Perspectives on the Next Age
An informed, challenging, and engaging collection of essays on the new choices in lifestyles and community as we begin the countdown toward the year 2012.Toward 2012: Introduction
This fresh and thought-provoking anthology draws together some of today's most celebrated visionaries, thinkers, and pioneers in the field of evolving consciousness- exploring topics from shamanism to urban homesteading, the legacy of Carlos Castaneda to Mayan predictions for the year 2012, and new paths in direct political action and human sexuality.
Toward 2012 highlights some of the most challenging, intelligent pieces published on the acclaimed website Reality Sandwich. It is coedited by Daniel Pinchbeck, the preeminent voice on 2012, and online pioneer Ken Jordan, and features original works from Stanislav Grof, John Major Jenkins, and Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky); interviews with Abbie Hoffman and artist Alex Grey; and a new introduction by Pinchbeck.
Here are ideas that trace the arc of our evolution in consciousness, lifestyles, and communities as we draw closer to a moment in time that portends ways of living that are different from anything we have expected or experienced.
A long time ago, Karl Marx realized that modernity was based on successive revolutions in which "all that is solid melts into air," as the force of capitalism reshapes society and tears apart ecosystems. In our time, this process of melting down and vaporizing has reached a new level of speed and violence. When we face the future, there seems to be nothing we can grasp with certainty. Not only our economic system and the future of our civilization, but the integrity of our environment and the continuity of the human species – along with most other species who share this planet with us – are immediately endangered. At such a threshold, everything is up for grabs, and all beliefs are open for questioning.
In "2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl," I proposed that our Western knowledge system was severely limited because it denied the value of intuition, visionary and psychic experience. I sought to assemble an alternative paradigm, encompassing older ways of knowing and mystical thought, without denying the validity of the modern scientific method. I suggested we might take indigenous people seriously in their prophetic views of this current era, since they preserved access to those dimensions of the psyche that our society has systematically suppressed.
Around the world, many traditional cultures see this time as an epoch of transformation — the shift from the Fourth World to the Fifth World, according to the oral foretelling of the Hopi in Arizona. In the Yucatan area of Mexico from the 2nd to 9th Century AD, the Classic Maya developed an advanced civilization, with a system of knowledge based on study of astronomical cycles and exploration of non–ordinary states of awareness. Mayan monuments indicate that they denoted a rare eclipse of the galactic center by the Winter Solstice sun on December 21, 2012, as the transition between world ages. Even if you are not inclined to give credence to ancient prophesies, it is clear that humanity faces grave threats to its existence, and society must change or life on the planet may be at risk.
I do not pretend to know what will happen on that date, or in the years ahead of us leading up to it. Part of me hopes that nothing will take place, for, if the hypothesis is correct, our world may undergo severe cataclysms and immense suffering in the immediate future — the current slew of droughts, deluges, forest fires, hunger riots, and mortgage foreclosures being only a faint indicator of what is in store for us. The severity of the crises may be devastating for modern people, who believed their technology had shielded them from brute survival. Some, perhaps many, will not survive.
In my book, I argued that personal and global change are inseparable, concluding with the Hopi that "We are the ones we've been waiting for." For me personally, writing my own work no longer seemed enough of a way to contribute to the larger process of transformation. After an initial effort to start a company with collaborators in Los Angeles, I joined forces with Ken Jordan, a digital media expert and an old friend of mine from New York, to launch Reality Sandwich as a web magazine and think tank for ideas and projects related to this current period of accelerating intensity. We found a magnificent designer, Michael Robinson, to be our creative director, and chose Jonathan Phillips, a radical activist turned Gnostic visionary, as our community director. Our team has followed up Reality Sandwich with the release of evolver.net, a social network designed to facilitate collaboration and community development, and the Evolver Exchange, an online marketplace for artisanal products and tools that support sustainable living.
Ken and I chose the name "Reality Sandwich," from an Allen Ginsberg poem, as an homage to the shared elements in our personal backgrounds. Ken's father, Fred Jordan, was editor–in–chief of avant–garde publisher Grove Press and edited its magazine Evergreen Review, a major force in the counterculture of the 1950s and '60s. My mother, Joyce Johnson, was involved with the Beat Generation as a young woman, writing about her relationship with Jack Kerouac in her memoir, Minor Characters. My mother was also a book editor in the 1960s, publishing Abbie Hoffman, Kerouac, and others. We hoped that Reality Sandwich could follow in this august tradition of countercultural media, developing a new forum for a new time.
The 1960s counterculture melded together separate scenes that realized the connection between individual awareness and social change: the Beats, LSD proponents, black radicals, Buddhists, environmental activists, sex liberationists, feminists, the gay rights movement, the American Indian Movement, John Cage avant–gardists, popular rock bands, hippies, and Yippies!, among many groups. The Vietnam War incited a populist effort to force the government to withdraw U.S. troops, and the anti–war movement gave the counterculture great social significance and influence. A similarly fertile mixing of subcultures seems to be happening in America today.
Reality Sandwich was designed to meld a number of aligned but separate tribes that have been developing for years: permaculture activists, Burning Man hedonists, shamanic candidates, cultural creatives, open–source programmers, yogis, anarchist puppeteers, djs, design scientists, tantric practitioners, and urban homesteaders, among others. These disparate interest groups are painfully aware of the dire state of our planet. In their own way, all of them seek to engage with current events. The endless Iraq War and, above all, the dire environmental crisis are this generation's wake–up call, intensifying the global stakes.
Our initial results exceeded our expectations, as the volume of article submissions and enthusiastic outpouring of support was almost more than we could handle. Over the first year, our audience grew to fifty thousand unique visitors a month – without any marketing or promotion on our part, outside of our speaking engagements and a few events. We had created a vital hub for a large number of writers to pursue a range of interests — from environmental design to alternative relationship models, visionary technologies to spiritual practices — at a level of depth far beyond what the mainstream media usually allows. At the same time, writers could seriously explore edgy subjects such as crop circles, UFOs, and psychedelic shamanism that were often dismissed and disregarded by the cultural gatekeepers.
Unlike the one–directional approach of traditional media, where the author is the "authority" who imparts knowledge to the ignorant masses, our website encourages engagement between writers and readers, leading to many extraordinary exchanges in the "comments" sections that follow the pieces. Writers will comment on articles by other writers, blurring the line between editorial voice and audience. This form of dialogue has great promise. The collaborative infrastructure of "Web2.0" points toward an open forum in which a community can sharpen its wits and discover its values and principles through public discourse, creating a foundation for cooperating and collaborating. In a sense, this type of forum revives the Ancient Greek concept of the polis, creating a public space, albeit a virtual one, for individuals to come together freely and discover where their interests intersect. The capacity for new media technologies to support the rapid emergence and self–organization of collective intelligence may be one of the ways that the prophetic timeframe of "2012" could bring about a truly cooperative and sustainable global society.
Through Reality Sandwich, Ken and I discovered many brilliant and inspiring writers who explore the current processes of spiritual and material transformation in their work, usually outside of the mainstream. We are truly delighted to be presenting their essays to you here, and hope that you will learn from them, as we have. When I wrote my books, I often felt isolated from a larger community of thinkers pursuing similar ideas. Now it seems that Reality Sandwich is helping to unify and define this global network.
Joseph Campbell described the phases of shamanic initiation as "separation, initiation, and return." Since the 1960s, several generations of modern seekers embarked on initiatory paths, but they lacked ways to bring the knowledge they gleaned from their personal quests back into the larger society. "2012" may represent the completion of an initiation process for the modern psyche. Over thousands of years, the modern mind separated itself from the natural world, individuated, and made inquiries into the essence of matter. Completing the circle, we can now overcome our alienation and materialism through conscious reintegration with a holistic worldview, accepting the limits of human knowing and the many dimensions of being that exist beyond the range of our physical senses.
I believe that the only way we can avoid or at least mitigate the likely effects of imminent cataclysm is through a rapid evolution of collective intelligence. My hope is that the extraordinary ideas and initiatives presented by Reality Sandwich writers help to build a solid foundation for a practical – and visionary – alternative to the current system. The design scientist Buckminster Fuller liked to say that you do not change a system by criticizing it: if you really want to change things, you find ways to make the old model obsolete. The perspectives presented in the essays that follow make the old practices of our greed–driven corporate culture obsolete, and indicate a new path for humanity.
To keep up-to-date, input your email address, and we will contact you on publication
Please alert me via email when: