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.

Spiritual visionaries


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.


NEXT: Owning Up

© Copyright Palden Jenkins 2005-08. You may print out single copies of the material on this site for personal or small-group use or study, in a spirit of fair play. Larger quantities, commercial or website reproduction - anything more than fair-use quotes - . Thanks. Palden Jenkins.