The raising of latent dynamics into consciousness takes place though unintended brinkmanship. There is a law of the unconscious which states, if you're unsure of where you stand, situations will arise to test and force the issue until you're clear.
In the collective arena, characters and events come along to highlight sub-acute issues that seek exposure: terrorists, dictators, errant executives and public figures, 'accidents', weather extremes, political gaffes and other mishaps create turbulence in the prevailing winds of shared human values.
These agencies precipitate situations in which the public is obliged to clarify its gut-reactions. If clarification comes, something shifts, and if it doesn't, the issue is commuted to another day - but meanwhile it has moved an inch forward and will later start from a different place.
There is a countervailing force to this expanding awareness too, called 'compassion fatigue'. This is an exhaustion of openness and vulnerability in response to the pressures of living in a residually insensitive world. The interaction of openness and fatigue poses a sharp, historic option: either we all go home, yielding to the repetition of patterns of the past, or we stand up to assert a new world where relative openness, trust and vulnerability are able to grow and become the norm.
In the next twenty or so years, we are likely to face repeating instances where this sharp-edged counteraction arises. The concrete issues will concern politics, war, climate, disasters, economic and social change, but the subtle issue underlying all of these is change versus non-change - whether or not to shift the fundamental basis on which we humans form our values and create our future.
There will probably come a large-scale crisis where this question faces us full-square and unavoidably. We have already seen practice-runs such as the early-1960s Cuba missile crisis or the 'nuclear winter' scares of the 1980s. The crisis (or a series of them) that is yet to come is likely to present us with a choice leading to a global shift of awareness - possibly surreptitious at first - a watershed which reconditions all other questions and priorities.
It could form around the question of the legitimacy and effectiveness of geopolitical and governmental structures, and the systemic changes needed in order to bring about a solution to the risk of global disaster. It will highlight the question of whether energy follows form or form follows energy - global perestroika. But the story will not end there.
Here comes another law of the collective unconscious: once a shift is made, the universe presents us with specific instances where we are asked to reaffirm the decision and take it as far as it must go. The universe wants to know 'are you sure?'.
When our descendants look back on the 21st Century, the initial shift of values will be regarded as but the start. The big historic issue will be the realistic carrying-through of the necessary changes such a shift brings. This could take decades: it takes decades to plant forests, redesign cities, heal social pain, develop new technologies, stabilise new ecological balances and accommodate new world-views and social changes. This is where the real, historic test lies.
When fundamental world change begins to unfold, the world will enter a period in which outcomes will be unknown for some time.
This will be helped and hindered by a new sensitivity that humanity is developing. During the 20th Century this sensitisation has taken place in the personal domain. During the 1990s it leaked into the public domain, activated by humanitarian disasters which awakened substantial collective sympathies.
While we survived the outrages of the 20th Century by living in a state of collective insensitivity, as a psychological defence-mechanism, the future involves adopting a permanently heightened sensitivity, bringing with it a collective sense of responsibility that was lacking in the last century.
There might even be a period of hyper-sensitivity and guilt-apportioning which could produce tricky situations and demand careful navigation. Perseverance will be needed, fostered by an overall willingness to face thorny questions and stay on the case. Tangled, trying problems and paradoxes will be an integral part of the game, and human sanity and maturity could be sorely tested. This is part of the process: humanity's oversoul will be asking us "Are you sure you want to go forward?"
The politics of the future will not resemble the left-right ideologies of the 20th Century, both of which were equally materialistic, capable of devastating the world and wrecking the lives of humans. The new politics is a politics of awareness which distinguishes holistic, wider and longer-term considerations from narrower, more limited-interest perspectives.
The former regards other species, nationalities and world-views as equally valid and relevant to our own, with personal and wider interests intimately connected. The terrorists and troublemakers of the future are likely to have a need to shut down awareness, restore fear and set a spanner in the works of change. Though frustrating, such influences will have a sharpening effect, counteracting the tendency to indulge in self-satisfaction or prematurely believe the problem has been cracked once things start looking better.
Another likely challenge is mass-therapy and healing: when these gain momentum, a wave of resolution and a relaxation of defence-mechanisms is likely.
But then, trouble starts. Integral to this process, more than what was expected could come up. When trust and forgiveness rise, deeply-buried issues can surface which, previously, were covered over by pressing, blatant issues. Social solidarity could be tested and new cats set amongst new pigeons.
These historic hurts go back centuries - ultimately, to the breakdown of human tribes and their 'ring of power' in long-forgotten times. They are a sign that the ring of power is seeking to re-establish itself. Particularly strong here is the tendency to blame and project responsibility on others when, in the final analysis, responsibility is collective. This truth-process will need very careful navigation, to avoid a welling-up of vengefulness and destructivity, driven by sensitivity.
During the 21st Century humanity is likely to be taken to a point where the final question is posed: survival or disaster? This could come in a series of phases, with the first possibly within the present or the next decade. This question has rumbled for around for decades, but there are levels to this truth-process that must be encountered layer by layer in order to weed out deeply-embedded self-destructive human tendencies.
Here lie the greatest potential miracles, the bottom-line, final issues of existence. They could be posed in potentially dark situations where doom looks likely and mass madness of a daunting kind could threaten. They might not look like it, but they are symptoms of a progressing enlightenment.
The picture being formed here is therefore one of significant progress in the next sixty or so years, but not without significant challenges. As the world's systemic problems are addressed and resolved, the stakes will also rise, making the remaining issues more delicate.
However humanity responds to its evolving situation, it could be that, after mid-century, we might pass out of this phase of redemption combined with extreme challenge. Heaven might not have dawned on Earth in absolute terms, but the world could be a changed place in several major ways. It could become a more sane, safe and just place to live. Major planetary questions could have been mastered, even if there is much follow-up to do in the remainder of the century.
In fifty to seventy years humanity could be in a very different state: the challenge is for each individual to grow into his or her greater potential, and for this to reflect throughout society and the world.
The goals we need to achieve are not as tall an order as we might think today: humanity simply needs to become more human in its dealings. It needs to become more understanding, generous, sensible, forgiving, considerate and sensitive, and to embody these qualities in its social and political forms and its relationship with nature.
This will constitute a major historic breakthrough, an expansion of consciousness and an elevation of our planet to a new level. It will take some miracles to get there. It is all a matter of what we, in our billions, choose to do, when the chop is about to come down. It's all to do with brinkmanship.
From the book Healing the Hurts of Nations, by Palden Jenkins, 2003.
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