% of its GDP on military expenditure, and the domestic consequences were enormous. This mutually assured destruction weakened both sides together: the Soviet bloc suffered shortages and the West suffered pot bellies and saturation - two sides of the same coin.
USSR decided to stop playing. It calculated it had less to lose by stopping, and that it would survive. It did not need USA's agreement.
Suddenly the situation was resolved. Rather quietly, the Cold War ended.
This is called facing truth and making things easy. We need a lot more of this.
Plagues and epidemics
The collective unconscious is stocked with bundles of imagery and energy. Different bundles match every kind of human experience, stacked with kaleidoscopic significances.
It is stocked with heaps of charged emotional gloop, amassed from centuries of unresolved history. These heaps activate other heaps too, in a chain reaction.
The package called 'war' is ready and waiting for anyone with the necessary pent-up feelings to call it up. Events or figureheads raise dormant ghosts, setting in motion trends which inexorably become war - unless someone stops it.
People are quickly infected, and a war epidemic breaks out. People are drawn in, as perpetrators, accomplices, victims or innocent bystanders.
With global media coverage, infection nowadays spreads rapidly. Each nation and person weaves an interpretation and response. War becomes a psychic storm, on and off the battlefield. Nightmares are acted out in a localised 'theatre', yet they disperse and are processed worldwide.
Even in crises we hardly hear of - such as the civil war in Congo, in which 4m people died - we're still unconsciously involved.
This localising factor hits the most unsuspecting places: Beirut and Sarajevo were once known for their cosmopolitan, multicultural atmospheres, yet they came to host the worst kinds of inter-ethnic, factional war. As if light attracts darkness.
Defining moments are important. They jolt the collective unconscious into motion. A fermentation bubbles up to the surface. Questions are raised that no one dared ask. Tsunami-like consequences radiate outwards.
The most definitive moments are those that no one thought possible. Multiple hidden connections are suddenly revealed. The context of life shifts. Poignant contrasts stare us in the face. People suddenly see things quite differently.
A lot is packed into a few hours, days or weeks. It's like a wildfire, flood, seepage, side-swipe or quake. People living up mountains and on islands, unaware of the latest events, are also affected.
Quirky side-effects happen. In the midst of a horrendous crisis can come the most touching, classic moments, times of deep humanity.
A hurricane in Panama can set off earthquakes in the insurance industry elsewhere. Empathies can cross unexpected boundaries, for very strange reasons: when Europeans watched destitute Afghans, Kurds and Kosovans, murky memories of European wars, refugees and pogroms reared their heads.
Empathic connections are made: millions pray, worry and feel for victims. Such focused thought builds up a resonant thrum of collective feeling and attention, a ruminant psychic power unlimited by geography. When millions feel this together, its power multiplies enormously. Women play a big part in this.
It resonates through psycho-space, fired by commonality of feeling. Sometimes a collective shift of values can change everything.
Different people and countries have different levels and kinds of susceptibility to symbolic events. It depends what sits there in their collective psyches.
A technology breakdown such as the sinking of a ferry is, for Sweden, enormous, because the nation has an issue about perfection, safety and control. But in Greece, well, these things happen, and life goes on - Greeks have other neuroses.
To Greeks, anything to do with Turkey brought up centuries of resentments until, in 1998, both nations suddenly suffered devastating earthquakes. There was a paroxysm of mutual sympathy, support and forgiveness. The earthquakes re-framed Greeks' and Turks' feelings, and a miracle happened.
If we let them, such miracles do happen. But we must say Yes when the situation and opportunity comes. And often, the opportunity comes in the form of things going 'wrong'.
This is how deeper ideas, feelings, truths and changes travel. They infect humanity from within, from the heart of humanity's group psyche.
They do so through the agency of events and their symbolism, and through people who embody or give voice to nascent ideas and feelings lurking in the collective cloud of unknowing. The meaning of these events and figureheads lies inside us, and this is where humanity's evolution really takes place.
All cultures have their own way of creating peace. Peace - ending the diversion of war and polarisation - is where the deep reintegration of humanity starts.
To restore the world's extremes of wealth, power and happiness to saner proportions, humanity's heart needs to beat more in tune. It's a process of being virally infected with the liberating disease of oneness, sharing and commonality. Defining moments are the catalysts of this epidemic. Let's get it up to pandemic proportions.
The collective unconscious seeks to heal itself and raise our awareness. Today's stirring events have intensified not only because of globalisation, technology and the media, or because population growth means more people are affected by disasters, and more are emotionally involved.
They have intensified because humanity's psychological change-process has accelerated. Events shout louder and come at us more frequently.
Why? Because we're on the edge of something.
Times of Healing
Lifting the pressure on human society
When times get better, the nightmares, traumas and grinding hardships of the past lighten up or evaporate.
For some this can be an utterly new experience. People come out of hiding, families reunite, social distrust subsides and hope, confidence and public spirit rise. It brings great relief.
There are tricky aspects too. Economic prosperity doesn't constitute a full and proper solution - only a burying of it. Also, humanity is more deeply damaged than we might believe: this means that, when hardships end, there is time and space for deeply buried issues and dilemmas to erupt, making life difficult and emotionally tortuous.
Behind all these lies a hidden twist of human experience: both 'bad' and 'good' times have their compensations.
Hope begins with a paycheque, said Colin Powell in late 2002, pledging aid to the Middle East. True, but not entirely so. Having enough is important, but prosperity does not guarantee happiness and relief: it can be a diversion or offer remedies with questionable side-effects.
Social happiness, if defined by community engagement, mutual support and aliveness of relationships, can sometimes be greater under difficult conditions. Cars and shopping malls increase isolation - people cover their humanity and put themselves first.
The scramble for prosperity brings up big meaning-of-life questions. Prosperity softens raw feelings, yet surreptitiously it drives people against each other, eroding the social bonding that carried people through hard times.
The cessation of gunfire is solely an appearance of peace. In the Cold War we avoided getting nuked, yet immense resources were diverted into arms, conflict-readiness, superpower politics and proxy wars in local 'theatres' - Korea, Vietnam, Guatemala, Angola and Afghanistan.
When the Cold War ended the world was flooded with kalashnikovs, landmines and missiles. Hawkish interests made sure the 'peace dividend' could not be reaped: there were more wars in the 1990s than the 1980s.
To heal, economic growth needs a goal. Once we have attained material sufficiency, what next?
For some people, material growth becomes a dead-end, leading them to quest for meaning-in-life. But this turn-around process can take decades.
After WW2, in the West, it took twenty years for such questing to start and, four decades after that, mainstream society still didn't catch up. Inner growth tends to happen amongst a minority rather than becoming a social-cultural phenomenon.
In recognition of this, clear collective goals need setting if social healing is to come about. Amnesia must be avoided and so too must blame, bitterness or retribution. Offenders must be held accountable and victims need a chance to speak, yet recrimination fuels new strife. A safe public emotional fermentation is needed, drawing on the skill of community workers and the momentum of public consensus.
Concerts, gatherings and festivals help greatly. Aid agencies of the future need to provide support and training in social and spiritual group-process, to help reviving societies find their own ways of moving forward.
There is no neat prescription, but one rule does apply: net forward motion must be felt by all sectors of society.
An outbreak of social forgiveness requires sound moral leadership, with impetus from constructive social movements and reference both to new and traditional values. Traditional Buddhist values have assisted the Vietnamese in forgiving America and Tibetans in forgiving China.
It is frequently asserted that Muslim traditions spawn suicide bombers, but actually they have a much greater peace-bringing effect - it's despair that fuels suicide bombing.
In the late 20th C Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and the Dalai Lama provided positive role models, encouraging moderation and releasing the past. But it is not easy for such individuals to build up such moral stature, and a society cannot rely on finding such tone-setters when big challenges come.
A big precedent was set by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa in the 1990s, not only through his Truth Commissions but also through his broadcast words of wisdom, forbearance and moral encouragement.
He felt for others' pain, encouraging people to tell their stories and to feel heard. Releasing the pain of the past involves much telling of stories. The public needs permission to cry, sing and look after each other, to accept what has happened and move on with neither amnesia nor retribution.
The Truth Commissions were not entirely successful since some former oppressors, offered amnesty in exchange for confession, offered the minimum to gain amnesty, and victims received little redress for their actual losses - so the healing magic was not fully activated.
But the commissions represented progress - and there is further to go.
One clue is to carry forward the positive developments generated in crises: deep human contacts, acts of support and solidarity need to be kept alive - they reap profit from the jaws of disaster.
This can be set in motion by community and religious leaders, pop musicians, authors, artists, teachers or anybody with any moral sway.
Alcoholics Anonymous is possibly the world's largest grass-roots transformation movement. AA engages former alcoholics to help others turn reform into a psycho-spiritual awakening, using mutual support and shared honesty as key mechanisms.
The comfortable nations of the world are themselves disaster zones with ongoing mass tragedies arising from car accidents, addiction, depression and suicide - but these are rated as private misfortunes.
To heal these ills, they need 'nationalising', made into a collective process of social change which removes their causes, not just their symptoms. The world needs to become a happier place, both in conflict zones and peaceful countries.
Virtuous cycles of relief
The aim is to midwife a social heart-opening and an awareness of shared interests. This helps communities surmount critical thresholds in which doubt, fear and anxiety come up, where society dithers on the edge of breakthrough or breakdown.
At this vulnerable point negativity can strike back, causing a pulling back of tenderness and openness. Trouble is, it can be better not to open up sensitivities than to open them up and then fail, since faith in the possibility of healing can collapse.
What is important is the maintenance of forward impetus. Yet moderation and patience are necessary. At the threshold there is often a lack of positive precedents and unsurety in the face of the unknown, causing outmoded, default behaviours to come out.
Crossing this threshold is a crucial factor in the 21st C. We are so familiar with hardship that we instinctively distrust harmony and happiness. We tend to believe that healing and re-humanisation are hard work, riddled with anxiety and complexity.
Yet when we cross the threshold, simple humanity and naturalness are the order of the day. It's a matter of enjoying other people's existence and viewpoints.
The alternative to social healing is healing through personal growth. Many of us have experience in this. Cultural and spiritual regeneration start from the individual and from personal growth.
But personal growth without social transformation causes us to huddle in groups of like-minded people. It can be compromised by pressures to conform. Worldwide, millions of people have undergone personal growth as a result of crises in their own lives.
In the 1960s many changes started as a social transformation movement but, by the 1980s it shifted toward helping individuals adapt their lives to the pressures of living in the existing system. World transformation was quietly set aside.
This splintered the spiritual, psychotherapeutic, healing, ecological, political and lifestyle communities, even though they all focused on aspects of the same big question. Accumulated wisdom, skills and experience percolated by degrees into mainstream Western society, but this is yet to become a sustained social phenomenon.
This movement has no stated philosophy, organisational base, bishops or coordination, yet it has a body of values and a set of methods by which many future solutions can be found. It needs now to return to being a social transformation movement.
Peacekeeping and nation-building
Peacekeepers work hard to stop strife from breaking out, and peace-builders seek to rebuild society's fabric to remove the basis for conflict. Every society has its peace-builders, but some societies are seriously weakened, and peace-builders have been eliminated or exiled.
All societies need healing, but some are acutely damaged - they have had the heart knocked out of them. Each case is unique, and aid recipients need quality help in developing their own ways of helping themselves.
The aid industry has been through vexing times. Aid saves lives and brings big benefits. But it can draw relatively self-sufficient people into dependency, changing their societies in unsatisfactory and unsustainable ways.
The West focuses on giving material aid and 'civil society' institutions of law and order. But this can wreck societies, which have their own inherent, traditional or innovative solutions.
It's not the point to wipe out indigenous healing or agricultural methods, replacing them with (as it happens, more profitable) Western techniques.
It is important to draw on indigenous traditions and facilitate social strengthening to help countries avoid falling into the aid and growth dependency trap.
Today we have a global economic monoculture shaped by the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organisation, replicated across the board worldwide, and this is dangerous longterm for the world as a whole, reducing sociodiversity.
A poor or devastated country has an ideal opportunity to start afresh on its own basis, not only for its own sake but also to promote greater global alternatives, social innovation and a widening of the range of available solutions.
So a new kind of aid and development is necessary. And it's not just a matter of the rich helping the poor: it's a matter of everyone helping everyone. The rich are poor in non-material ways, spiritually disaster-ridden and isolated from the majority.
Back to the future
In the 21st C, all countries are likely to be hit by crisis. Those who have experienced it during the 20th C will probably be the social development pioneers of the future.
Countries that have seen ridiculous devastation and bitter social experience have crossed thresholds others are yet to reach. Social therapy and healing will not be necessary only in disaster areas: the whole world is a disaster-zone. Even peaceful, secure countries are beset with headaches.
In the 21st C social, cultural and spiritual values will be in the ascendancy. This will expose a need for social redevelopment on a global scale - prompted by ecological and climatic crises.
We are likely to see a period in which the rebuilding of trust, reinforcement of community values, and social and international collaboration are the primary issue. Unconsciously, the world is building up impetus toward a lift-off point, a decision point where social changes become irreversible.
A critical synergy-point emerges when a majority chooses to subscribe to a new mindset - sometimes this is a generational shift.
Such a mindset - a body of shared values and a worldview - acts as a containing field which renews behavioural standards throughout society. Drunkenness, child abuse, crime, gun-running, discrimination and corruption fade away, simply because it's no longer cool, safe or profitable to do it.
This has already happened in some areas of life. Torture, child-abuse and ethnic cleansing are no longer acceptable. Values have changed, setting in motion a change-process. This is not always easy: sometimes things can go backwards, as if to make sure the public is clear about eliminating bad practice.
Practices shift slower than values: this arises because conservative elements resist change, because of public naiveté or because of fear that change might bring loss or instability.
The problem is that eliminating gross abuses often involves a larger political and ethical change around which there can be much fear. But overcoming fear and focusing on the advantages of relief changes the ballgame, and healing can move quite fast once there is consensus for it.
Unless collective feeling and consensus are ready and willing, shifts are difficult to engineer without force or complexity. Often it needs a trigger.
This can take the form of a set of poignant events, a catalytic public speech, a 'wildfire' phenomenon at street level, or a crisis or collective realisation which takes people down to the bottom-line questions quickly.
A full-scale disaster doesn't necessarily help because it can stun and debilitate a population and a nation's systems. The most valuable trigger-points manifest in straightforward, less harmful ways, acting to tip a delicately-poised balance toward change.
But the buildup can be long, complex and hard. This involves 'going through it', shedding resistance to change, and dropping old resentments, complexities and ties to the past.
Such trigger moments must be finely tuned, sufficiently impactful to overcome inertia and resistance, but not too devastating. The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 forced the world to face nuclear issues and catalysed a shift concerning the wisdom of high-tech. It laid down a marker for the future.
The death of Princess Diana in 1997 was a small incident, yet it hit the button. The wake-up call was tucked away again afterwards, but a second round will pop up again on another occasion.
In the British war effort of 1939-44, the country transformed its economy and society in two years flat: women took over many duties while males were abroad or at their military posts; society changed to a command-economy footing; industry and resources were mobilised, and immense innovation and improvisation took place.
In crises, things get strangely easier: life is tough at the time but, in the face of hardship, people pull together and many aspects of life are made easier and simpler. Many people who lived through that time remember it as the most significant period of their lives.
Bizarrely, it was a period of love, touching social situations, tender relationships and a certain spirituality - intensified by a shared feeling of good fortune over simply being alive another day.
A trigger-point stalls the mindset prevailing up to that point, forcing a leap into the unknown.
In our day, humanity is actually quite well primed for experiencing such triggering phenomena - in every country and environment, for the poor, the rich and those in between, life has been intense and painful for a long time. The soul of humanity is worn out, if truth be known.
Something has changed since the 1960s: back then, the majority knew little about our planetary situation, but today they know about it and see its signs everywhere. Large-scale denial remains, and with it a pervasive feeling of helplessness, but this is changing by critical inches each year.
People have now heard and figured out the situation, even if they carry on with their routines. Undercurrents flowing beneath the surface of daily, official normality have changed things profoundly in recent decades.
We are primed for change. Our true readiness for it is something we cannot assess until afterwards, because there is a surprise element, and we don't know what's coming.
We are well defended against disruption and disorder, so the trigger has to be unpredictable. Yet humanity is good at last-minute fixes.
Arguably, we have been ready for change for two or more decades, but one matter is crucial: the change-trigger must penetrate mass experience to an extent that it catalyses a wholehearted and widespread shift. It must be all-encompassing, overriding blocking and corrupting tendencies.
Not everyone is carried along by such shifts. People who have a vested interest in the old order can encounter difficult times. It is easier for the young and the socially-mobile.
The nub with cutting-edge situations is that, since no one knows exactly where to head, necesity becomes the mother of invention. The rules change, and this re-draws the social map, creating outcomes no one visualised before.
Nexus-points of change
The world is very polarised and, while this continues, the disadvantaged, even if walled off and isolated, will always exercise a drag-effect on the privileged and their aspirations.. Both pay a price for polarised separativeness.
Israel's policy has been to build physical walls to contain Palestinians, and current thinking tends toward separation and independence for the two peoples, yet separation costs both sides dearly. The real need is for fundamental healing of the rifts between them.
The solution requires a leap of visionary pragmatism and trust-building: a longterm strategy of integration of the whole Middle East, de-emphasising borders and allowing the region's ethnic groups to reintegrate along social rather than territorial lines.
Israel and Palestine are now very isolated countries. A dark, nihilistic cloud has settled on the land, an unconscious urge to make things so bad that something deep shifts.
This psycho-spiritual battle of attrition is not unique to them, but they have taken it further than most.
The darkness benighting Israel and Palestine is a strange product of its light: shadows gain sharper definition in light. But here comes the good news: in the paradoxical logic of the unconscious, the extremities of hate, fear, suffering, darkness and polarisation signify an impending rebirth and reintegration.
Israel and Palestine together form a microcosm, acting as a lightning rod for divisive problems worldwide. A global drama is being played out in a localised theatre of conflict.
This implies that the conflict could be fundamentally resolved when the world de-escalates divisiveness globally. Also, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolves itself, the world will be healed by it. It is like a localised cancer in the world body: the world must be involved, yet Israel and Palestine must heal themselves.
This would create an exchange and de-polarisation between the world and the localised theatre of conflict. The badness evident in the Middle East is a sign of the goodness that could come - if people allow it. The locked-up incapacity of Palestine and Israel to resolve their problems is a sign that things could turn around quite quickly.
This might be too far 'outside the box' for people in the area to see, yet God moves in strange ways. Expect surprises.
Treading the edge
Optimistically, the scale of world conflict today suggests that humanity is trying unconsciously to make itself sick of it, to generate commitment to conflict-resolution. We're making things so bad that the world is 'tempting fate'.
Part of us yearns for a new world - a safe, sensible and sane world - and the other part fears taking the plunge. We are trying to force ourselves to change.
Some people anticipate that the world is heading for a disaster and time of tribulation. This archetypal fear lurks in the collective unconscious.
But it is miscalculated: we have already been living through times of tribulation. Sure, things can get worse, but that is our choice, not an inevitable, predestined process. We've had enough experience to sort this one out.
Meanwhile, amidst the horrors of today, look for the golden clue: we are wearing out our resistance to a change we know to be inevitable. There's another thing too: we'll be happier once we've done it.
This is not all. When things start changing for the better, we tend to relax, enjoying the change. There is a honeymoon period before serious matters set in.
The problem is, deep issues are buried underneath shallower ones, and once the shallower ones are relieved, the deep ones have space to start coming up.
There might be willingness to tackle issues, but we cannot do everything at once. This brings us to an awkward issue: sometimes changes and improvements have to be slowed down, and social energies must be contained, to allow them out in manageable doses.
But there is no going back to old methods of control or suppression. And to some extent, all people need to be self-regulating - wise and aware.
Neither can we go back to ignoring the situation, because in doing so we are consuming the world, creating a global crisis on many fronts.
So it's not visions, morals, philosophies or religions which will bring the change: facts, realities and the absence of choice will bring it. In this way, disaster can be a gift.
Crisis and social revelation
To keep civilisation ticking over, we pretend that everything is in control and perfectly normal. If we have money, creditworthiness and the right credentials, then we can often continue in this belief, avoiding many of the misfortunes others experience.
In the public domain, politicians and bankers make upbeat economic assessments and, if the news is downbeat, it is presented as a downward blip in an otherwise buoyant economy. This props up confidence, to keep things stable. Perceived reality is based on belief.
This is all fine when true, but it is blatantly dishonest and propagandist when it isn't. People want to believe everything will carry on as normal, building mutually-reinforced mindsets to perpetuate a cosy picture. People will even hang on to unhappiness, because it is the 'devil they know' rather than the Great Unknown.
But facts can overwhelm this picture. As facts pile up, dishonesty and self-persuasion can grow too, to breaking point, until breakdown forces everyone to change together. There is an element of chicanery here, though it also demonstrates how people can get stuck in a dangerous mindset, trying to fend off reality with beliefs.
All this changes when things turn belly up. When this happens, the delicate juggling act we all participate in starts breaking down - and the trouble is, if one ball is dropped, the whole routine starts falling apart.
In recent decades we have seen shocking crises which have at times hit people deeply - nuclear accidents, famines, civil wars, abominations of many kinds. Stirring issues have come up in most people's personal lives too.
Perpetual news-feed, presented daily in the same urgent tone as if to give a politician's statements the same weight as a disaster killing 10,000 people, undermines any sense of proportion and significance in world events.
Slower but crucial historic trends such as population growth, cadmium pollution or the spread of AIDS get lost in the parade of murders, scandals and judgements shovelled out of newsrooms - and everyone gulps it down with great seriousness.
Concerned though many people are about the state of the world, few have time to give it more than passing attention.
So the environmental crisis or a serious famine are set aside in the rush: what a shame, I sincerely hope things improve, and now I must get on with other things - there's nothing I can really do about it anyway.
Yes, there is a lot we can do.
Dry rot, wet rot
Deeper down, something else is happening. It's a separate track on which a part of ourselves notes the state of the world more deeply. It identifies with suffering people, feels their feelings and intuits things our brains don't want to look at.
It notes the intense pathos of the modern world:
those Ukrainian children whose lives have been shortened by fallout from Chernobyl;
the young Ethiopian parents of today who lost their own parents in the 1980s famines, still watching their kids starving both for food and adequate explanations;
the forest people who landed in shanty towns ages ago and still live there, rooting through the rubbish dumps for scraps;
and the Palestinian family who escaped the Shatila bombardments in Lebanon in the 1980s, who returned to Ramallah only to see their house being bulldozed by the Israeli military because their desperate daughter killed herself as a suicide bomber.
A battle rages in the hidden corners of our hearts and guts. We have quarantined these secret areas, as if they host disruptive infectious diseases. The disease is the humanity within us, our sense of natural justice and craving for genuine happiness.
The tension between behavioural propriety and deeper humanity rubs along well enough until something demolishes our defences.
This often takes the shape of a personal crisis - we fall ill, our spouse leaves, a parent dies, our teenagers tell us to go hang, we find ourselves 'released' from employment or a feeling creeps in that we're stuck in a rut.
Something collapses and we get disheartened. Suddenly we're faced with putrid, unprocessed, guilt-clamped, painful feelings we ought to have faced years ago. Derailed, we flounder and thrash, making things worse. Then we get angry, blaming this or that, or ourselves. Then we give up, abandoned and lost. We feel there's nothing we can do.
This is problematic, yet also a point of grace, even though convention holds it to be a misfortune. It doesn't feel like a gift, but it is. It has taken years to build up to this point of implosion and, now, at last, we are here, finally stopped in our tracks with nowhere to turn.
Our vitality, fortunes and friends ebb away and we find we are stuck in a slough of despond. Strangely, when that no-choice feeling comes up, we possess enhanced free-will to a degree rarely experienced.
It offers an option to make fundamental choices. Will we make use of this moment?
The devil we don't know
What is most scary here is that the available solutions usually lie outside our known frame of reference.
Sure, the doctors, experts and magazines tell us to gobble anti-depressants, pull ourselves together or get another job - thereby keeping the issue and the responsibility private. But something has become flat and lifeless. If we're honest, we know we've reached the end of the road and a fundamental change is needed.
This intractable state is a sign of an impending level-shift. What happens next is a matter of choice - with no options ruled out. This is a social, systemic and a personal issue, and the matter is utterly up to us, individually and collectively.
When all is said and done, the solution is often easy. Magic solutions have a way of emerging when we have given up on all else. The difficult bit is getting to that point. We get there when we have laid aside our ifs and buts, our strategies, rationales, excuses, complexes, evasion tactics, reservations and taboos.
The solution is activated when we accept things as they are.
The awkward bit is that we must usually bravely wave goodbye to the past before the future reveals itself. We must cross the threshold without props, insurances and return tickets - stark naked, at least metaphorically.
This openness, even if reluctant, is a surrendering of free-will, yet it activates a higher level of free-will, a greater causal power, unfettered by dishonesties. Things look different in that place.
Things we once ruled out become very relevant, imperative. The option before us is the alternative we consistently refused to countenance, the one we most feared and avoided.
The dissonance between the conflicting parts of ourselves suddenly resolves into a single signal. Phew, at least I'm alive! The contradictions, the psychological armouring, the globs of guilt and regret have gone, and I'm a different person!
It is like a cleansing, a relief, a coming-to-peace. The situation might not have changed, but everything just looks and feels different. Problems become assets. We're no longer driving with the brakes on. Miraculously, it's alright.
The problem, when accepted, becomes a solution. But things had to go wrong in order for everything to change and turn out right.
Alignment with the Big Picture
All of us have breakthrough experiences. As soon as we let go of panic, rigidity and complexity, the solution comes. As if by magic, or blessed by divine intervention.
It is perfectly simple, but we just didn't see it - we were walled into a box of conditions, arrangements, fears and immovably chained factors. The house had to burn down for us to rediscover how fortunate we are. The money is lost and yet we are richer than before.
So, strangely, sometimes the big solution comes when we give up trying to find it.
This is a personal process, and millions of people go through it. Often life ordains that we go through it on our own, to make sure we really feel it and mean it. When we've cracked the issue we discover others who know what it's like - they've been through it too.
But it is we who had to change, to get there.
Society usually judges our mishaps as exceptions rather than norms, and as failures rather than breakthrough-opportunities.
Yet the divorces, car crashes, bankruptcies, cancer cases and suicides of today are the nexus by which social change incrementally grows. It doesn't have to be this way, since timely wisdom and foresight would remove the need for, or at least change the nature of, many such misfortunes.
But since we repeatedly suspend foresight and fail to own our own responsibility for our situation, we also choose to receive consequences which often come as misfortunes.
Einstein once said: "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former".
'Isolated cases' of misfortune are actually a mass phenomenon touching everyone, including the rich and powerful. The Great Cosmic Can-Opener has a backlog of orders.
What would happen if this tide of private, localised mishaps escalated to critical mass, bursting its banks and going public, going large-scale? If it became a mass phenomenon, the gravity-centre of normality would shift to embrace it.
Suddenly, the people who aren't changing would have problems. This happened when the Iron Curtain fell: those who had invested most in the old order were left stranded, nonplussed and disoriented in the new landscape.
Intensity escalates to epidemic proportions and, overflowing the critical threshold, the dam breaks. Disaster strikes anyone too slow to get out of the way, and a new factuality emerges. Everything becomes re-contextualised in the new framework, and only current essentials matter. The past is gone.
This isn't easy, but the greatest paradox is that, on balance, everything does become easier than before, because it corresponds more closely with facts. Force majeure - overriding reality.
In law, force majeure means an unforeseeable set of events releasing a person from the fulfilment of a previous contract.
Our debts, credits and previous arrangements are rendered null and void or greatly changed. Though this is no release, since the details of the new situation are a consequence of the past, and we are faced full-square with those consequences.
For some, this becomes a miraculous solution, and for others it represents a judgement and sentence. In medieval times this was regarded as divine retribution: it isn't really - it's just the power of consequences.
The strange tendency of humans is that, the closer we get to such truth-conflagrations, the more we delude ourselves they will not happen. Why do we do that?
In the early 2000s, we invest vast energies persuading ourselves that everything is alright - even though we know it isn't. We create rationales, excuses, entertainments, diversionary escapes, get-out clauses, get-arounds, and we try to make changes which don't really change anything.
We don't want to face what we know we need to do. We're desperate to believe we're at the pinnacle of history. But we are not. And we're heading for a Great Accounting.
Something else is happening. Just when we think things are fixed and sorted, change is on the horizon. But this will involve some falling apart, to loosen us up.
The choice lies between loosening things up by decision - an option we have had since the 1960s, but we've failed to take it - or by force of events, whether or not we like it. We're in a calm before the storm, becalmed by the intricately smoothed-over, explained-away contradictions, the excluded weaknesses and the concealed glitches we are about to correct.
To many seasoned observers, it is surprising the time of correction hasn't started yet. Humanity has been on the edge of it for decades.
Two things have delayed such change: first, the feeling that we can get away with not doing it and, second, background vested interests and the backing we give them by acting as mini-vested interests.
Vested interests retain power because the mass of humanity hopes everything will work out okay. Apart from a few brave, adventurous souls - actually millions, but still a minority - most people busily avoid a showdown with reality, privately and publicly. Just pay with your credit card. Stave it off for another day.
This leads to an insidious conservatism overriding even the deeper preferences of the people who practise it. It is not thought through: it's just a fear of change and of rocking the boat.
Here lies the positive value of dangerous and obstreperous characters such as Saddam Hussein or President Bush - or choose any tyrant from the movie cast of your life. They, like all of us, are part of the human collective, actors in the shadowplay of the unconscious, enacting a role which forces us all into a corner to face our truth.
Bullies, liars, manipulators and persecutors force us to face our deepest fear, that of rising to our full stature and standing up for what we genuinely believe in and choose.
Tyrants will disappear when humanity has unequivocally clarified its sense of what we're all truly here for. Of all the planetary-healing secrets in this book, this is one of the most crucial. It is a deeply spiritual question.
So what are we all really here for?
Shock and awe
We're heading for a showdown, as an inevitable consequence of our choice thus far to evade reality.
It is common to assume that a catastrophe could happen. This might or might not be the case, though it will certainly be psychologically catastrophic for many people - and for others it will be a matter of relief or a mixed bag.
'Apocalypse' means revelation, not catastrophe. 'Revelation' means to uncover or make visible what previously was unseen. We nowadays live in a situation where cultural impressions, beliefs and illusions are being confronted by facts. This is revealing - this is the revelation.
It has been the story of the 20th C, with its desertification, blanket-bombing and concrete-paving of paradise. In the 21st C this friction and confrontation will become ever more acute until facts win.
This might be avoided if we make fundamental policy-decisions and change our way of operating, voluntarily. The use of belief to bury realities has had its day. We've already experienced 'the war to end all wars' and various other superlatives, but we still have not changed our basic patterns.
The belief in an inevitable showdown is called millenarianism - the notion that a time will come when the angels will come down on Judgement Day, or the ETs will land, or the Earth will heave, or the sky will change colour, and have no escape.
This is Manichaeism, after the Iraqi prophet Mani around 250 CE in Persia. Mani saw life as a conflict between light and darkness. The role of religion was to release particles of light within the darkness of materiality and human actions, to re-spiritualise earthly life. Mani was executed, but his idea has stayed with us since. Not only religious doctrine keeps this idea alive: the disaster-inducing nature of our civilisation gives it power, and environmental scientists have their own version too.
Our civilisation is based on overriding nature's rules and the 'will of God'. It doesn't have to be like this - we can also work with nature. The urge to conquer nature went critical around 700 years ago, after the Black Death. Europeans felt reality had collapsed and God had let them down. They felt freed of past obligations, as if they could change the rules as they wished. Something snapped in the Western psyche.
This birthed our resource-gulping, growth-without-bounds modern system. Immense confidence, bravado, inventiveness and exploitation were fired up. But something else lurked behind it: a creeping feeling there will be a price to pay - but hopefully not while I'm alive.
To escape this dread, a psychology of short-termism and individualism came about - you may do whatever you like as long as you can get away with it. This was weighted in favour of the system's beneficiaries who, by the blessings of God, luck, inheritance or hard work, did best by it.
For whom the bell tolls...
Is a crisis inevitable? Unless there is something big we have not yet seen, yes, it is.
Does it mean there will be an enormous world disaster? Well, it looks like that, but it doesn't have to be so.
This is primarily a crisis of consciousness. But it's a question of whether our awareness precedes or follows facts and events. Earlier, when we examined world events as a manifestation of the collective unconscious, a critical issue was noted: it is not disasters but poignant, symbolic, sharp-edged, emotionally-charged situations that awaken public feelings.
Millions can die, and this causes the vexed scratching of heads and generous contributions to disaster relief, but little more. But if one person dies unexpectedly, who embodies something sharp and potent in the mass psyche, the resulting eruption of feelings can overwhelm everyday functioning in ways that far-off disasters, however big, do not.
It is not the scale of an event that matters, but what it says to deeper awareness. The human psyche is like a minefield, and irregular, unplanned-for, charged events can cause fuses to blow. These fuses can activate pleasure or horror, but the nub of the issue is what it does to human awareness and actions, and how it heals and resolves major issues.
When Princess Diana died in 1997, an emotionally stiff nation - Britain - fell apart. It forgot what it was doing and went into a mass process. Millions of tears fell, but the nation did not break down. Car accidents, crime rates, hospital admissions, violence and drunkenness plummeted. Scientific experiments studying randomness found that chaos declined and coherence increased dramatically - even in distant places like Chile.
So the coherence and focusing of millions of people's attention has a way of resolving many crucial social problems quite quickly - as a side-product. In other words, many of the world's problems arise because of the customary dissonance and jangle of the modern world.
Not only this, but the measured coherence trend started 24 hours before Princess Di's death. Similar effects were observed at 9/11 too.
Social forgiveness, intimacy, friendliness, demonstrated vulnerability and emotion and a sense of spirituality increased radically, in spontaneous response to what had happened. This changed social atmosphere sets up a mass resonance-field, a potent time of power and choice.
All this resulted from the death of just one person. Just after Diana, Mother Teresa died, creating a similar effect in India - the death of this 'good Christian' stirred up millions of Hindus and Muslims. What was the 'hidden factor X' here?
It was the awkward uncovering of unexpected connections in deeper consciousness, with the extra spice of losing people who were deeply valued and customarily under-appreciated. It prised open a gap in our defences - we fell apart. Strangely, though we're so well-trained to resist vulnerability, we welcome such situations. It makes us feel human and alive again.
...It tolls for thee
The crises that hit us hardest are not the largest-scale events.
It is often smaller events that catalyse an accelerated fermentation deep down in the collective unconscious - bringing up issues, scenarios and connections that no one had quite figured out before.
But the crucial ingredient is that we have no rationales to cover it, no avoidance strategies to escape it. It hits us in a soft, susceptible place where we become deeply disturbed. We cannot lay the matter to rest. That's what awakens the deeper feelings inside us - feelings of fear, compassion, expanded seeing, impending change, revelation of naked truth, exposure of the consequences of actions and inactions we didn't want to look at.
Meanwhile, a large-scale catastrophe can numb people and render them useless, because there is too much to deal with, and people retract their sphere of thought and action into a small space - understandably, protecting themselves.
So, if you were God, with a master-strategy in which you were trying to awaken humanity, you'd resort to enormous disasters only as a last-ditch measure, when all other options had been tried.
Indeed, if you were God, and you were master-minding an intricate game called 'Life', to teach souls how to understand the godliness within themselves, then you would design that game to make events reflect and interact with what is going on inside those souls, so that they can get the message independently through their own experience.
And if this were the case, then the key issues you would write into the movie-script would be those which generate the most feeling amongst movie-goers - to get them worked up about it.
The difference between the Bhopal disaster in India in 1984 (a lethal chemical leakage) and the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 (a nuclear meltdown) was that Chernobyl, though a local disaster, threatened the whole world. Bhopal exposed corporate negligence, state complicity and the cruelties of capitalism, but that didn't hit most people's insecurity buttons.
Both were terrible disasters, but while Bhopal raised noises of disapproval, Chernobyl raised fears of the end of the world. And that's a big fear. It affects all of us.
Chernobyl brought a revelation, an apocalyptic moment: something moved in the collective psyche which has not since moved back. It has been papered over, but it has not gone away. Whereas, tragically, Bhopal and those who suffered the consequences, could be forgotten and pretty much have been.
A God's-eye view
Let's look at this from a movie-director's viewpoint. Imagine you're God. If that doesn't suit you, think of yourself as humanity's oversoul - the bit that coordinates the overall collective plot. You have quite a challenge on your hands.
You don't want to override humanity's free-will with Your Divine Will, because You've invested millennia setting up a planetary experiment with tremendous potential outcomes, and you don't want to blow it now.
These guys on Earth, with their free-will, have created an amazing and unique planetary dilemma. In the pursuit of happiness, they are killing the very basis of life.
So, as God, You're sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting to see the outcome of this nail-biting drama. Will they make it in the end? You cannot intervene, even though many humans are suffering, because this would override the main agenda of getting these humans to learn how to take responsibility.
Like a good teacher and parent, You decide to set up a scenario where these people may learn the crucial lesson themselves, under their own steam.
Trouble is, these people have become so skewed as souls that they devise a seeming infinity of ingenious ways to evade the issue and get things wrong. Like defiant teenagers, they want to do it their way - they're free-will fundamentalists.
But there's an extra twist to this: they might have a spark of genius to resolve things in ways You hadn't yet figured out - the hope of every true parent is that their children will do better than they.
So, like a parent with a son who has just bought a motorbike, you just have to let them ride it, and you hope for the best. You provide a stream of learning opportunities, but the rest is over to them.
But You, God, are learning something new. You would not have thought up cans of beans, cruise missiles, pornography, DDT, credit cards, money or even independent sovereign nations - these are all a product of exclusively human creativity and imagination. These human creations open up possible scenarios that even God hadn't thought up.
Also, the extent of human mutation and creative ingenuity means that they're greater experts in running Your world than You are, God. They've changed things so much that even the seasons don't work like they did.
It's a question of setting a learning-trap for these humans to fall into of their own free-will, a lesson they will really learn from - finally, crucially and irreversibly. Engineering a situation that they create themselves, which highlights their full responsibilities and offers them an inescapable defining choice.
Tricky. This has many logistical problems. It has to be set up very carefully. These humans are very good at not learning the main lessons of their experience.
Perhaps the best thing is now to trick them from behind, so that they're unaware they're being tricked and they don't put up defences. Let their self-destructive patterns creep up on them until it reaches a critical point that brings all the disparate issues into one bundle.
This means slowing down the crisis so that it falls into place gradually, so that the alarm bells are carefully coordinated to go off at once. Give humans the impression they are succeeding - this relaxes them. Then give them an overdose of, to them, unintended consequences.
Thing is, once they get off their butts, humans are brilliant. Although 6-7 billion of them are a large burden on the Earth, they're also potentially a tremendous big team. If only they can be tricked into working together.
There's only one way: get them to realise that they're all in the same boat. That they are threatened by a bigger threat than the threat of each other.
The realisation that they are all in the same boat and share the same essential purpose and direction creates increased resonance. This, we have seen, can change things, quite quickly reducing the scale and impact of crises.
Opened up, people en masse tend to respond more flexibly to change than when they are in their regularised realities. But the shocks needed to awaken humanity to its situation should be strong enough to work, but not so strong that they stun humanity and force it into survival mode.
So God, watching the anthill of humanity, awaits his moment. This can only be done once, and perfectly. The price of anything less is high.
But then, a much easier way than this is for humanity to make its own decision. And act upon it, as a matter of utmost priority. Whether we think in terms of God, nature and the Earth, the collective psyche of humanity or humane values and justice, the need is the same.
Okay, visualisation over.
One of the points behind this tale is this. In the 1960s we had the beginnings of a world revelation. In the 1970s we gained verification and understood more of the details. In the 1980s we were able to choose and implement our choices - we mostly didn't. In the 1990s, with only a little progress, the heat was increased a notch and the craziness was multiplied. By 2000, humanity might have done the business.
But no, we still needed more persuading. Or perhaps we needed something to happen despite ourselves. Or perhaps we just need to pull our fingers out. Who knows, but we are now in the final approaches to an endgame.
The sign of this is the escalating ridiculousness of world events and the scale of the climatic and environmental issues before us.
We now live in times where what once were idealistic dreams have now become pragmatic solutions. We might not like this prospect, but everything needs to change. Because it is the basis by which things work that lies at the heart of the problem.
And our civilisation works the way it does, at root, because of our ideas and beliefs. The way we see life. Our perceived reason for being here.
We have the necessary knowledge - and what we don't know is within our reach. Six billion people are available for mobilisation. We don't know what will happen next, but we'll just have to improvise the response.
The global matter at hand is to see things differently - the rest follows from that. New solutions will emerge which previously we did not see.
Mass-psychologically, the situation is enormous - the task is as improbable as getting six billion people off a heroin habit. It's a matter of humanity's getting real and seeing things as they are. It is a matter of choosing to respond differently to events and situations before us, on a global scale.
If we must cut down trees, twenty need planting for each one felled. If we seek to deal with terrorists, remove the reasons they resort to terror. If it's a matter of dealing with poverty, help affluent people get closer to the rest of humanity. If it's war, set in motion a serious downsizing of all military resources everywhere. If it is resource-exploitation, change the pricing system so that the full price is paid.
Work to remove the dishonesties, injustices and rigidities in the system. Work to shift collective thinking away from self-interest toward an understanding that we're all now in the same boat. Such things might sound difficult, but they are easier than the alternative.
The alternative is force majeure. When and how it manifests is a void question because it is already in progress.
It manifests as weather extremes, conflicts, tragedies, shoot-outs, market spikes, unnerving revelations, social madnesses, unpredictables and richly-charged events that eat away at our finer sensibilities.
It usually manifests in intensely localised formats, but this is a redemptive device to help us learn without having to sustain more damage than is absolutely necessary. It is important not to stun and stunt humanity's capacity to awaken and change by incurring total disaster.
Here's our clue. If the assessment in this book is correct, then the defining circumstances catalysing major global change might well be localised too - even if it is intense, painful and damaging for the people and landscape it lands on.
Oh, and here's the rub: it might not just fall on Palestinians, Iraqis or Congolese. They've done their bit. It might fall on us.
The critical factors are the symbolic poignancy of the situation and the wider chain of implications and consequences it sparks off.
What makes the big difference might just be one single factor, but its triggering effect matters most.
One possibility is a crisis in capitalism. This could be rapid, owing to the volatility of global financial markets and the critical importance of psychological confidence as an anchor in the global economic system. Let's suppose that the economies of a few countries collapse, causing implications which spread to other countries.
In response, major financial institutions are forced to rethink, and they decide to change the rules of world trade, finance and debt-repayment. Failing to do so might collapse many other economies and undermine those institutions themselves - self-preservation instincts are a powerful force.
The effects of such a change could be enormous. It could indeed plunge the world economy into crisis, but less of a crisis than what would happen if the change failed to happen. The implications would spread rapidly across all societies.
But a hypothetical crisis such as this does not automatically change everything: what needs to shift is our way of seeing things. It is simply the realisation that we are all in the same boat, and we sink or swim together. The rest proceeds from there.
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